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Probiotics: Gut health and Eczema

The very lovely and talented Tracey Wheeler of T.A inc dipped into the subject of Probiotics for us.

Probiotics have long been associated with gut health. Over history there have been many accounts of probiotics being used to heal gut problems and for good reason. As humans, 80% of our immune system is in our guts and an imbalance in our gut health can lead to many health concerns. Not only can you feel bloated, gassy, abdominal pain and diarrhoea but disturbances in this area has also been linked to many other health conditions including hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, eczema and dermatitis.

The general definition of a probiotic is a ‘live microbial food supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving intestinal microbial balance’ and our guts need these to retain balance and good health. When we are born our gastrointestinal tracts are sterile and normal gut flora takes time to develop. This development can be influenced by many factors including, the composition of maternal gut microflora, diet, hygiene, antibiotic use and other medications, environment and possible genetic factors. As probiotics are essential to a good gut and good gut health is necessary for good general health it is important to know where we can source them from and what the benefits are.

Food sources

Food sources for probiotic health include fermented foods eg dairy or vegetables. Examples are yoghurt, sauerkraut and some fermented vegetables. Other sources of probiotics are through supplementation.

Deficiency signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms can sometimes be difficult to establish as they can vary enormously but can generally include bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation and fungal overgrowth eg candida.

Babies that are exclusively fed on infant formula tend to have a slower colonisation of the gut compared to babies who are breastfed as breastmilk allows the transfer of oligosaccharides to the baby.

Main actions

Immune function

The largest action of probiotics is to balance the immune system and prevent harmful pathogens living and breeding in the gastrointestinal tract. They achieve this by binding to intestinal cells and therefore inhibit the binding of pathogenic bacteria to the gut wall by the production of inhibitory substances such as bacteriocins, lactic acid and toxic oxygen metabolites.

Allergy

Babies that have a high level of pathogen exposure during their first few months may expose them to more potential allergic sensitisation and skin conditions. The microflora in our intestines plays a major protective role against the development of allergy because it reduces antigen transport through the intestinal mucosa.

Atopic dermatitis and eczema

Probiotics have the potential to moderate the inflammatory and immune responses and strengthen the intestinal barrier function. Their actions are useful in addressing the underlying pathophysiological processes involved in atopic dermatitis and eczema. Several studies have been conducted and demonstrated that probiotic therapy in infants and children with established atopic dermatitis found that probiotics can support the severity of the condition.

Contraindications and precautions

Specific strains of probiotic are appropriate for different situations and certain strains are suitable for children. While it is likely safe to use probiotics in pregnancy it is best to buy from a recommended retailer and be supervised while pregnant and breast feeding.

Tracey Wheeler

BHSc (Comp Med) Dip.Nat (Hons); Dip.Herb Med. (Hons)

traceynaturally@gmail.com Facebook/T.Ainc