So, what are probiotics?
They are live microorganisms that can have health benefits, in the broadest terms. While they are bacteria, they are the “good guys,” promoting the health and wellness of intestinal flora.
How do they help with autoimmune conditions?
- They can help regulate the immune system. In lessening inflammation from the body, there is a reduction in pain.
- Probiotics help keep the bad bacteria in check. When bad or commensal (neutral) bacteria outnumber the good bugs, dysbiosis can occur.
Specifically, probiotics have been shown to modulate various autoimmune conditions. This is the happy middle ground: Not attacking its own cells, but fighting when there are invaders that can do us harm.
The research finds…
With rheumatoid arthritis, introducing lactobacillus helps to inhibit immunoglobulin E. This is fantastic news, as too much of this antibody in one’s system ramps up the immune system It was also shown to help alleviate infections, allergy and other inflammatory disorders, along with general inflammation.
In another study, introducing lactobacillus helveticus helped to reduce inflammatory T cell responses. In calming the inflammatory response down, there is relief from pain.
One exciting discovery is how macrophages can absorb probiotics, depending on the species. Macrophages are the first line of defense in our body and help mediate inflammation. As well, they have properties to prevent excessive tissue damage.
On the mental health side
On the mental health side of probiotic research, the information is still new and developing. But even in these beginning stages, there are some promising studies.
In animal studies, there are many studies that show a positive link between consuming probiotics and improvement of mood.
In human studies, it has been shown that weak gut microbiota can increase ones’ stress response.
So, what does this mean for us regular (non-rat) individuals?
It is imperative to have a good holistic care team. A medical doctor knowledgeable about autoimmune conditions, a nutrition therapist and a mental health professional are great members to have on your team.
Two, if you are dealing with a complicated illness, are in a flare-up, or dealing with serious depression or anxiety, you need to talk to your healthcare provider before making any major dietary changes.
With those caveats, how can one implement probiotics?
Taking probiotics is not a cure, but it does encourage the growth of healthy gut microbiota. Start slow and go slow. Even though probiotics are the good guys, too much, too soon can cause tummy upset.
- Try a spoonful of sauerkraut with a meal
- Add a spoonful of coconut yogurt or kefir to a smoothie
- Have kombucha or probiotic tea as an afternoon beverage treat
- Die-off reactions are common. This is where the probiotics are doing their job, sequestering the bad bacteria. As a result, the body can manifest different reactions. Headaches, brain fog and skin issues are some possible reactions. If this happens, backing down the number of probiotics can help, as can drinking more water and making sure you are getting enough sleep.
And as for sleep, it’s such an important topic, that the next blog in the series will be devoted just to that topic!