The human body needs healthy cells in order to function normally and keep the immune system in good shape. Did you know that roughly half of these cells are bacterial? It’s a fact that may sound initially somewhat concerning, but in truth, is more beneficial than you might think.
The majority of these bacterial cells are necessary for optimal health – the ‘helpful bugs’ aid in digestion, help the body extract more nutrition from the food and supplements you consume, and protects it from pathogens and viruses in order to keep everything running smoothly.
However, one very crucial role that these healthy bacterial cells (probiotic microflora) play is that they keep your immune system in tip-top shape. The stronger your immune system is, the less disease-prone you will be and the fitter and more active you will feel throughout the day.
One way to ensure that you’re getting enough of the good bacteria, or probiotics, is to ensure that they are living in your gut in the right quantity. With enough healthy bacteria in the gut, you will keep your immune system running like a well-oiled machine!
Probiotics are typically found in dairy and fermented products although you’ll have to consume a lot of these food sources to meet your daily probiotic requirements. This is why many health-conscious people take their probiotics in supplemental form, which has been shown to have numerous health benefits for the immune system.
Probiotics, especially when consumed in the right doses through a supplement, carry many benefits – although one particular benefit is the role they play in boosting immune health.
Benefits of consuming probiotics
There are an estimated 10-100 trillion microorganisms living in the human body and most of them reside in our gut. The bacteria in our gut is responsible for breaking down food which, in turn, allows the body to absorb nutrients. Without these healthy bacteria in our bellies, we would be dealing with a compromised or severely impaired digestive system.
With that said, healthy bacteria doesn’t just break down the food we consume and convert it to energy-releasing nutrients – they also carry a host of other benefits:
- Alleviate digestive issues, including gas and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, etc.
- Possibly regulate blood pressure in people who are at an increased risk of hypertension
- Boosts serotonin (the brain’s feel-good chemical) levels, thus improving mood and alleviating symptoms of depression
- May reduce symptoms of certain allergies and eczema
- Regulates hormones involved in weight management, indirectly promoting weight loss
- Boosts immune system as up to 80% of immune system activity takes place in the gut
It’s pretty interesting to know that even though bacteria, in general, carries a bad reputation for making us sick, some actually do the opposite!
Immune system-specific benefits of probiotics
This study demonstrated probiotics’ beneficial effects in many diseases – thus, showing therapeutic potential for a number of immune response-related diseases like eczema, allergy, viral infection, etc.
Another study showed how eczema symptoms improved in infants who were fed with probiotic-fed supplemented milk, in contrast with those fed with milk containing no prebiotics.
Here’s yet another study that clearly shows that probiotics can inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria and boost immune health as a result.
This study where 570 children took part concluded that taking a specific kind of probiotic reduced the severity and frequency of respiratory infections by 17%.
While probiotic cultures can be consumed from fermented dairy products like milk and yoghurt, most of the probiotic content is destroyed by the acids in your stomach before it even gets a chance to reach the gut – so you get either very little or none of the intended benefits.
This is why it’s best to take in the daily recommended dose of probiotics through a supplement that gradually breaks down in the gut and helps your immune system absorb the health-promoting benefits far more efficiently than a natural food source.
Results from this study showed how athletes who took a probiotic supplement vs. a placebo had 40% fewer colds and digestive illnesses – athletes, in particular, are highly susceptible to respiratory infections due to the sheer physical and immune system stress they must endure during training and competition.
One study found that healthy gut bacteria can lower the risk of a dangerous antibiotic-resistant superbug in the gut by 60% – consuming a probiotic supplement helps to reduce illnesses by boosting antibodies production as well as a number of other disease-fighting cells in the body, helping the body defend itself against a variety of viruses and bacteria (not the healthy kind!).
Choosing the right probiotic supplement to boost immunity
If you’re planning on taking a supplement to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, then that’s great! When choosing a supplement, bear in mind that you will need to choose one which contains either the Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria strain.
With that said, a quality probiotic supplement will include a variety of strains – so a product with a large variety of strains or species is highly recommended.
How probiotics can help children
Probiotics in supplemental form can help alleviate acid reflux in healthy infants and children. In addition, they can help prevent diarrhoea and secondary infections in children using antibiotics. Probiotics are even known to prevent eczema and allergies in children and infants.
A probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus, for example, can help kids deal with and recover from diarrhoea, while supplements containing Bifidobacterium can help resolve certain digestive problems.
Children who are taking antibiotics can benefit from a probiotic supplement as it will help them deal with the side effects, such as digestive issues like IBS, infectious diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation, for example.
The more healthy bacteria you have in your gut, the easier it will be for your body to fight off diseases, prevent infections from spreading, and even protect your intestines’ internal lining in order to help you absorb nutrients far more effectively from food.
Adding a quality probiotic supplement to your diet is the best way to build a stronger immune system and a healthier body.