Thicker bones help prevent hip fractures and decrease lower back pain. A study came out this week that gives even more data to encourage you to take daily probiotic supplements, as they may be able to help with those ailments.   

From your passage through the birth canal to your first taste of breastmilk and first handful of not-so-tasty dirt in the backyard, you are building your gut biome – that super-dense world of trillions of microbes that live in your gastrointestinal system and on your skin and in your mouth. And you want them there. 

In this study, tiny lactobacillus bacteria created serious bone strength, at least in older women. It is the first and only study in humans of this effect, although prior data for this benefit exists in animals and many other benefits have been shown. Swedish researchers looked at the impact of giving a daily dose of the lactobacillus as a probiotic for a year to 90 women age 76 or older and found it reduced their bone loss by 50 percent. Unlike medications given for osteoporosis, probiotics had no undesirable side effects.

An estimated 8.2 million women and 2 million men in the United States have osteoporosis, and an additional 27.3 million women and 16.1 million men have low bone mass. Perhaps you are one, but we all need to keep our hips and bones strong. Hip fractures during falls are a common result of low bone mass and osteoporosis. They severely compromise independent living and increase the risk of premature death. About 72 percent of hip fractures in folks older than 65 happen to women.

If this data proves relevant to all of us, to strengthen bones, we can start a daily regimen of probiotic supplements and enjoy fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha. Plus, eat lots of prebiotic foods that nurture gut bacteria, such as garlic, onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, walnuts, wheat bran, asparagus, whole grains, veggies and fruits. 

There are other substantial benefits to the cardiovascular system with that specific strain of bacteria, such as controlling blood pressure. Lactobacillus is one of the bacteria charged with keeping a proper balance between competing microbes in your gastrointestinal system, so you can maintain good digestion, steady blood glucose levels, a healthy immune system and avoid body-wide inflammation. If you’re short on lactobacillus, you may trigger or worsen ulcerative colitis and other gastro-inflammatory problems. In the journal Nature, researchers explain that lactobacillus can restore the balance of salt in your system.

When these researchers fed lab rodents a high salt diet, it triggered hypertension. But when the researchers gave the animals lactobacillus, their blood pressure dropped. 

You can also get smaller lactobacillus doses from yogurt, kefir and other fermented foods, however, you have to eat more than several quarts a day to get the same number of lactobacillus colonies as supplements provide. 

There are other choices that help or hurt your gut biome that not only influence your gut, blood pressure and bone mass, but are also essential for everything from a healthy immune system, to controlling weight and glucose levels, to helping prevent acne and helping maintain a positive mood. When they’re out of whack because of an unhealthy diet, chronic stress, overuse of antibiotics, lack of physical activity or chronic infection and inflammation, you’re at risk for some cancers, heart disease, depression, obesity and autoimmune conditions. 

Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. 

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