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Immune System Support (Part 2): Probiotics

The human body depends on a vast microbiome that controls many of the body’s vital functions. The trillions of bacteria living in the human gut have enormous impact on our health and vulnerability to disease.

More than 70% of the human immune system is found in the lining of the gut.

The GI tract’s intestinal mucosa functions as a barrier against antigens. Studies show that restoring the gut content of friendly bacteria can support healthy immune function, leaving the body better equipped to fight off infections, should they occur.

Probiotics may help to reduce viral illness risk and severity by supporting mucosal defenses and general immune function. “Probiotic bacteria have been shown to enhance humoral immune responses and thereby promote the intestine’s immunologic barrier. Moreover, probiotic bacteria have been shown to stimulate nonspecific host resistance to microbial pathogens, and thereby aid in immune elimination, and to modulate the host’s immune responses to potentially harmful antigens” (Isolauri et al, 2001).

Viral Defense

There appears to be a strong connection between the gut microbiome and protection of the respiratory tract from viruses. The GI and respiratory tracts share a similar mucosa, the primary site where most common viruses gain entry into the body. Probiotics can boost the mucosal defense system of both the GI and respiratory tract and may have beneficial effects against respiratory tract infections.

One study randomized 250 healthy adults to receive a probiotic blend or a placebo for 90 days during peak flu season (Pregliasco, 2008). At the end of the study, the probiotic group experienced 75% fewer flu and flu-like viral illnesses. Of those who did get sick, symptom severity was reduced by 37% in the probiotic group. “These results demonstrate that a regular, long-term intake of [probiotics] may improve health by reducing the incidence and severity of respiratory diseases” (Pregliasco, 2008).

A healthy and balanced microbiome is a critical factor in sustaining our resistance to disease and promoting vigor and good health. Microbiomes can become imbalanced through poor diet, drugs, unhealthy lifestyle, and exposure to environmental toxins. An imbalance in the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria contributes to irregular intestinal function, moods & mental health, metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and an impaired immune system.

Daily supplementation of probiotics, living bacteria with beneficial properties, can help restore healthy balanced microbiomes.

References:
Isolauri, E., Sütas, Y., Kankaanpää, P., Arvilommi, H., & Salminen, S. (2001). Probiotics: effects on immunity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73(2), 444s–450s. doi:10.1093/ajcn/73.2.444s 
Sæterdal, I., Underland, V., & Nilsen, E. S. (2012). The Effect of Probiotics for Preventing Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 1(2), 124–125. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.2.014 
Pregliasco, F., Anselmi, G., Fonte, L., Giussani, F., Schieppati, S., & Soletti, L. (2008). A New Chance of Preventing Winter Diseases by the Administration of Synbiotic Formulations. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 42, S224–S233. doi:10.1097/mcg.0b013e31817e1c91