Can Probiotics Help Dry, Flaky Skin?

A summer’s worth of cavorting in the sunshine can dry skin and cause it to flake a bit. Conversely, wintertime’s lack of humidity also dries skin, making it itch and feel uncomfortable. But imagine what people with psoriasis feel.

Several decades ago, there was a product aimed at individuals with patches of angry red, scaly skin, the maker of which understood “the heartbreak of psoriasis.” Although somewhat uncomfortable, it was the heavy stares of people who showed unmasked fear and revulsion that caused the “heartbreak.” People with psoriasis felt as lepers did in earlier times, shunned.

Of course a lot has changed for the better. While it remains uncurable, those with psoriasis can dramatically reduce episodes of flareups as well as appearance of lesions. And – taking probiotics can help the body fight psoriasis.


What is Psoriasis?

Skin cells normally turn over in about a month – meaning that from the time a new skin cell is born in the dermis to the time it flakes off is a 28- to 30-day process. A psoriatic lesion is composed of skin cells that are only a few days old – so psoriasis is a process whereby skin cell “life” is hyper-accelerated. Psoriasis is classified as a chronic autoimmune condition.

For some reason, these patches of accumulated skin cells, which cause whitish-silver scales, develop over joints, like elbows, knees, toe and finger joints. It also is common on the scalp, and for those with moderate to severe psoriasis, can develop on the neck, back and face.

In the US alone, nearly 7.5 million Americans have some form of psoriasis, according to one study. Another source noted that among those who have it, there are higher incidences of conditions such as psoriatic arthritis, anxiety, depression, and inflammatory bowel disease.

There are several types of psoriasis but the two most common are plaque psoriasis and guttate psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis, the most common, is estimate by the American Academy of Dermatology to affect about 80% of individuals with the condition; it is characterized by inflamed patches that are covered by white/silver scales. They can be itchy, dry and tight. Guttate psoriasis are little pink/red spots that tend to crop up on arms, legs and the torso. Many people with psoriasis have both.

Depending on the individual, remissions can occur – the plaques will disappear, and the person will be psoriasis-free for a while. Then, they come back, typically in the same spots (on joints and scalp).

What Causes Psoriasis?

More recently, as genomic research continues to expand, researchers discovered several genes they believe are responsible for creating the risk for developing psoriasis. Scientists believe that at least 10 percent of people have one or more of the genes from their parents that may lead to development of psoriasis.

The National Psoriasis Victor Henschel BioBank houses DNA samples of people with psoriasis for researchers to use to advance knowledge of etiology (the causes of disease) as well as to find cures. From these samples, researchers in two studies identified a total of 20 areas of DNA that contain genetic mutations linked to development of psoriasis. Findings of two other studies identified a mutation in the CARD14 gene that can trigger plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Further, it was found that this mutation can develop spontaneously – psoriasis is generally believed by the medical community to be inherited.

The author of one currently ongoing study, elaborates that CARD14 mutations stimulate “the activation of critical inflammatory proteins called NF-κB, which then switch on expression of a number of genes in the skin involved in psoriasis. Importantly, transgenic mice lacking the CARD14 protein are fully protected in models of psoriasis, indicating an important general role for CARD14 in controlling the development of skin inflammation.”

As mentioned, psoriasis is classified as an autoimmune disorder. Specifically in psoriasis, T cells (a type of white blood cell) attack the skin cells. When the T cells mistakenly target and assault skin cells, they cause reactions that result in psoriasis. Chiefly, for example, the increased number of T cells encourage an over-production (surplus) of new skin cells, which accumulate quickly, and result in thick, silver-white scaly, red and inflamed patches. This cascade is usually set in motion by many triggers, some of which are unavoidable.

Triggers of Psoriasis

There rare some lifestyle factors implicated in increased risk of psoriatic flareups, such as smoking, excessive intake of alcohol, a diet rich in sugars and refined carbs, as well as other foods containing pro-inflammatory compounds, and sedentary lifestyle. As you know, these factors are culprits in many other human illnesses and disorders. Perhaps public enemy number one is high stress or unmanaged stress. But triggers for flareups are not universally the same.

Other trigger causes can be a skin injury or bruise, insect bite and certain medications (eg, lithium and beta-blockers).

How Probiotics Support Skin

Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics as supplements are gaining research attention worldwide. According to one published report, “Clinical studies have demonstrated some of the medical benefits of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics within dermatology.”
Research has revealed that in people with psoriasis, the gut microbiota seems to be considerably altered, notably featuring a significantly lower abundance of the beneficial microbe Akkermansia muciniphilia.

One common denominator seen in autoimmune and skin disorders is chronic high inflammation. This is a known characterization of psoriasis, for example (inflammation also occurs in skin during sunburn and windburn). A team of researchers compared effects of Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 on inflammatory markers in three related conditions: psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.

In the study, 26 individuals with psoriasis received either placebo or probiotic for 8 weeks. Baseline pro-inflammatory compounds – C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a and interleukin (IL)6 levels – were all shown to be high in psoriasis subjects compared with non-psoriatic controls.

After 8 weeks of consuming probiotics, CRP and TNF-a both declined significantly compared with placebo. Researchers did not observe any changes in IL-6 levels in subjects with psoriasis who consumed probiotics for 8 weeks compared with control subjects. When performing a combined analysis of all three inflammatory markers (IL-6, TNFa, and CRP), there was a decrease in the combined analysis in 75% in the probiotic group compared with 7% in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that, “These results suggest that B. infantis 35624 is able to reduce proinflammatory biomarkers in a systemic inflammatory disorder.”

A previous study on mice with psoriasis lesions showed that ingestion of Lactobacillus pentosus GMNL-77 significantly decreased scaly lesions – as well as reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines including TNF-a and IL-6. The researchers concluded that “the present study provides insight into the potential use of L. pentosus GMNL-77 in the future treatment of psoriasis.”


The wide diversity of beneficial bacteria that inhabit the multiple human microbiota continues to show incredible health-promoting benefits in ways the medical community may not have thought of even at the beginning of the 21st century. While conditions such as psoriasis are not fatal, they are incredibly uncomfortable and cause related issues of depression and anxiety. It appears that controlling inflammatory response via lifestyle adjustments, diet – and supplements such as probiotics – can help manage the condition for more satisfactory results.

What are the Benefits of Melatonin?
What are the Benefits of Swimming?
How Does Sodium Affect My Health?