During the Covid pandemic surveys showed use of probiotic supplements had surged globally. Consumers had already become better informed about the immune benefits of probiotics, and the pandemic drove the interest even higher.

Currently probiotic sales increase by about 4% annually.

It seems the vast majority of people today recognize the immune and digestive benefits of probiotic supplements.

However, recent studies have drawn attention to two of the lesser-known benefits of probiotics: skin health and chronic pain reduction.

An Italian study published in November 2023, linked probiotic supplementing with improvements in various skin conditions. Meanwhile, a Chinese scientific review, published in August 2023, concluded that probiotics represent “innovative strategies for managing chronic pain.”

Skin study

According to the study, published in Medicina, a team of independent researchers in Milan, Italy observed improvements in skin conditions of patients treated with a three-strain probiotic combination.

According to the findings, researchers recorded “statistically significant healing” of common symptoms such as itching, papules and redness—all of which led to less “picking and scratching” following the treatment.

The study period was 12 weeks and involved 144 patients. The patients also received a pre-biotic supplement. The study did not include a placebo group.

Clinical assessments were administered using three standard systems: Scoring Atopic Dermatitis, Eczema Area and Severity Index, and Three-Item Severity score.

Researchers observed that both pruritus (extreme itching) and atopic dermatitis-related lesions exhibited significant clinical and statistical improvement after the three month period of exclusive probiotic and prebiotic use. (Atopic dermatitis-related conditions include redness known as erythema, edema/papules and excoriation—which excessive picking or scratching.)

“These preliminary results suggest a potential link between the skin-gut microbiome and support the rationale for using specific probiotics and prebiotics in mild atopic dermatitis, even for maintenance, to reduce flares,” the researchers noted.

“This may be mediated in part by improvement in barrier function in the gut.”

Open access study details and PDF download available at MDPI.com.

Pain study

To conduct their pain study Chinese scientists used bibliometrics—a statistical analysis of publications focused on scholarly publications and academic value—to identify characteristics of the global scientific output over the past 20 years. The researchers stated goal was to document how nutrition modulates the gut-pain link.

The researchers utilized the Web of Science database, with 1551 papers researching the relationship between gut-microbiota and pain from 2003 to 2022.

While the researchers’ search was expansive, they noted only 122 papers discussed how nutritional interventions can modulate this link—suggesting a lack of research on the subject.

Still, the researchers concluded that the 100-plus qualifying papers did provide clear evidence of a probiotic-gut health-pain link.

The researchers noted that microbiota was shown to “mediate the bidirectional communication between the gut and pain.” This happens, the researchers noted, through interaction between bacteria and their composition or metabolites, such as short-chain fatty acids, bile acids, and tryptophan metabolites.

The authors conclude: “Prebiotics only, or combined with probiotics, could be used as an intervention to relieve pain in various diseases for treating gastrointestinal and psychosocial health symptoms, from cancer to functional bowel disorder, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation.”

The research was conducted at Nanjing Medical University in Nanjing, China. The findings were published in Nutrients in August 2023. Open access study details and PDF download available at MDPI.com.

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Sources: Medicina (MDPI.com), Nutrients (MDPI.com).