Keeping a healthy, strong immune system is crucial to optimal health. Our immune system is our key defense against infection and disease, especially as we age. Our modern diets are seriously lacking the beneficial bacteria and flora that the gut needs in order to stay balanced.
Regular use of quality probiotics improves the intestine’s immunologic barrier, which fortifies the body’s protection against pathogens. It also helps to balance our gut bacteria, which can be sent off balance by stress, inflammation, surgery or injury, illness, age or antibiotics. Notice the prefix in that word: “anti.” Antibiotics kill both bad and good bacteria, so it is vital to rebalance it when taking this medication.
Right now, probiotic use is being clinically shown to improve intestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis and Crohn’s disease (CD). Probiotic bacteria produce metabolites, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), that demonstrate powerful anti-inflammatory effects. This gives great hope to those people suffering from these intestinal diseases, because traditional medical treatments are somewhat disappointing. In these conditions, it is thought that the intestines become inflamed due to the body’s immune reaction against it own intestinal tissue. This inflammatory response can be triggered by a pathogen or an antigen (allergy).
Seventy percent of the body’s natural immune defenses are found in the gut, so it makes sense to supplement with a probiotic featuring beneficial digestive enzymes in order to strengthen our body’s defense systems. In fact, you have ten times more gut bacteria than you do human body cells. CLA has also been demonstrated to have an effect on our T cells, which are necessary for fighting off infections. Why supplement with a probiotic if there are already thousands of species of microorganisms in the gut? Many of these microorganisms are transient, and must be replaced on a regular basis. This is crucial not only for optimal health, but especially for those suffering from intestinal inflammation diseases. For these people, probiotic bacteria can normalize gut mucosal dysfunction, alleviate inflammation and reduce hypersensitivity reactions.
Recent lab studies have shown that when probiotic diversity in the gut was increased, the gut pathology decreased. This shows us that taking probiotics and eating foods that encourage these healthy bacteria does help to improve our digestive health. Additionally, studies have shown promise in using CLA to hinder the growth of tumors in colon tissues.
There are ways that we can help support the bacteria in our gut and achieve optimal health. We should eat plenty of prebiotics, which are foods that actually feed the bacteria in your gut. These are:
- Fermented dairy, such as kefir and yogurt
- Fruits, such as cherries, bananas and berries
- Vegetables, such as kale, chard, garlic, onions, leeks, chicory, asparagus and artichokes
- Whole grains, such as wheat, barley and oatmeal (they must be whole grains)
Eat plenty of foods that contain probiotics, which will also help support your gut bacteria. These are:
- Cheeses, cottage cheese and buttermilk
- Soy products, such as miso and tempeh
- Sauerkraut and kimchi
- A quality, raw and fermented probiotic containing the entire lactobacillus family, the saccharomyces and the rhodopseudomonas strains
- Take a quality blend of vitamins, enzymes and antioxidant
When eating fermented vegetables, make sure that they are unpasteurized, as this process kills the beneficial bacteria. Make sure to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins and eat plenty of fiber to keep things in your gut moving. It is still prudent to take a quality probiotic supplement that provides a diverse and broad spectrum bacterial count.
As you can see, the regular use of probiotics can feed our immune systems as well as greatly alleviate the body’s responses that cause inflammatory intestinal conditions. Supplementing with probiotics can give health and hope. By making changes today, you can start strengthening your immune system and have a healthier gut.