Can Probiotics Improve Your Immune System?
Also known as the “good bacteria”, the health benefits of probiotics are wide and varied. One of them is boosting your immune system. But how does it do that? More importantly, what do you have to do to maximize its immune-boosting properties? Read on to find out.
Understanding Your Immune System
Most of us are familiar with what our immune system is for – it protects us from harmful foreign organisms. But not everyone can point exactly where it’s located in our body.
That’s because it is a vast network of tissues, cells, and organs that work together to protect our body. One of the most notable components of our immune system is the white blood cells or leukocytes. There are two kinds of white blood cells:
- phagocytes – chew up foreign organisms (pathogens)
- lymphocytes – helps the body to identify and remember pathogens
These cells can be found in various locations throughout the body. They can be in our bone marrow, thymus or spleen. But a good 70% of this network makes home in your guts. Certain cells lining your gut also secretes and releases massive amounts of antibodies that fight the pathogens.
In case of an attack by foreign bodies, your immune network does excellent teamwork of destroying it. The lymphocytes identify the pathogens and signal their counterparts to produce antibodies.
Once the foreign organisms are destroyed, these antibodies stay to protect you the next time a similar pathogen is detected. This is why when you have contracted measles before, chances are you won’t get sick from it again.
How Probiotics Work
You may not know this but your gut plays an important role in your body’s immunity. Aside from hosting a large portion of your immune system, it also acts as a filter for the foods we eat. No food nutrient is directly absorbed in the bloodstream without going through the gut first. So if there’s anything harmful we’ve ingested, the microorganisms in your gut would identify and kick it out before it gets absorbed into your body.
This is where probiotics enter the picture. Its most basic function is to maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. It populates your gut and displaces the harmful bacteria, giving it an increased capacity to fight pathogens.
Response to Allergens
Allergens are substances that trigger a response from our immune system. It may not necessarily be harmful but the immune system may perceive it so. This reaction is what we refer to as “allergies”. While some allergies only cause itchy skin, others can be fatal.
Healthy gut flora helps your body to maintain healthy responses to allergens. With more good bacteria than bad, your immune system can better identify which pathogen is harmful and which isn’t.
Inflammation is our body’s first response when viruses and bacteria attack. It paves the way for the immune system to launch an attack against these harmful bodies. But an unwarranted inflammation can lead to serious illnesses such as flu, pouchitis, and chronic infections.
Probiotics help tone and modulate our body’s inflammatory responses. That’s because the immune cells in our gut which are responsible for producing antigens are dependent on our gut flora. When there is an imbalance of organisms in our microbiome, these cells can go haywire and cause inflammation even if there’s no pathogen around.
Infectious diseases are caused by bad bacteria which our gut has millions of. When these organisms are left unchecked, infections become common. This can lead to illnesses like strep throat, urinary tract infections, and even tuberculosis. So, a healthy and balanced population of good and bad bacteria in your gut is essential in fighting off infections.
Where to Get Probiotics
There are three ways by which you can ingest probiotics:
- probiotic drink
- probiotic supplement
- probiotic-rich foods
There are a lot of probiotic strains out there and each of them performs a specific function. So if you want targeted results, you can take either a drink or a supplement.
Probiotic supplements contain specific strains that are formulated for a certain purpose. Bionaze, for example, is specially formulated to address throat, ear, nose and mouth infections. It contains Bl-04 and BLIS K12, two cutting-edge strains that help improve oral and respiratory health.
When choosing a probiotic drink or supplement, make sure to research first the strains they contain and what they do. After all, you don’t want to take in supplements for diarrhea when you’re looking to boost your immune system. You also have to take them regularly. A small dose cannot yield noticeable effects or any effects at all.
Aside from supplements, some of the foods we eat are also excellent sources of probiotics. Examples of probiotic-rich foods are:
- raw milk
- apple cider vinegar