The more you learn about the human body, the more you know how interconnected its different components are. Routinely, various body parts are simultaneously working together to achieve a greater good. With that said, it is important to evaluate how your gut health impacts your immune health – namely the instrumental role probiotics are believed to play in this interdependent system.
The Scoop on Immune Health
The first thing you need to know about your immune system is that it does not operate independently from your digestive system. The bottom line is that your immune system is a multi-facetted entity that is affected by innumerous variables. Over the years, people have experimented with different ways to enhance their immune health, warding off unwanted infections and viruses. While it is still inconclusive whether lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, and environment impact immune health, there is some compelling research available.
Do probiotics enhance immune health?
This is a loaded question that is currently under evaluation by researchers everywhere – some of which is being conducted at nationally acclaimed institutions like the Harvard School of Medicine. So, just what have researchers discovered? “For instance, it is known that certain bacteria of the gut influence the development of aspects of the immune system, such as correcting deficiencies and increasing the numbers of certain T cells. Precisely how the bacteria interact with the immune system components isn’t known,” reported a Harvard Health Publications article.
And although a lot of questions still need to be answered, some additional noteworthy findings have been discovered. In an article published by Curr Opin Gastroenterol, it was suggested that “the manipulation of the intestinal microbiota is a potential alternative approach for maintaining health and preventing and/or treating diseases.” For those of you unfamiliar with the idea of ‘microbiota,’ allow us to explain the basics. Microbiota, once known as ‘gut flora,’ refers to the 1000-some different species of bacteria that reside in your gut. With that said, it is pretty exciting to think that attempts to regulate your gut’s microorganisms could result in improved immune health.
What We Have Learned
Probiotics have exhibited promise for the treatment of various immune-related diseases. This spectrum of diseases is vast, but some identifiable ones include everything from allergies and eczema to viral infection. The fundamental reason probiotics are believed to help with these issues? “Most importantly, modulation of the immune system is one of the most plausible mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of probiotics on human health. Probiotics have been found to enhance the innate immunity and modulate pathogen-induced inflammation via toll-like receptor-regulated signaling pathways,” reported the Curr Opin Gastroenterol study.
Because our microbiota is as unique as our fingerprints, one of the obstacles we have with this new approach to boosting immune health is how to get the individualized probiotic treatment needed for effective immune-health results. This is why more research is needed. As researchers continue to draw answers to existing questions about probiotics and our immune health, there is some important information for users to know.
The results of today’s studies about probiotics and immune health are still preliminary and require further testing before conclusive data can be collected about the correlation between probiotic-based gut health and your overall immune health. As researchers collect this data, it becomes imperative to consider how their findings will impact our individual microbiota.
The good news is that according to the Harvard School of Medicine, “In the meanwhile, if you choose to take a probiotic in moderation, it probably won’t hurt, and the scientific evidence may ultimately show some benefit.” Need some more compelling research? Don’t miss the recent findings from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport that discovered that “…New Zealand athletes had about 40% fewer colds and gastrointestinal infections when they took a probiotic compared to when they took a placebo.”
The final takeaway? With so much compelling research available, the future of our probiotics-focused immune health looks promising. Just remember, if you have a specific question about how different types of probiotics may benefit your immune system and overall health, be sure to consult your physician.
For more information about probiotics, tune into the SCD Essential Probiotics® blog.