Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, this is Dr. Ruscio. Let’s talk about probiotics and inflammation. You hear a lot of claims about probiotics. Some are true. Some are not true.
What’s nice about a recent study that was published is it gives us very high level scientific proof that probiotics do, in fact, help reduce inflammation, specifically an inflammatory marker known as C-reactive protein.
Now, I’ll put this study abstract up here on the screen. This study was what’s known as a systematic review with meta-analysis. What this means is a group of researchers looked to purview all the studies on probiotics and inflammation and come up with a summary of what all the scientific evidence shows.
So a systematic review with meta-analysis is like a summary of all the scientific data. So it’s a great way not to be misled. You can find one study showing something good, another study showing something bad. That isn’t necessarily super helpful. But when you look at all the studies, now you get a good gauge as to what the majority of the data shows.
So in this study, 20 clinical trials were summarized, and it was found that probiotics do, in fact, lower inflammation, specifically this inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.
Now, what else is very interesting is that it wasn’t necessarily one probiotic in particular, because, of these 20 different studies, the probiotic used in each study wasn’t the same. So it seems as a general class, probiotics tend to have an ability to reduce inflammation. So that’s a very important, very encouraging finding.
And I’ll just quote the conclusion from the researchers here. “This meta-analysis suggests that probiotic administration may significantly reduce serum C-reactive protein.” Again, C-reactive protein being a marker of inflammation that your doctor can easily run as a blood test.
So why is it that probiotics can reduce inflammation? Well, a few thoughts. The gut is a very common source of inflammation. And probiotics have been shown to help heal the gut, and therefore they can help reduce inflammation—point one.
Point two—your immune system is a major contributor to inflammation. In fact, the way your immune system acts to kill stuff that shouldn’t be there is through inflammation. You can think of your immune cells as having these little inflammatory guns, and what the immune cells use to kill things that shouldn’t be there is actually inflammation.
So when there are problems in the immune system or when the immune system is maladjusted or overzealous or what have you, the immune system can cause lots of inflammation.
We see this in things like food allergy. When people are reacting to foods that they shouldn’t, the immune system is inadvertently or inappropriately attacking food, and that causes inflammation.
Now, probiotics have been shown to help with the health of the gut, where the highest density of immune cells reside. So if the immune cells are a major source of inflammation, and the highest density of immune cells in the body resides in the intestines and probiotics help heal the intestines, it’s not illogical, or not a stretch, to see a mechanism here where, by probiotics helping to heal the gut and improve the immune system in the gut, we can have a great ability of decreasing the inflammation burden in one’s body.
Now, the other part of this that’s noteworthy is that probiotics may help to reduce unhealthy bacteria and fungus in the gut. And if we’ve talked about the gut as being a major source of inflammation—partially because of the immune system acting in the gut—if you have an unhealthy bacteria or fungus in your intestines, then that is going to cause inflammation, of course. And your immune system is going to be part of what makes that inflammation.
Now, if probiotics can help reduce these unhealthy bacteria or fungus, we can reduce inflammation, because we’re getting rid of this unhealthy bacteria or fungus that’s causing inflammation, that’s causing your immune system to chronically react.
So for all these reasons—through healing the gut, through balancing the immune system, and through getting rid of unhealthy or unwanted bacteria and fungus—are a few of the major reasons why it’s likely this study that reviewed all the data on probiotics and inflammation has shown that, yes, probiotics do, in fact, help to decrease inflammation.
So what does this mean? What should you do? Well, it comes back to something I say quite often, which is, “Start with the gut.” If you’re not feeling well, one of the best bangs for your buck, if you will, in terms of health interventions that can help reduce or eliminate the most amount of symptoms the most quickly is starting with having a thorough investigation of and optimizing the health of your gut.
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