September 30, 2021 5 min read
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that affects both adults and children.
It’s characterized by distinctive, thickened skin, which appears as red and scaly plaques.
Psoriasis can start at any age, but usually peaks at around 15–25 years and 50–60 years. It is a lifelong condition, although it can fluctuate in severity over time. Around a third of people with psoriasis also have a family member who suffers from it.
The tricky thing with psoriasis is that it is multifactorial, which means it has more than one cause. It’s also classified as an immune-mediated inflammatory disease (IMID).
If you suffer from psoriasis yourself, you’ll know how difficult it is to treat. This is often because you don’t know what is causing your flare-ups.
Although there are many contributing factors, recent research has shown that there may be one common denominator: your gut health. This is referred to as the ‘gut-skin axis’.
The gut–skin axis is bidirectional, which means the health of your gut affects your skin, and the health of your skin affects your gut.
Your microbiome is central to your overall health. The bacteria in your gut not only play a major role in your digestion, immune function, and absorption of nutrients, but also in your skin health.
The bacteria living in your gut send signals throughout your body that influence the production of various substances, particularly hormones. These signals can also influence inflammatory responses and how your skin produces sebum – the oily, waxy substance that helps to keep your skin lubricated.
Around 60-80 percent of your immune cells reside in your gut. This means that what goes on in your gut will have a significant effect on immune function and inflammation.
Your gut needs the right balance of beneficial bacteria in order to regulate inflammation across your body. (1)
Inflammation plays a major role in disorders related to the gut-skin connection. The beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut are responsible for producing anti-inflammatory messengers called cytokines. They also help to reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are active in your body.
However, if your microbiome is thrown out of balance by an influx of ‘bad’ bacteria, all sorts of inflammatory issues can result.
One of the most problematic of these is a condition called ‘leaky gut’, which occurs when the integrity of your intestinal barrier is compromised. This means that certain particles from the food you eat escape through the lining of your gut into your bloodstream, where they are treated as harmful invaders. (2)
In both situations, the distress caused to your body can result in an inflammatory response. This inflammation can be as simple as a food intolerance or as serious as an autoimmune reaction.
Dysbiosis in the gut is often associated with chronic inflammatory disorders of the skin, including psoriasis.
Psoriasis is commonly associated with gut disorders. For example, research shows that 7%–11% of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients are also diagnosed with psoriasis.
The good news is that treating the cause of your gut inflammation may help to alleviate your psoriasis. Researchers have discovered that targeting the microbiome may be an effective way to both prevent and treat psoriasis.
The gut microbiome is responsible for the breakdown and absorption of various nutrients. It also has a huge influence on your immune system, providing protection against potential pathogens and triggering appropriate inflammatory responses.
However, those with psoriasis are often found to have higher amounts of pathogenic microorganisms in their gut flora, which in turn leads to higher levels of inflammation.
Some promising studies have found that certain strains of bacteria can help to alleviate the inflammation that leads to psoriasis symptoms.
One study showed that Lactobacillus paracasei helped to significantly reduce skin inflammation and accelerate the recovery of healthy skin. (3)
There is also evidence that Bifidobacterium infantis may be beneficial for people with psoriasis. This strain helped to significantly decrease biomarkers for inflammation when compared with a placebo.
Researchers concluded that Bifidobacterium infantis helped to strengthen gut barrier function and support healthy immune responses. They also suggested that it may prevent harmful bacteria from spreading in the gut and provide control for future infections. (4)
Lastly, there is evidence that people with psoriasis have a lower level of bacterial diversity in their microbiome. In other words, they have fewer strains of probiotic bacteria in their guts.
Strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bifidobacterium longum can help to increase that diversity and promote good intestinal health.
Now that you understand how the gut microbiome has a major influence on the skin, your first course of action should be to improve the balance of bacteria in your gut.
One way to improve your gut health is to add probiotic foods to your daily diet.
Unsweetened yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, sourdough bread, and kimchi are the best food sources of Lactobacilli strains, while Bifidobacteria strains are present in yogurt, kefir, seaweed, and miso soup.
These foods are easy to digest, and can help to support a healthy microbial balance in the gut. But their probiotic content can vary, and many of those bacteria are destroyed by stomach acid before they reach the gut.
This inconsistency means that probiotic supplements are usually the best place to start.
Probiotic supplements have the potential to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions by modulating inflammatory mechanisms in the body. (5)
Some helpful probiotic strains to look for include Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Saccharomyces boulardii, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium infantis.
The best probiotic supplements are those made with time-release technology.
This means that the probiotic bacteria are released slowly, which helps to prevent them from being destroyed by the harsh conditions of the stomach.
A good probiotic supplement should also contain multiple strains of bacteria (including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) and have a high CFU count.
Some strains that have shown the most promise for reducing psoriasis symptoms and preventing chronic skin inflammation include Lactobacillus paracasei, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus salivarius, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Probiotics are an effective way to restore your gut health, reduce inflammation, and support healthy skin.
To maintain the health of the gut-skin axis, look for a time-release probiotic that contains some of the strains discussed above.
Over time, as the probiotics work to rebalance your gut, you should find that your skin health begins to improve.
Here are a few key benefits of our probiotic:
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