Probiotics and Inflammation: A Beneficial Relationship

In recent years, probiotics have earned significant attention for their potential to modulate inflammation and promote health.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection, characterized by redness, swelling, heat, and pain. While acute inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process, chronic inflammation can contribute to various diseases, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Understanding Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms, often referred to as “friendly” or “good” bacteria. They are commonly found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi, and popular as dietary supplements. The most widely studied probiotics belong to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium classes, although other bacteria and yeasts also play crucial roles in maintaining good gut health.

The Gut Microbiome and Inflammation

The human gut is home to literally trillions of microorganisms and collectively form what is known as the gut microbiome. This is a complex ecosystem and essential for many bodily functions, including immune regulation, digestion, and protection against pathogens. An imbalance in the gut microbiome is called dysbiosis and is associated with an increase in intestinal permeability, referred to as “leaky gut”. This allows harmful substances to enter the bloodstream and trigger systemic inflammation.

Probiotics and Their Anti-Inflammatory Effects


Probiotics can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome, thereby reducing inflammation through several mechanisms:

  1. Strengthening the Gut Barrier: By enhancing the gut lining integrity, they can prevent the leakage of pro-inflammatory molecules into the bloodstream. For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been shown to strengthen the gut barrier and reduce inflammation in patients with irritable bowel disease (IBD).
  2. Regulating Immune Responses: Probiotics can influence the activity of immune cells, promoting anti-inflammatory cytokines (category of small proteins) while suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, for example, has demonstrated the ability to reduce systemic inflammation by modulating immune responses.
  3. Balancing the Microbiome: They compete with harmful bacteria for nutrients and attachment sites in the gut, inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes that can trigger inflammation. Studies have shown that probiotic supplementation can reduce the abundance of pro-inflammatory bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Clostridium difficile.
  4. Producing Anti-Inflammatory Compounds: Some produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), like butyrate, which have potent anti-inflammatory properties. These SCFAs can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and promote the health of colon cells.

probiotics and inflammation

Clinical Evidence and Applications

The anti-inflammatory potential of probiotics has been explored in various clinical settings:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Several studies have shown that probiotics can alleviate symptoms of IBD, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. For example, a combination of probiotics known as VSL#3 has been effective in inducing and maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis patients.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Research indicates probiotics may reduce inflammation and improve clinical outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in the journal Nutrition reported that supplementing with Lactobacillus casei 01 resulted in significant reductions in inflammatory markers and improved symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Chronic inflammation is a key factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases. Probiotics, particularly those producing SCFAs, have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve overall cardiovascular health.
  • Allergic Disorders: Probiotics may help manage allergic conditions such as eczema and allergic rhinitis by modulating immune responses and reducing inflammation. For instance, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been found to reduce the incidence and severity of eczema in children.

A 2024 study in the European Spine Journal found some microbial classes and their metabolic pathways have a causal relationship to disc degeneration, low back pain as well as sciatica and may function as potential therapeutic agents.

A 2024 study in The Spine Journal revealed gut dysbiosis increased both systemic and local inflammation related to disc disease, especially in Modic changes. The findings of which may have significant importance for understanding and prevention of disc degeneration.

Probiotics offer a promising and natural approach to managing inflammation and improving overall health. By restoring balance to the gut microbiome, enhancing gut barrier function, and modulating immune responses, they can help mitigate chronic inflammation and its associated health risks. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms and optimize these therapies, the evidence offers insight into the significant potential of probiotics in promoting a healthier, less inflamed body.

Author Bio

Stephen Ornstein, D.C. has treated thousands of neck, shoulder and back conditions since graduating Sherman Chiropractic College in 1987 and during his involvement in Martial Arts. He holds certifications as a Peer Review Consultant from New York Chiropractic College, Physiological Therapeutics from National Chiropractic College, Modic Antibiotic Spinal Therapy from Dr. Hanne Albert, PT., MPH., Ph.D., Myofascial Release Techniques from Logan Chiropractic College, and learned Active Release Technique from the founder, P. Michael Leahy, DC, ART, CCSP.