Dr. Kassam Probiotics & Immune System Development
Probiotics & Immune System Development
Today’s post will mark the end of our 4-week long probiotic series - You are now all experts in the field of probiotics! In our last 3 articles we spoke about probiotics in relation to gut health, women’s health and mental health. Today we will be addressing the importance of probiotics in the development of our immune system.
70-80% of the immune system and immune cells live in the lining of our digestive tracts, which makes gut health super important to immune health and its function. The foods we eat, the nutrients we absorb, the medications and supplements we ingest, and toxic substances we are exposed to must all pass through our gut before entering the bloodstream. The gut must keep anything dangerous outside and only absorb the good things into the bloodstream. So the gut is an important barrier to the body’s immune system. When this barrier is not functioning optimally, the dangerous things like, bacteria, viruses and parasites can enter our bloodstream. It is our immune system’s job to hunt and destroy them! It is when our immune system fails to do its job that we can get sick. So keeping our gut healthy through balancing ‘the good and bad bugs’ can help to keep the barrier strong and our immune system healthy.
Probiotics & The Immune System:
Probiotics are able to create a balance within the immune system. An imbalance in the immune system can lead to overproduction of the immune cells that can either promote allergies, eczema and asthma OR immune cells that promote inflammation and autoimmunity. Thus, having a balance in the immune system of all types of immune cells can help to prevent the aforementioned diseases and it all starts in the GUT! Specific bacterial strains can actually influence which types of immune cells are made. Let’s get strain specific on which ones can be beneficial to balance the immune system:
So, if you are taking a probiotic to help with immune health, make sure these probiotic strains are included in the probiotic supplement you chose! It is therefore very important to speak to your health care provider when battling certain health conditions to find the right probiotic for you. To learn more about how to pick the right probiotic for you, be sure to read "What to look for in a Probiotic Supplement".
Probiotics & Birth:
The gut microbiota begins its development at birth and this gut microbiota can influence the development of the immune system long-term. The immune system takes about 12 years to fully develop, with the first year of life being especially important to create the right balance. Infants born by caesarean section (C-section) or those who receive antibiotics are at an increased risk of developing immunological disease, like allergies and asthma due to the disruption of normal gut microbiota at a critical developmental time. However, babies born through C-section are still able to reduce their risk of allergies through prenatal and postnatal probiotic supplementation (Bifidobacterium animalis subsp, and Lactobacillus acidophillus CUL-60).
Research also shows that breastfeeding while taking a probiotic supplement can support the development of the gut microbiota in infants, thus helping immune system development. Breastfed babies have more Bifiidobacteria, which allows for a stronger immune system to develop. It is also beneficial to continue supplementing with a probiotic in young infants, as it is a critical time in the development of their gut microbiota and immune system maturation.
*Side Note - Colostrum is the thick yellow fluid that comes in before regular breast milk. It is known to rapidly activate and prime the baby’s immune system. It contains white blood cells that that help to prime the immune system! Just another benefit of breast-feeding!
We hope this 4 week long probiotic series has educated you on how important gut health is to the rest of your body, including, mental health, immune health and women’s health. Be sure to pick the right probiotic strains for the right conditions and speak to your health care practitioner to learn more about which probiotic supplement is right for you!
The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.
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