You’ve likely heard of probiotics by now or seen commercials for yogurt with probiotics, and about how probiotics are good for your ‘gut’. However, you might be unsure exactly what probiotic means, other then that it’s healthy for you. Not only are probiotics healthy for your digestive system and gut, but they are also beneficial for preventing liver diseases.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria or microorganisms that come from outside the body (1). You might be thinking, what? Bacteria? Isn’t bacteria bad for you? The answer is no! Not all bacteria is bad. In fact, there is good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are the good ones, and they help keep your digestive system healthy and functioning.
The main benefits of these “good” bacteria are:
– Ability to modify intestinal microbiota
– Improve the intestinal barrier
– Can influence inflammatory response (including help with inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea)
– Help balance your “good” and “bad” bacteria to aid your digestive system
Probiotics & the Liver
They are effective for various conditions, especially those caused by diarrhea. Also, the above mentioned benefits make probiotics an attractive option for treating liver disease. The benefits of probiotics on the liver and liver disease have been increasingly researched in recent years. There is an increasing understanding that these good bacteria in the gut can play an important role in preventing fat accumulation in the liver.
As we learned in a past post about the liver’s function and importance, everything that enters the body essentially gets filtered by the liver first. This puts a lot of strain on the liver. All the nutrients that get absorbed by the gut, first go to the liver. This forms part of the important relationship between the gut and the liver and has fostered use of the term the gut-liver axis.
The most common form of liver disease in the United States is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This has been correlated with increasing obesity and Type 2 diabetes in recent years. Probiotics may play a role in manipulating the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut, thus preventing the growth of NAFLD. Studies conducted with animals have shown beneficial effects of probiotics on liver damage.
When probiotics enter the gut and liver, they may increase the strength of the intestinal barrier function. They are able to alter the gut flora to improve it. Probiotics have the following benefits for the liver:
– May prevent development of non-alcoholic liver disease
– May prevent low-grade inflammation (which could prevent other kinds of liver disease)
Patients with cirrhosis have been studied with the use of probiotics. Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases such as hepatitis and chronic alcohol abuse. Cirrhosis occurs with extensive damage to the liver that cannot be undone.
In a study done in China, patients with cirrhosis show an improvement in liver function while taking specific types of probiotics (2). There is still more research to be done on probiotics and liver diseases but what has been done so far has shown promise.
How to Use Probiotics
Probiotics are a great addition to your daily anti-aging regime and overall health routine. You can find probiotics in supplement-form, such as our Probiotic Blend, which is coming soon to AntiAging Central.
You can also get probiotics from a lot of foods these days such as:
– Dark Chocolate
– Microalge (ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chorella, etc.)
– Miso soup
– Kombucha tea
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