Many people believe that taking probiotics will help their immune system. But is this true?
The truth about probiotics and the immune system is a bit complicated, but it’s important to know if you’re looking for a way to boost your immunity.
Here are some of the most common questions surrounding probiotic supplements and your immune health, along with answers from medical experts on both sides of the debate.
The need for a healthy immune system
A healthy immune system is one of the most important parts of good health. The human body’s natural defense against disease and illness, it protects us from infection by bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungus. It also produces antibodies to attack any foreign invaders that manage to slip past our other defenses.
A healthy diet can promote a strong immune system; foods rich in antioxidants like vitamin C help fight free radical damage which can weaken immunity over time. Probiotics are another way to strengthen your immune system since they help regulate inflammation in your digestive tract which may cause harm elsewhere in the body as well.
All these things will go a long way towards keeping you well but there are some bad habits people learn as they grow up which crush the immune system. Smoking, drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy foods all take their toll.
In order to keep your immune system functioning at its best, it’s important to get enough rest, exercise and fresh air. A healthy lifestyle is the key to a healthy immune system
What probiotics are good for immune system?
You could be taking probiotics without even realising it. The majority of research on the effects of probiotics has focused on three popular bacteria strains:
- Acidophilus, which is found in yogurt, milk, miso, and tempeh, might support the immune system, according to a meta-analysis published in the journal Food Bioscience in August 2020.
- Bifidobacterium is in yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, miso, tempeh, pickles, kimchi, cured meats, some wines and vinegars, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread. It may reduce inflammation, according to one meta-analysis in the journal Nutrients, from January 2017. And a study in the February 2017 Nutrients suggested it may support immune health in older adults, too.
- All yogurt with live and active probiotics contains Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus (or L. bulgaricus) and S. thermophilus, according to the FDA, and these have both been associated with supporting the immune system.
Foods that weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to sickness, on the other hand, can make you sick.
According to research published in the January 2018 issue of Oncotarget, drinking alcohol, sweets, and eating ultra-processed meals on a frequent basis might cause cellular inflammation, which is your immune system’s response to potential harm.
Inflammation is a natural process, but it can promote chronic diseases and conditions such as depression, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease when it happens improperly or for long periods of time.
Are Probiotic Supplements Effective?
Probiotics are sold as supplements and added to foods where they don’t naturally occur, such as orange juice and peanut butter, in addition to being naturally found in many meals it is always best to eat a well-balanced diet rich in foods that naturally contain probiotics.
Probiotics’ efficacy is currently only theoretical. According to Pieter Cohen, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, probiotics may have some influence on the immune system, but whether it is beneficial, harmful, or neutral to people preventing infections is uncertain. Probiotics may enhance immunity, according to a growing body of data, however this varies depending on the type of probiotics used, a person’s health, and other factors. In most cases, they aren’t required.
“If you take a healthy person who doesn’t have any health problems to begin with, there’s no need for them to take a probiotic pill.” According to Dr. Cohen, “there is no evidence that this will benefit your health.” Probiotics won’t make up for it if you’ve been eating poorly recently, he adds.
“We have no evidence that introducing live bacteria in your body can compensate for foregoing a decent meal or sleeping an extra few hours,” Cohen says. Eating a variety of healthful foods is the greatest approach to keep your gut flora healthy.
He claims that “food is excellent for the immune system.” “If you don’t eat, you will get malnourished, and your immune system will deteriorate.”
He suggests fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts in home-cooked meals. Fiber consumption may also be linked to a better gut microbiome, according to a study published in the March 2020 issue of Nutrients.
Research to support the need for probiotics with your immune system
You’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat.” But did you know that what you eat also affects your immune system?
Recent research shows that the bacteria in our gut, or microbiome, can affect how we react to infection. For example, certain types of bacteria seem to be associated with a reduced risk of developing asthma. Scientists believe this may be because these types of bacteria produce chemicals (like short-chain fatty acids) which suppress inflammation and allergy-causing cells.
One way to support your microbiome is by taking probiotics—good bacteria found naturally in some foods like yogurt and sauerkraut as well as supplements available at health stores. One type of probiotic particularly worth considering is called Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), which was shown to improve immune function in children with asthma.
A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics showed that children with mild-to-moderate asthma who took one billion colony forming units (CFUs) of LGG per day for 12 weeks experienced fewer respiratory infections than those taking a placebo.
Similarly, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition used a strain of LGG called ATCC 53103. This strain was found to increase activity of natural killer (NK) cells—white blood cells that help protect us from infection and certain cancers. Researchers from Taiwan gave study participants either LGG or a placebo for eight weeks, and found that NK cell activity increased by 50% in the group taking LGG.
While more research is needed, current evidence suggests that probiotics can help improve immune function in some people. If you are considering taking a probiotic supplement, be sure to talk to your health care provider to see if it is right for you.
A lot of people think that taking probiotics helps their immune system. Some even take them as an alternative to vaccines or antibiotics. But we all know that not everything on the internet is true, and many people don’t understand what probiotics actually do for your body.
Therefore, always seek medical advice first and consult with your doctor or nutritionist in order to know which probiotics to use or trial.
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