Prebiotics are food supplements for friendly organisms, while harmful organisms cannot use them as a food source. Even when the natural balance is disturbed, in presence of a prebiotic, friendly organisms can recover and grow faster than the harmful. To understand the benefits of prebiotics, we first need to know a little about our bodies.
The first barrier of our body is skin microflora (or skin microbiota) formed by billions of beneficial microorganisms living on our skin. These beneficial microorganisms (saprophytic flora) inhabit the skin surface, leaving no place to foreign and hostile organisms (pathogenic flora). They are adapted to our natural skin conditions (pH, humidity, and temperature). Our skin and these friendly organisms live together in perfect harmony.
Skin microflora (bacteria and fungi) lives on a delicate balance, the slightest change in this balance gives harmful bacteria the chance to grow and change skin conditions which endangers the population of friendly and useful organisms. The causes which disturb the delicate balance of our skin microflora are always present. For example;
- Excess hygiene,
- Extreme temperatures,
- Sunlight, and
- Medicine (especially antibiotics).
It is impossible to protect our natural balance all the time, but through the use of prebiotics we can encourage the growth of friendly bacteria over harmful ones.
Prebiotics used in Skin Federation’s intimate range are extracted from chicory (Cichorium Intybus) root and clinically tested for intimate female hygiene as they balance the protective lactobacillus bacteria. Lactobacillus is the dominant bacteria in a healthy vagina. They inhibit binding of other bacteria to epithelial cells and produce lactic acid that kills or inhibits the growth of many other harmful bacteria.
By inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms prebiotics can:
- Help prevent itching, redness and inflammation
- Help maintain and restore the skin barrier
- Help prevent mal odour
To demonstrate the performance of chicory prebiotic the following clinical studies have been performed:
- Study of consumption, that only the useful organisms can consume chicory prebiotics while the harmful cannot.
- Study of competitive growth, that in the presence of chicory prebiotics the useful bacteria grows faster than the harmful.
- Study of yeast growth inhibition, that in the presence of chicory prebiotics harmful yeast growth is inhibited.
- Study of benefit of chicory prebiotics on Feminine care.
Study of consumption of chicory prebiotics by skin microflora:
The aim of this study was to investigate the degree of consumption of chicory prebiotics by beneficial microorganisms versus harmful microorganisms isolated from skin or vaginal mucosa. Five friendly (Saprophytic flora) and four harmful (Pathogenic flora) microorganisms were separately cultivated on a medium containing chicory prebiotic. After 48 hours, the remaining prebiotic was quantified.
Results: Friendly microorganisms had medium to high prebiotic consumption as a food source versus harmful microorganisms did not consume prebiotic at all.
Conclusion: Chicory prebiotic is a food source for friendly skin microorganisms tested while harmful microorganisms cannot grow.
Friendly microorganisms tested: Micrococcus kristinae, Micrococcus sedentarius, Staphylococcus capitis, Corynebacterium xerosis, Lactobacillus pentosus.
Harmful microorganisms tested: Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, Gardnerella vaginalis.
Study of competitive growth in presence of chicory prebiotics
This test demonstrates the effect of chicory prebiotic on the speed of growth of beneficial and harmful bacteria. The bacteria were cultivated on a medium containing chicory prebiotic. After 24 hours of growth, bacteria populations were counted.
Test 1 – Competitive growth between:
- Staphyocossus aureus (pathogenic flora)
- Micrococcus kristinae (saprophytic flora)
Results: Micrococcus kristinae population was increased by 9900% while Staphyocossus aureus population was reduced by 99%.
Test 2 – competitive growth between:
- Corynebacterium xerosis (resident undesirable flora, produces bad smell under the armpit)
- Micrococcus krastinae (saprophytic flora)
Results: Micrococcus kristinae population was increased by 9900% while Corynebacterium xerosis population was reduced by 90%.
Conclusion: The above results show that prebiotic stimulates the growth of friendly bacteria (Micrococcus kristinae), while the harmful or undesirable bacteria (Corynebacterium xerosis & Staphylococcus aureus) are not stimulated. They are actually starving and are reduced significantly.
Study of yeast growth inhibition in presence of chicory prebiotics
This test indicates the reduction in the population of 2 yeasts Candida albicans and Malassezia furfur in the presence of chicory prebiotic. The yeasts Candida albicans and Malassezia furfur were separately cultivated on a medium containing chicory prebiotic. After 24 hours yeast populations were counted.
Results: both Candida albicans and Malassezia furfur populations were reduced by 90%.
Conclusion: Prebiotic inhibits the growth of the tested harmful yeasts.
Study of benefit of chicory prebiotics on Feminine care
Stratum corneum (horny layer) is the outermost layer of skin which acts like a flexible shield to keep foreign substances outside and necessary water inside the skin. Stratum corneum and skin microflora together form a strong defence system against foreign aggressions. Intimate feminine zone however has no stratum corneum to physically protect itself. The protection only comes from a layer of friendly microorganism (lactobacillus). This delicate balance is easily disturbed mainly by an excess of hygiene.
Chicory prebiotics are able to control the protective vaginal microflora. Vaginal microorganisms consist of mainly lactobacillus species. These microorganisms produce an acidic biofilm that protects the vagina from the invasion of foreign organisms, such as Candida albicans. Candida albicans is a harmful yeast responsible for vaginal yeast infection which can cause discomfort such as itching, stinging and mal odour.
Intimate products containing preservatives disturb the delicate protective lactobacillus balance. This disturbance can favour the growth of Candida albicans in sensitive intimate area. Lactobacillus consume chicory prebiotics particularly well while Candida albicans is inhibited. Chicory prebiotics have been tested for this purpose by a dermatological user test as bellow:
This test demonstrates the supporting effect of chicory prebiotics on women’s intimate area, susceptible to discomfort caused by Candida albicans. The effect was demonstrated through a consumer user test under the supervision of Dr Stefan Kerre (1-08671-66-550) from University of Leuven performed at Hospital Bonheiden in Belgium in 2004.
An intimate wash gel with disturbing surfactants and preservatives was used as a base. The improvement by addition of chicory prebiotics was investigated. 50 female volunteers susceptible to infections, aged 20 – 71 years old were selected. At the time of testing All volunteers were free from diseases and infections. None of the volunteers have known allergies to the tested ingredients or have been treated with steroids, cyclosporine or vitamin A.
Volunteers were asked to use the feminine wash once a day for 2-4 weeks (1st test period), stop the use for 4-6 weeks (resting period) and use it for the second round for 2-4 weeks (2nd test period). The evaluation of the influence of the intimate wash containing chicory prebiotics was performed by:
- Interrogation: the volunteers were asked for sensation of burning, stinging or itching.
- Interpretation of the treated zone by the responsible doctor.
- Although all volunteers were susceptible to microbial disturbance, discomfort and itching, none of the volunteers experienced any discomfort nor infection during the use of a feminine wash containing chicory prebiotics.
- 46% of volunteers were atopic patients who normally would experience serious itching, stinging or Candida albicans infection. During both test periods none of these patients experienced any of those reactions while using an intimate wash containing chicory prebiotics.
- 32% of volunteers experienced severe reactions using a similar type of feminine wash before the test. None of these volunteers experienced any reaction on the test wash containing chicory prebiotics. This indicates that chicory prebiotics supported their protective biofilm.
- In all 50 volunteers chicory prebiotics demonstrated a clear beneficial effect, vaginal microflora was protected/balanced, because a Candida albicans disturbance or another infection was not observed during the use of chicory prebiotics. Even in those volunteers who were susceptible to this kind of infection.
- The positive effect of chicory prebiotics was not only demonstrated in one test period, but in both test periods. This provides an additional confirmation of the beneficial effect of chicory prebiotics on the delicate vaginal balance.
- The positive effect of chicory prebiotics was both noticed by the professional medical evaluator, as well as self-assessment of all the 50 volunteers.
Conclusion: Chicory prebiotics help to protect the vaginal balance, even in very sensitive volunteers.