Probiotics & Infertility: Is There a Link?

Posted By Dr. Braverman || 5-Feb-2013

It is hard to walk down the aisles of a supermarket these days without seeing a new food product promoting that it contains probiotics, or turn on the TV without seeing an ad for a new probiotic supplement. All of the recent popularization of probiotics, however, has also brought about a lot of confusion and misconceptions about the potential effects of probiotics on various aspects of human health.

Why Is “Good” Bacteria important?

The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 different species of "good" commensal bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and facilitate the absorption of nutrients. These commensal bacteria also have an important role in regulating both the intestinal and systemic immune system, and most probiotics are marketed under rather generic claims of effects on the immune system, such as "supporting immune health".

The Effects of Probiotics Widely Vary

Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization as "live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host". This rather broad definition reflects the diverse effects that probiotics can have on a person's immune system. Some strains can promote activation of the immune system and inflammation through the promotion of the maturation of dendritic cells, activation of NK cells, and polarization toward Th1 T cell responses.

Other strains, to the contrary, are effective in promoting immune tolerance and anti-inflammatory effects by promoting the development of regulatory T cell (Treg) responses and anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-10. Even among these anti-inflammatory strains though, their ability to promote Treg and IL-10 driven immune responses varies widely.

Probiotics Regarding Infertility & Miscarriage

The effectiveness of some of the anti-inflammatory probiotic strains in treating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in experimental animal models and conditions such as allergies and inflammatory bowel disease in humans underscores their potential as immune modulating therapeutics. Because of the diverse effects that different strains of probiotics can have on a person's immune system though, it is important that women experiencing infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss do not consume probiotics without first having a thorough immune diagnostic workup.

Contact A Reproductive Immunologist Today!

It is also important that the proper strain or strains of probiotics are selected for patients based on the results of their workup and a solid understanding of the effects of various strains on the immune system. At Braverman IVF & Reproductive Immunology we are beginning to include certain probiotics in our arsenal of treatment options and to test the benefits of these strains particularly in patients with an inflammatory component to their diagnosis. To learn more about how probiotics might be able to help you overcome problems with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss we invite you to call and schedule a consultation.

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