Not too long ago, the concept of hand-washing to prevent the communication of disease was laughed at. No one knew that germs existed – people couldn’t see them, so they couldn’t believe they existed. Later, microscopic disease-causing microbes like bacteria and viruses were discovered, and the face of medicine changed forever… but not always in a good way.
You see, while this was a monumental discovery that gave rise to the “germ theory,” it put all “germs” on the bad list. Medical science took the concept of hand-washing into overkill territory, sterilizing everything and always looking for a microbe to kill when there is a health problem.
Delving into the realm of the microscopic once again, another scientific discovery has been made that is just as monumental. In fact, this discovery also has the potential to change the way we view disease on a fundamental level. This research takes some of those germs off the bad list and places them squarely in the spotlight – the good spotlight!
Mainstream Science (Finally) Gets a Clue from Nature
It looks like mainstream science might be heading in the right direction – at least as far as this new discovery is involved. For once it’s a product of nature, not a synthetic chemical that is being lauded as the latest bone-builder. And this product of nature has been in existence for thousands of years, and it’s already inside your own body and in your environment. Quite simply, it’s the friendly bacteria known as probiotics.
Probiotics can have an amazing effect on the body, but their effect on bone health is just coming to light. And these friendly flora work amazingly fast – in fact, a recent study showed bone-building results in just 4 weeks (more on this later).
Probiotics: the Anti-Antibiotic
The word “probiotic” is a combination of the Latin word pro (meaning “for”) and the Greek word for life, bios. Unlike antibiotics, which kill off large numbers of beneficial living organisms, probiotics promote and add to the numbers of living microbes in your system. Why would you want to increase the number of germs in your body?
Because Some Germs are Good for You
That’s right. “Savers” are surely well aware that some germs – specifically, certain bacteria – are actually good for you. In fact, research is indicating that these tiny organisms are not only good for you, but essential. This is the scientific breakthrough that has the potential to change how we view health care and medicine forever.
Sometimes referred to as “gut flora” or “good bacteria,” probiotics reside in your gut and play important roles in your health, and that includes the health of your bones. Here are some of the things that probiotics do:
- Synthesize Vitamins K, B9 (folic acid), and B12 – Foundation Supplements
- Reduce inflammation
- Help detoxify the body
- Promote healthy digestion
- Guard against disease-causing bacteria (pathogens)
- Boost the immune system
- Strengthen your bones (more on this below!)
The Study: Probiotics Increase Bone Density in Mice
Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) conducted an intriguing study on bone density. They fed male mice a probiotic supplement (specifically, Lactobacillus reuteri – more on that below) that is a known inflammation reducer. Why would scientists use an anti-inflammatory in this experiment on bone density? Lead author of the study and professor at MSU, Laura McCabe, explains:
“We know that inflammation in the gut can cause bone loss, though it’s unclear exactly why,” she says. “The neat thing we found is that a probiotic can enhance bone density.”1
This professor is echoing what we’ve been saying at Save Our Bones for some time: inflammation hurts your bones, which is why the Osteoporosis Reversal Program puts such an emphasis on antioxidant-rich foods and supplements that reduce inflammation.
Inflammation is part of the body’s healing process, but when it becomes chronic – especially in response to infection – it can be harmful. The MSU researchers noted that osteoporosis is not just a condition that affects postmenopausal women; people with inflammatory bowel disease or Type I diabetes, for example, are also at risk for developing osteoporosis, they said.
Meanwhile, Back in the Lab…
The mice in the study were fed the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri. This detail is important, because this particular bacterium has evolved along with humans after thousands of years of ingestion in fermented foods, scientists say. Therefore, its presence is essential and its absence harmful.
After 4 weeks, the femurs of the mice (all males in this study) showed significant increase in density.1 These same researchers also pointed out that mice are not people, of course; but this fascinating look into the role of an ancient bacterium in promoting bone health definitely needs to be investigated further. This is fertile ground for research and discovery!
One Thing we Can Say for Certain is That We Shouldn’t Destroy our Gut Flora
As research moves forward into more astonishing news about the importance of healthy bacteria in the gut, medical treatment may begin to move away from the germ-killing sterilization so common today and into a more probiotic, life-friendly realm.
In fact, research is showing more and more that our bowels are like our immune system’s command center. When our bowels are unhealthy, the whole body – including the bones – suffers. Inflammation is the number one destroyer of tissue and organs. And more than 95% of the body’s inflammatory processes take place in the gut, where it’s warm and dark and perfect for microbes to thrive.
Scientists are discovering that our bowels are far more complex than we ever realized before; it’s almost as if we have a second brain in our bellies! In fact, over 90% of our serotonin is in the gut. So it makes sense that our moods are affected by all this inflammation, too.
Putting it all together, we can take the research from the MSU study about probiotics and bone density draw a healthful conclusion: a healthy gut keeps inflammation at bay, and low inflammation is vital for healthy bones.
1 McCabe, Laura, et al. “Probiotic use decreases intestinal inflammation and increases bone density in healthy male but not female mice.” Journal of Cellular Physiology. DOI: 10.1002/jcp.24340. Web. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcp.24340/abstract