Have you ever heard of probiotics for immunity? Hear us out.
Do you like getting sick?
Other than a convenient excuse to take a day off work (*insert fake cough here*), the answer is most likely a resounding no.
If you’ve ever been curious about probiotics, what they do and why they’re important, this post is for you. While probiotics are commonly touted as the wonder pill for a well-oiled digestive tract, probiotics are also a lesser-known way to boost your immune system.
So put down your apple and pick up that probiotic, because as they say – a probiotic a day keeps the doctor away!
But, First: Why is Gut Bacteria so Important?
Because we are essentially more bacteria than human. Yep, you read that right.
Our bodies are teeming with microorganisms, made up of trillions of bacteria, yeasts, and even viruses. Our gut alone contains tens of trillions of microorganisms (collectively referred to as ‘gut microbiota’ or ‘intestinal flora’), with at least 1000 different species of gut bacteria.
DID YOU KNOW: For every one of your cells, there are an additional nine bacterial cells residing in your body, which theoretically makes us only 10% human!
Clusters of these bacterial communities reside in and on different parts of the body, such as the deep layers of skin (skin microbiota) and inside the mouth (oral microbiota).
To put this in perspective, our gut microbiota can weigh, in total, up to two kg or 4.4 pounds!
While each person hosts a unique composition of gut microbiota (a bit like a fingerprint), everyone’s microbiota performs the same physiological functions. These include assisting the body in the production of vitamins (such as vitamins B and K) and keeping our digestive system is running smoothly.
Gut Bacteria and Immunity
Here is some fun facteria - did you know that 70% of the immune system is located in the intestines?
You might think this is an interesting location for a bacterial fiesta, but consider this: the gut is technically outside of the body. The food we eat and the nutrients it contains don’t actually enter the bloodstream without first making its way through the gut wall. This makes the gut an important player within the body’s immune system. Its job is to keep anything dangerous outside and absorb all the goodness from that kale smoothie you had for breakfast.
How does the gut carry out this job?
By lining the wall with its bacterial security guards of course. Our gut microbiome is responsible for only letting those with an invite in, while the rest are turned away at the door. After all, it’s an exclusive party.
The gut microbiota protects us by strengthening the gut wall, competing with harmful bacteria for both space and food and regulating inflammation and the inflammatory immune response, to name a few.
In return for keeping our insides sparkling and our immune system intact, our bacterial buddies have access to plentiful food supply – you aren’t just feeding yourself (#eatingfortrillions).
What Are Probiotics and How Do They Help the Immune System?
So how do we ensure that our microbial mates are able to do their job and keep us healthy?
By making sure we have more good bacteria in the gut than bad (a state called symbiosis).
When we have more bad than good (a state called dysbiosis), our health suffers. Moral of the story - a healthy gut makes for a healthy immune system and vice-versa.
While there are many ways to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria within the gut, including frequent exercise and eating a healthy diet, taking a probiotic is an easy way to stay on top of your health.
Quick Review: What Exactly Is a Probiotic?
Put simply, when we refer to a probiotic we are referring to live bacteria. But not any old bacteria.
While certain bacteria are a one-way ticket to the doctor’s office, probiotics contain only the good kind of bacteria (phew!). Probiotics are responsible for decreasing the number of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut by replacing and improving, the functioning of our ‘good’ bacteria.
That’s right, not all heroes wear capes, my friends.
Specific strains of bacteria benefit our health in different ways. That means you can improve different aspects of your health by selectively consuming the strains of bacteria that target your specific ailment or health concern.
Fortunately, specific strains of bacteria have been shown to positively impact immune function too, reducing your chances of catching that niggly sore throat.
So which strains of bacteria give your im