Can probiotics help with psoriasis?

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Probiotics feed the good bacteria in the gut. Healthful microorganisms support the functioning of the immune system, which can help control symptoms of chronic conditions, such as psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means that it causes the immune system to mistakenly attacks healthy cells.

Probiotics help to maintain a good balance of healthful gut bacteria. Researchers believe that probiotics can have a positive impact on controlling, and even preventing, chronic inflammation caused by psoriasis.

This article will look at the evidence behind whether probiotics can help with psoriasis. We also discuss the relationship between the immune system and the trillions of microbes that inhabit the human body.

The link between gut bacteria and psoriasis

Fermented foods containing probiotics
Fermented foods contain probiotics.

The human body contains 100 trillion microbes, which are collectively called the human microbiota. The term microbiome refers to the genetic material that these microbes are made of.

The human microbiota is highly diverse and plays a key role in health. Microbes affect how the body fights off germs, controls immune activity, and digests food. The microbiota can even influence mood and psychological processes.

A growing body of evidence suggests that an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, or gastrointestinal dysbiosis, can cause psoriasis and other inflammatory diseases.

A 2015 study showed that people with psoriasis have less diversity in the gut microbiota than healthy individuals. A 2018 study found increased diversity, but reduced stability of the skin’s microbiome in people with psoriasis.

Considering the significant role that microbes play in human health, it is not surprising that imbalances in the microbiota can lead to illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases, and obesity.

Because every person’s microbiome is different, it is hard to tell exactly what type of disturbance causes psoriasis.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are living microorganisms that can occur in certain foods. Consuming these organisms increases the diversity of bacteria in the gut. This may help the body to control inflammation.

Probiotics can influence the immune system’s inflammatory response by stimulating the cells that regulate inflammation.

Do probiotics help control psoriasis?

Man taking probiotic supplement at breakfast
The majority of people can take probiotic supplements without experiencing side effects.

Researchers have yet to clarify the role probiotics can play in psoriasis treatment. However, some studies have shown promising results.

A 2018 study looked at the effects of probiotics on skin conditions such as eczema in mice.

The researchers found that certain probiotics reduced and may even prevent chronic skin inflammation, including:

  • Lactobacillus salivarius LA307
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus LA305

Another study in mice considered the effects of Lactobacillus pentosus GMNL-77 on psoriasis. The authors found that this strain prevented skin inflammation and reduced biomarkers of inflammation.

Research into the link between probiotics and inflammatory disease is still relatively new. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any probiotics for preventing or treating any health problem.

There is a need for further research into the safety and effectiveness of probiotics. In healthy people, adding probiotics to the diet typically causes minor side effects, if any. However, in people with weakened immune systems, probiotics can cause complications, including systemic infections.

How to add probiotics to the diet

A person can add helpful bacteria to their diet by consuming probiotic-rich foods, such as:

  • yogurt
  • kefir, which is a fermented, probiotic dairy drink
  • kombucha, a fermented tea made with bacteria and yeast
  • fermented cheeses
  • pickles
  • miso, a Japanese seasoning paste made with fermented soybeans
  • fermented vegetables, such as kimchi and sauerkraut

Probiotic supplements are another good option. Several varieties are available in supermarkets, health stores, and online.

Always consult a healthcare provider before taking any supplement.

Traditional treatments for psoriasis

Person putting ointment, topical cream, or medicated ointment on rash or psoriasis on hand
A doctor may prescribe topical corticosteroids or retinoids to treat psoriasis.

Though the medical community believes that probiotics have health benefits, they are not replacements for scientifically proven treatments.

Traditional treatments for psoriasis vary, depending on the severity and location of symptoms, as well as an individual’s response.

Treatments for mild to moderate outbreaks include:

  • topical corticosteroids
  • topical retinoids, which contain vitamin A
  • vitamin D analogs, which contain a topical synthetic form of vitamin D
  • salicylic acid
  • coal tar

Treatments for severe outbreaks include:

  • systemic drugs
  • immunosuppressants
  • biologics

Phototherapy and laser therapies can complement other treatments.

For a person with psoriasis, it is important to identify what triggers symptoms. Some common triggers include:

  • stress
  • smoking
  • alcohol
  • infections
  • certain medications, such as beta-blockers
  • some foods, including those that contain gluten, dairy, or citrus
  • cold or dry weather

Summary

The collection of microbes in the body, or the microbiota, plays an important role in human health. It helps to regulate the immune response, to digest and absorb nutrients, and it even affects mood.

Research suggests that probiotics may reduce symptoms of psoriasis. However, probiotics are still not well understood, and they can harm people with weakened immune systems.

Confirming the benefits and risks of taking probiotics will require further research.

Everyone’s microbiome is unique, so a person may need a particular combination of probiotic strains. Consult a healthcare provider before taking probiotic supplements.

Probiotic supplements are available for purchase online.

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