How Probiotics May Boost The Immune System
Did you know that 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut?
Yep! the gastrointestinal tract contains 80 percent of all antibody-producing immune cells. Plus, the tiny bacteria that line the GI tract are a vital part of the body’s immune defense system in their own right.
Beneficial bacteria protect the body from invading pathogens by releasing antibacterial substances and increasing levels of Natural Killer immune cells (1). They also help protect against inflammatory diseases such as cancer.
Recent studies have tested the effect of bolstering the GI bacteria with probiotic supplementation. Probiotics provide scientifically tested strains of microflora that have been shown to have a range of health benefits. For example, probiotics raise immunoglobulin and T cells that fight off disease (2). They also play a role in the protective inflammatory response and suppress the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
Short-term supplementation of 3 to 6 weeks can enhance immune capacity in healthy elderly adults (1, 3, 4), raising phagocyte immune cells that kill pathogens. Probiotics also have been shown to reduce cold symptoms in children and adults (5). In one study, the risk of catching the common cold was 2.6 times lower in elderly subjects who consumed probiotics versus a placebo (6).
Aging is a condition that can be positively impacted by probiotic use. Studies indicate that probiotics can slow or reverse age-related declines in immune function (6). One study found that a probiotic improved the immune response following oral vaccination in healthy adults (7). Supplementation led to an increased systemic antibody response and higher levels of immunoglobulins, allowing for faster response to invading pathogens.
In a meta-analysis on the effects of probiotic supplementation in the elderly, probiotic use increased activity of several immune cells, enhancing immune function in seniors (6). A second analysis found that probiotic use reduced the risk of infections by 10 percent in older adults (8, 9).
Can I Benefit?
Anyone who wants GI support for the immune system may benefit from probiotic use, especially if they are eating a healthy diet that provides prebiotic fibers from plant foods that serve as fuel for healthy bacteria. Probiotics are especially important in malnutrition, such as undernourishment, obesity, and aging. They may be useful for individuals with metabolic syndrome, GI problems, or following a round of antibiotics. Probiotic can offset damage from alcohol, medications, or painkillers, including over-the-counter meds like Tylenol.
How To Take Probiotics:
You can get probiotics from yogurt and other fermented foods, however, these bacteria are not guaranteed to be alive or contain the species of bacteria that is protective. When supplementing, you need to find a product that contains live microflora bacteria. Many products are only guaranteed at the time of manufacture, which means that the majority may have died off by the time you get around to taking them. Instead, only buy probiotics that are guaranteed through the date of expiration.
Picking A Probiotic
We offer several Probiotic options:
1. Gill, H., et al. Dietary probiotic supplementation enhances natural killer cell activity in the elderly: an investigation of age-related immunological changes. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 2001. 21:264-271.
2. Maldonado Galdeano, C., et al. Beneficial Effects of Probiotic Consumption on the Immune System. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2019. 74(2):115-124.
3. Ahmed, M., et al. Impact of consumption of different levels of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 on the intestinal microflora of elderly human subjects. Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging. 2007. 11(1): 26-31.
4. Paineau, D., et al. Effects of seven potential probiotic strains on specific immune responses in healthy adults: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology. 2008. 53(1): 107-13.
5. Kang, E., et al. The effect of probiotics on prevention of common cold: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial studies. Korean Journal of Family Medicine. 2013. 34(1): 2-10.
6. Miller, L., et al. Short-term probiotic supplementation enhances cellular immune function in healthy elderly: systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies. Nutrition Research. 2019. 64:1-8.
7. Sazawal S, et al. Effects of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 and prebiotic oligosaccharide added to milk on iron status, anemia, and growth among children 1 to 4 years old. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2010. 51(3): 341-46.
8. Wachholz, P., et al. Effectiveness of probiotics on the occurrence of infections in older people: systematic review and meta-analysis. Age Ageing. 2018. 47(4):527-536.
9. Makino, S., et al. Reducing the risk of infection in the elderly by dietary intake of yoghurt fermented with Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus OLL1073R-1.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2010. 104, 998-1006.