Probiotics are generally associated with gut health and immunity, and for good reason.
But today, you’ll discover that probiotics are also essential to bone health, something that is seldom if ever mentioned in the mainstream.
In fact, I share with you two studies that clearly show the specific probiotic strains that protect bones from damage caused by oxidation and inflammation.
So let’s start with an in-depth look at probiotics and why your bones will benefit from them.
A good way to think of a probiotic is as the opposite of an antibiotic. Antibiotic literally means “against life,” but probiotic is “for life,” and you’ll soon understand why this is so.
Probiotics are living, microscopic organisms (specifically, bacteria) that promote the life and health of other living organisms, making them truly “pro”-biotic. To thrive, probiotics need prebiotics, nondigestible carbohydrates that stimulate their growth.
Digestive Benefits Of Probiotics
Let’s take a quick look at the digestive and general benefits of probiotics:
- Probiotics produce substances that stave off infection.
- Healthy gut microbes actually communicate with cells in your intestine, increasing the production of an infection-preventing coating of mucus.
- Gas and bloating decrease in the presence of probiotics.
- Probiotics are responsible for the production of B vitamins in the gut, which are vital Foundation Supplements your bones and body need.
- Healthy bacteria prevent the attachment of “bad” bacteria to the intestinal wall.
- Probiotics boost the immune system.
Specific Strains Of Probiotics Promote Bone Health
Certain strains of these healthy microbes are specifically beneficial to bones, because they prevent bone damage and have antioxidant effects. According to a 2012 study,
“Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus acidophilus alone or in combination, decreased the bone damage and effectively restored antioxidant status of liver and kidney.”1
This is due to an increase in key antioxidant enzymes, including catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione, and glutathione peroxidase. Further, the probiotics reduced the formation of malonaldehyde, a biomarker for oxidative stress.1
Why Antioxidants And Oxidation Matter To Your Bones
The process of oxidation is complex and fascinating. It begins with a very ironic concept: oxygen helps and harms. Oxygen is essential for life, and if you’ve ever used hydrogen peroxide to clean or disinfect something, then you know how powerful the positive effects of oxidation can be. On the other hand, when you have to get rid of your car because its key framework has rusted, then you know that oxidation can also be destructive.
It is the same way in our bodies. Oxygen brings life to blood cells and is delivered to every cell in the body via the arteries and capillaries. The lungs infuse blood with more oxygen every time you breathe, a cycle that continues day and night for your entire life.
But oxidation occurs when atoms or molecules lose electrons, and that happens all the time as well. That is why antioxidants are crucial to bone health and overall health.
Let’s use a common metal, iron, as an example of the process. What makes black iron turn orange-brown? The iron molecule has 3 electrons that happen to be easily removed, which is what makes iron so prone to rust. When iron is exposed to moisture, the oxygen in the water removes these 3 electrons, changing the chemical makeup of the iron. Its non-oxidized chemical symbol, Fe, becomes Fe3+. You could say that Fe3+ is the chemical symbol for iron oxide, or rust.
Oxidation And Reduction (Redox)
When oxidation occurs, so does reduction. Take the iron example once again. Now you have oxidized (rusted) iron and reduced oxygen, because the oxygen “stole” electrons from the iron molecule. It’s another ironic term, because the molecule that gains the electron(s) is said to be reduced. The molecule that had its electrons “stolen” is oxidized.
Oxidation Weakens Substances!
Oxidation is the breaking down of a substance. An iron nail is very strong and stable. A rusty nail, however, is crumbly and weak. Another example is a cut avocado or an apple. It becomes brown (oxidized) quickly when exposed to the air, and the brown areas are a mushy texture. This is not unlike the process of oxidation in your bones – simply put, it weakens them.
Probiotics Enhance Antioxidant Action, Reduce Inflammation, And Improve Collagen
As the above study shows, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus acidophilus stave off the process of oxidation in bones by boosting the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms.
Yet another study, this time on Lactobacillus salivarius, reveals another aspect in which this specific strain of probiotic directly improves bone integrity: Lactobacillus salivarius is strongly anti-inflammatory, and protects collagen from damage.
The study explored the effects of L. salivarius supplementation on mice with collagen-induced arthritis. The anti-inflammatory effects of this probiotic strain were clearly demonstrated:
“Probiotic-fed mice exhibited significantly lower GI inflammatory scores and a reduced incidence of pancolitis when compared with placebo-fed mice.”2
This anti-inflammatory effect is also responsible for improved collagen integrity in the mice, reducing clinical symptoms of arthritis “through systemic modulation of cytokine profiles towards an anti-inflammatory state.”2
Collagen is a key component of bone, and is largely responsible for tensile strength and fracture resistance.
Why Is Inflammation A Problem?
Not all inflammation is bad, of course. The inflammatory response to an injury brings much-needed components, such as white blood cells to the area via the rush of blood and subsequent swelling immediately after injury.
However, inflammation can be damaging if it is chronic. The nature of inflammation is that it is a response to an injury or abnormal state. So while inflammation gets the blame for doing damage, the real culprit is the imbalanced state of the body that sets the stage for inflammation to become chronic. Correcting that imbalance is the key to getting inflammation to subside.
Bringing Gut Flora Into Balance
Savers are certainly familiar with the concept of balance as it relates to health, and to bone integrity. And I am always thrilled when I find a product or food that facilitates and enhances a healthy balance in the body. That’s why I am thrilled to introduce you to…
Till next time,
1 Amdekar, S, et al. “Lactobacillus protected bone damage and maintained the antioxidant status of liver and kidney homogenates in femal wistar rats.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. September 2012. 368(1-2):155-65. Doi: 10.1007/s11010-012-1354-3. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22661381
2 Neville, B.A and O’Toole, P.W. “Probiotic Properties of Lactobacillus salivarius and Closely Related Lactobacillus Species.” Future Microbiology. 2010. 5(5): 759-774. Web. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/722838_3