The Essential Role of Probiotics and the Immune System

 In the past 10 years we’ve learned a lot about the importance of the bacteria in our gut. Also known as our gut microbiome, this bacteria has been shown to support everything from our mental health to metabolic conditions. Simply put, a healthy gut microbiome is essential for health, and more and more research is focusing on its role in a healthy immune system. Unfortunately our microbiome can become imbalanced with age, stress, even medications. So, what to do when our microbiome is deficient and we need some immune support? Probiotics may be the key.

What are Probiotics?

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally occur in the human body. There are many different types of this beneficial bacteria that can naturally survive in your gut, but there are two specific strains that are commonly found in the supplement aisle.  Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been shown to have beneficial effects, as well as the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. These are commonly combined and sold as pills, powders or liquids. However, you can also ingest probiotics through food. Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and sourdough all pack a powerful amount of probiotics that can support health. 

How Probiotics Support the Immune System

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One key area of health that probiotics play a role in supporting is the immune system. We know that the gut microbiome plays an important role in immunoregulation.  After all, the gut houses about 70% of our immune system.  As one of our first lines of defense, it decides how big or little a response the immune system has to potential pathogens. Too little a response could lead to sickness or disease, while too much could lead to widespread inflammation as the body inadvertently destroys its own tissues. 

By increasing the diversity of our microbiome, probiotics can help to strengthen the internal barrier of the gut lining to stop harmful pathogens from entering the blood stream. They have also been shown to block pathogenic effects of bacteria by out competing them as well as enhancing white blood cell function. A healthy gut microbiome is an essential strategy to a healthy immune system.

How to Choose the Right Probiotics

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Choosing an effective probiotic is no easy feat, however. The supplement aisle has everything from refrigerated liquids, shelf stable powders, enteric coated capsules and a plethora of different strains to choose from. The most reliable research remains on Lactobacillus strains. Choosing a Bacillus spore will ensure that the strain will actually make it through the highly acidic environment of the stomach, not to mention the trials and tribulations of shipping.

Taking a preventative approach in keeping your immune system humming is especially important in today’s world.  Why not take that first easy step with probiotics?

To your health and happiness, Doctor Danielle

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