Probiotics are micro-organisms without which we would get very sick and die. They are the friendly bacteria (e.g., Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces) that break down food in the digestive system and destroy harmful bacteria, among other things. Probiotics live in your gastrointestinal tract; it’s no accident that eighty percent of the immune system is active there as well. In fact, probiotics regulate the immune system.
“Several beneficial effects of probiotics on the host intestinal mucosal defenses system have been identified. These include blocking pathogenic bacterial effects by producing bacteriocidal substances and competing with pathogens and toxins for adherence to the intestinal epithelium. For intestinal epithelial homeostasis, probiotics promote intestinal epithelial cell survival, enhance barrier function, and stimulate protective responses from intestinal epithelial cells. Most importantly, modulation of the immune system is one of the most plausible mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of probiotics on human health. Probiotics have been found to enhance the innate immunity and modulate pathogen-induced inflammation via toll-like receptor-regulated signaling pathways.” (40)
By stopping harmful bacteria from sticking to intestinal linings, probiotics ensure their own (and our) survival.
Probiotics’ immunological activities stimulate antibody response and staunch allergens and pathogens, thereby modulating inflammation and infection. (41) Illnesses and symptoms associated with allergy, inflammation, and viral and bacterial infections are ameliorated when probiotics are added to our diets. Among these:
- food and seasonal allergies
- skin damage from ultraviolet radiation (42)
- irritable bowel syndrome
- ulcerative colitis (43)
- anxiety and depression
- neurodegenerative disease
What else can you do to support your immune system?
In addition to adding immune-boosting foods, keep in mind other ways you can support an optimal immune system:
- Get enough good-quality sleep.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Find constructive ways to manage stress.
- Take cold showers.
- Minimize refined sugars in your diet.
- Exercise regularly.
Your immune system protects you from within and without. Doing your best to help it help you simply makes sense.