Should you take probiotics if you have lupus?
My answer in short: "No" to pills; "Yes" to probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods!
Lupus Question of the Day:
"Probiotic supplements seem to be a real trend these days. Is gut bacteria linked to lupus? If so, is there value in taking probiotic supplements? "
"There are good bacteria in the microbiome that improve our health and bad bacteria that harm us. The microbiome includes all the living organisms inside and on our body (but good ones and bad ones). Probiotics are made up of bacteria that when you consume them in food or supplements, you "hope" that they enter your gut and improve your gut microbiome.
Several bacteria in our microbiome have been shown to be bad for lupus and other autoimmune diseases. They have been linked with making the immune system more active and are associated with inducing the immune system to produce autoantibodies (like anti-SSA) that can attack our body. Others have been shown to protect us and decrease lupus disease activity. Most of these studies have been in lupus mice. However, there are also human studies as well.
I do not recommend taking a probiotic supplement. Why? Animal studies show that some bacteria in these supplements actually make some autoimmune diseases worse, while improving others. I recommend the following (instead of taking probiotic pills or capsules):
- Eat foods rich in healthy probiotics regularly.
Examples include fermented sauerkraut, live-culture yogurt (I love Siggi's), kim chee, miso, kombucha, and fermented pickles.
- Eat foods rich in prebiotics as well. Particularly "resistant starches" may be beneficial. A lupus mouse study showed decreased lupus disease activity in lupus mice fed a "resistant starch" diet. Examples of resistant starch foods = cooled potatoes that are cold, potatoes starch, cold oatmeal, beans, legumes.
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What are your favorite probiotic and prebiotic foods?
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Note that Dr. Thomas' posts are for informational purposes only, and are not meant to be specific medical advice for individuals. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider with any questions regarding your own medical situation.
DONALD THOMAS, MD