Improve Your Immunity Gut & Brain With Probiotics
- Michelle Civello, APRN, FNP-BC
With the Delta Variant of COVID-19 cases on the rise, supporting our immune system has never been more important. Build up your bodys defense against disease-causing bacteria and viruses by eating healthy, exercising, managing stress, and getting enough sleep and dont pass up your probiotics!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are a combination of good bacteria/yeast and live cultures that are similar to those that naturally live in the human gut. These live organisms benefit your body by helping to maintain balance of good bacteria and decrease bad bacteria that can cause infection.
How Can Probiotics Keep Me Healthy?
Probiotics have been shown to secrete protective substances, which may in turn boost your immune system and prevent pathogens from causing you to get sick. Studies also suggest that probiotics can be used to treat conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, lactose intolerance, eczema, and upper respiratory infections.
How Do Probiotics Support Brain and Gut Health?
How Can I Get the Probiotics I Need?
While taking a supplement form of probiotics can help increase your gut health, probiotics live in many different food products, such as yogurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchee and soy products.
What If I Am Taking Antibiotics?
What Are The Different Forms And How Many Do I Need
Aside from food, you can obtain probiotics in powder, tablet, liquid or capsule form. There are also many different strains.
The Dispensary at Bastyr Center for Natural Health sells high-quality probiotics that are free of contaminants, additives and pathogenic microorganisms, and contain the number of viable microorganisms stated on the label.
Should Children Eat Probiotic Foods
Some studies suggest that probiotics may be good for children. One study found that children who were given probiotics every day for 3 months were less likely to have respiratory problems and diarrhea than children who were given a placebo.
And while more research is needed, probiotics may reduce childrens risk of developing certain conditions like autoimmune diseases, allergies and asthma.
On the other hand, some researchers note that probiotics may not have much effect on children. Because their microbiome isnt fully developed, probiotics may simply be passed as normal waste.
Probiotics are considered safe for kids with some exceptions, notes Dr. Drass. You should avoid giving your child probiotics if they have a compromised immune system or cancer, or if they are a premature infant. In these cases, probiotics can put them at risk for infections.
In general, its better for kids to get probiotics through foods instead of supplements unless their pediatrician recommends otherwise. Talk to your childs doctor if youre thinking about using probiotics to help your childs digestion because keeping your child safe and healthy is their prime concern.
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What Are The Most Common Types Of Probiotic Bacteria
Though there are many types of bacteria that can be considered probiotics, there are two specific types of bacteria that are common probiotics found in stores. These include:
Probiotics are also made up of good yeast. The most common type of yeast found in probiotics is:
- Saccharomyces boulardii.
Side Effects And Risks
Probiotics are considered safe for most people. Studies dont report major risks involved with taking them.
The most commonly reported side effects of probiotics are gas and bloating. If you have severe reactions, including abdominal pain, reduce your daily CFU intake and slowly increase again over time.
Always talk with your doctor before beginning a new health supplement. Before giving probiotic supplements to your child, talk to their pediatrician. Premature infants shouldnt take some probiotics.
Probiotics might not be recommended for people with chronic illness or a weakened immune system. Dont use probiotics to replace prescription medications without first consulting your doctor.
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Easily Accessible Sources Of Probiotics:
Kefir, a fermented drink made of cow’s or goat’s milk, is a great source of probiotics
This is one of the most easily available natural probiotic foods that you can add to your daily diet. However, as not all types of yoghurt contain live probiotics, choose yogurt that has active or live cultures.
South Indian dishes such as idls, dosas and uttapams are rich sources of probiotics.
As paneer is a good source of protein and probiotics, its a great choice to add to your diet.
Fermented pickles comprise probiotics that have a number of health benefits.
This popular Korean dish is usually made from fermented cabbage. Its lactic acid bacteria benefits digestive health.
Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea beverage. As its fermented, it has health benefits related to its probiotic properties.
How Probiotics Might Be Bad For You
Because these good bacteria already exist in the body, theyâre considered safe for most people. But there are some things to consider.
They can trigger an allergic reaction. They might cause mild stomach problems, especially the first few days you start taking them. You might have stomach upset, gas, diarrhea, or bloating. Those symptoms usually go away after your body gets used to them.
If you have an immune system problem or another serious health condition, you may have a greater chance of issues. Some reports have linked probiotics to serious infections and other side effects. The people most likely to have trouble are those with immune system problems, people who’ve had surgery, and others who are critically ill. Don’t take probiotics if you have any of those issues.
Always talk to your pediatrician before giving probiotic supplements to your child. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you should also talk to your doctor before you try one.
Most probiotics in the U.S. are sold as dietary supplements. That means the companies that make them don’t have to test their products and show that they work or that they are safe. More research is needed to confirm that probiotics are safe and effective.
Ask your doctor which probiotics are the right ones for you. Be sure to stop taking them if you have any problems.
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Natures Secret Digestive Bliss
Natures Secret Digestive Bliss is a fantastic option if you are looking to improve your gut health and overall immune system.
- Available in packages containing 30 gel capsules
- Contains an impressive array of 18 different bacterial cultures
- Also contains fructooligosacharrides for prebiotic benefits
- Contains at least 1 billion live bacteria
New advancements in manufacturing technologies have allowed competing products to jump up in our rankings above Natures Secret Digestive Bliss.
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Probiotics Can Help Reduce Symptoms Of Certain Digestive Disorders
Over one million people in the US suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease .
Certain types of probiotics from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains have improved symptoms in people with mild ulcerative colitis .
Surprisingly, one study found that supplementing with the probiotic E. coli Nissle was just as effective as drugs in maintaining remission in people with ulcerative colitis (
Nevertheless, probiotics may have benefits for other bowel disorders. Early research suggests they may help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome .
They have also been shown to reduce the risk of severe necrotizing enterocolitis by 50%. This is a fatal bowel condition that occurs in premature infants .
Probiotics may help reduce the symptoms of bowel disorders like ulcerative colitis, IBS and necrotizing enterocolitis.
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Gut Microbes Regulate Your Happy Hormones
As we mentioned earlier, gut microbes transform some of the food you eat into short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids communicate with the cells in your body that produce serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, happiness, and anxiety levels. Essentially, gut microbes can help your body make more serotonin.
Another neurotransmitter, called gamma-aminobutyric acid , regulates and improves your mood. GABA helps calm the nervous system and turn off stress reactions. Some probiotic gut bacteria can even directly produce GABA for your body.
Essentially, your diet can help your bodys bacteria protect your mental health because eating the right foods feeds happy bacteria. When your body has lots of healthy bacteria, your microbiome is more diverse, and your body produces more substances that increase your mood-lifting chemicals, such a GABA and serotonin.
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Sex Differences In Immune Responses
The team used an outbred piglet model to study the potential early sex differences in the immune system. They looked at the immunity in the piglets mucosal surfaces, as well as systemic immune responses to new foreign intruders, or antigens.
The team found that, at just 28 days old, the piglets showed significant sex-based differences. The immune cells, antibodies, and other immune-related molecules were different in males and females in response to probiotic supplementation.
For instance, males and females responded differently to inulin a prebiotic derived from the chicory plant. Female pigs produced more of the immunoglobulins IgA and IgM in their lymph tissue, while in male pigs, the process occurred in the large intestine.
Also, The prebiotic inulin significantly increase the number of cells responsible for controlling immune responses, the regulatory T cells, in male guts but not in female guts, reports Lewis.
This suggests that, during infancy, females may have greater potential for local immune regulation than their male counterparts, write the authors.
Furthermore, they report, Starch supplementation had no effect on females but increased IgM synthesis in all tissues in males.
Also, the marker E-cadherin, which can indicate intestinal barrier health, was higher in female piglets fed with inulin.
Finally, female piglets also had significantly greater systemic antibody responses to injected ovalbumin and dietary soya.
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Better Absorption Of Nutrients
The gut flora is like the fermentation system of your body. What you may not realize is that good bacteria have digestive systems of their own which are not like ours. Good bacteria do things to the foods we eat that our own digestive system cant do. For example, we all need lots of B-Vitamins to stay healthy, such as biotin and folate. When we consume foods with these nutrients, the good bacteria must digest them first. Afterward, the body is able to absorb these nutrients for its own health. If something interferes with this process and the body cant absorb those nutrients, we will develop skin problems, reduced energy levels, and brain fogginess. So, by taking probiotics, it will allow the body to absorb the B Vitamins and sustain your health in these areas.
Do Probiotics And Prebiotics Modulate Immune Function And If So How
Several probiotic effector molecules involved in immune interactions have been identified, including bacterial cell wall components such as peptidoglycan and , as well as specific proteins . For some of these effector molecules, their modes of action on host immune responses have been described and involve the modulation of several receptor signalling cascades that are known to have a prominent role in the regulation of the human immune system . However, these mechanistic studies are generally based on in vitro cell-culture models and may not accurately reflect the in vivo situation. Importantly, the probiotic products that are currently on the market predominantly target the healthy population with the claim to prophylactically reduce disease risk, rather than to treat disease or provide a therapeutic benefit. Consequently, immune-health benefits should be measured in healthy individuals, and validation of the prophylactic health effects would benefit from challenge models in which the immune system of the consumer is subjected to a stimulus to allow the quantitative evaluation of the proposed prophylactic effect.
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An Introduction To Probiotics
Recently, theres been a lot of conversation in the media about probiotics. As a nutritionist, I often answer questions from patients looking to know more about probiotics and their publicized health benefits. While medical science works to further understand the role the microbiome plays in our daily health, there are a few questions we can shed some light on to help you gain a better understanding of probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live, active microorganisms ingested to alter the gastrointestinal flora for health benefits. They often are referred to as good bacteria in the gut and compete with bad bacteria to support the body in establishing optimal digestion and aid immune function.
Why are probiotics important to our health?
Probiotics help create a balance in a healthy digestive system. When this balance breaks down either due to illness, a course of antibiotics, a diet lacking nutrient-dense food or the overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria, gastrointestinal problems can occur.
Although more research is needed, there is evidence that probiotics may help:
- Prevent and/or treat diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics
- Improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Boost immune system
- Reduce inflammation and allergies
Are probiotics right for everyone?
Foods that contain probiotics
Some of the most natural probiotic-rich foods include:
Recommendations for probiotics
Things to consider:
Topics in this Post
Food Rx: An Immunology Expert Shares What She Eats In A Day
A nutritional immunologist who now specializes in science communication shares why a balanced diet high in whole foods is best for helping keep infection and chronic disease at bay.
In the current COVID-19 era, all eyes are on what we can do to stay healthy. And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended many measures to that end including wearing masks, washing hands, and physically distancing theres another, often overlooked way to better your immune system: focusing on your diet.
Nutrition and how it impacts your immune system is all the rage these days because of COVID-19, says Megan Meyer, PhD, the Durham, North Carolinabased director of science communication at the International Food Information Council . Dr. Meyer earned her PhD in microbiology and immunology with a focus on nutritional immunology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2015. She now lives with her husband and 1-year-old daughter, and spends her workdays translating scientific nutrition language into information that the rest of us can understand.
Meyer has always been into food she grew up in a family that loves to cook. My grandparents immigrated from the Philippines in the 50s, and a lot of our family recipes are Filipino food, she says. As an undergraduate studying biology, she became interested in the interplay between what we eat and how it impacts our immune system.
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The Labels On Probiotic Drinks Dont Say What They Hope To Achieve For Very Good Reason
As our understanding of the microbiome develops scientists are hopeful of finding out more about how probiotics might be used.
Probiotics are riding such a wave of popularity it is even possible to get face creams, masks and serums that include these good bacteria. They can be massaged onto the skin to help fight against an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Mostly though, we think of probiotics as being found in fermented foods, drinks or capsules and intended for the gut.
Having a diverse range of microbes in the gut is considered healthy and it is possible to buy drinks that are believed to promise to help with that. Or at least they used to do so.
One of the first commercial brands on the market was Yakult, which was developed in Japan in the 1930s. It is still a market leader, along with Danones Actimel.
Yakult, which means yoghurt in Esperanto, is a fermented skimmed milk drink as can be seen from the label. It is made up of: water, reconstituted skimmed milk, glucose-fructose syrup, sugar, maltodextrin, flavourings and Lactobacillus casei Shirota. So sugar appears three times and each little plastic bottle has more than two teaspoons. These little containers are not big enough to satisfy as a drink and yet are sugary enough to encourage a craving for more sweetness.
The drinks are not even identified as probiotic either, as that is considered a health claim.
The value of sugary commercial products with that process is not entirely clear however.
FOOD LABELS SERIES
Here Are 6 Probiotic Drinks That May Help Build Immunity:
1. Water Kefir
Water Kefir is a drink which is vegan, dairy-free and probiotic rolled into one. It is prepared by using water and kefir grains, which is left to ferment over a couple of days and thus may help build immunity too. Click here to learn how you can make it at home.
Water Kefir is loaded with good nutrition and immunity.
Look no further than our humble Kanji for a wholesome drink loaded with good bacteria. The Kanji can be made in a number of ways, including this delicious Gajar Ki Kanji recipe here. It is considered excellent for digestive processes and also builds gut health and immunity.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Tea
Apple cider vinegar is known to offer numerous health benefits, including weight loss and good digestion. This sweet apple cider vinegar tea comes loaded with good probiotics that strengthen the gut from within, and of course, the immune system too. Click here for the full recipe.
Apple cider vinegar is an excellent source of healthy probiotics.
Yogurt is another wonderful ingredient which is considered a healthy and natural probiotic. Why not transform yogurt into a sweet and delicious lassi? Here are three ways you can make Lassi at home with seasonal fruits and minimal hassle.
Lassi is fruity, healthy and enriched with probiotic goodness.
Kombucha tea can easily be made at home.
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Probiotics May Help Boost Your Immune System
Probiotics may help give your immune system a boost and inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria .
Also, some probiotics have been shown to promote the production of natural antibodies in the body. They may also boost immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells (
Certain probiotics may help you lose weight and belly fat. However, other strains have been linked to weight gain.