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Probiotics and Immune Health
Lisa Helffrich, RD

The human body is host to as many as 1,000 different species of bacteria. Some are considered friendly or neutral while others pose a potential threat to our health. The goal is to keep the upper hand and maintain higher numbers of the beneficial bacteria compared to pathogenic ones. Under ideal circumstances this goal is easily obtained. However, the beneficial bacteria naturally present in the healthy GI tract are often depleted by poor diet choices, environmental lifestyle stressors and the indiscriminate use of antibiotics.

Some of the most common factors present in our everyday lives that can negatively impact the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut are:

  • Medication such as antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy
  • Poor dietary choices such as processed foods, lack of fresh foods/fiber, antibiotics found in animal products, artificial sugar and alcohol
  • Stress – mental, physical and emotional

As the effects of these factors have been become more evident over the past 10 years, the use of supplemental probiotics has grown in popularity. This is because they help restore the bacteria that often become depleted by antibiotic use or imbalanced by poor diet and lifestyle choices.

These beneficial bacteria are proven to be non-pathogenic and have a long history of safety for human consumption. There is a growing body of research revealing that probiotics support the healthy balance of native bacteria, benefiting digestion, elimination and immune function.1,2

The Direct Role of Probiotics on Immunity

Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium are two main species currently used for supplemental probiotics. They naturally possess properties that provide immune support to the host. First, they produce organic acids like lactic acid and acetic acid creating an environment in the large intestines that inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Second, they produce anti-microbial substances such as hydrogen peroxide and bacteriocins that serve as protection against infections. Additionally, these bacteria produce mucin, a gel-like substance that provides a barrier for the mucosal lining keeping unwanted molecules from entering the body. Lastly, there is competition for binding sites along the intestinal wall among the bacteria.

In other words, by supplementing with probiotics you are keeping the numbers of friendly bacteria skewed in your favor. If the binding sites are all occupied by beneficial bacteria, the pathogenic ones have no place to reside or adhere to and they will move through the GI tract posing no threat to the host.

In many types of sports, the offense and defense have equal numbers of players and the strongest or smartest wins. Well, in this case you have the ability to add numbers to your offensive and defensive lines by supplementing with probiotics and ensuring a win with optimal digestive and immune health.*

The Indirect Role of Probiotics on Immunity

When we take care of digestive and immune health locally in the gut, the result is healthy immunity throughout the body. It is a known fact that better nutrition translates into a healthy immune system.

Probiotics support digestion and delivery of nutrients in several ways. They produce enzymes that help complete the digestion of food and they produce key vitamins such as folate and vitamin K. When they support the digestion of food, this lessens the chance for allergic reactions and lessens the overall demand on the immune system.
Probiotics also strengthen the mucosal barrier allowing only nutrients to enter the blood stream. This reduces the incidence of large food molecules escaping the intestines and triggering an immune response resulting in food allergies or inflammation. Lastly, because the probiotics produce acids they support a healthier gut with fewer pathogens. With fewer pathogens there is less opportunity for the production of harmful nitrites and ammonia. This all lessens the burden on your immune system and allows it to focus on more important tasks.

The bottom line – the gut should have a strong barrier that supplies nutrients to strengthen the immune system, not leaking substances that burden the immune system. Based on over thirty years of clinical experience and the current research findings, one of the most effective ways to support GI health is through regular probiotic supplementation.

Learn more about our probiotic, Plantadophilus.

1 Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). “Probiotics: Their Potential to Impact Human Health.” Issue Paper Number 36, October 2007.

2 “About Probiotics.” USprobiotics.org.

Copyright 2011 Lisa Helffrich, RD

Lisa Helffrich, RD, is the Director of Education for Transformation Enzyme Company and has been with them since 1996. She holds a B.S. in Health Science from the University of Texas.

 

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* Statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Products not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The information contained here is for reference only and is not intended to diagnose disease or prescribe treatment. The information contained herein is in no way to be considered a substitute for consultation with a health care professional. Furthermore, this information is for the private use of our clients and is not to be used publicly, reproduced, or distributed without the written consent of Enzyme Essentials, LLC

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