How Probiotics Can Support Your Immune System
By Jaime Rose Chambers, Accredited Practicing Dietitian (B. Nutrition & Dietetics)
Probiotics are live organisms which have a health benefit when consumed in the right doses in food. They are found in high doses in probiotic yoghurt and kefir, as well as fermented foods like kombucha and sauerkraut. They have been shown to have many potential therapeutical health benefits, particularly their effect on the immune system. That is due to the way they interact with our gut on their journey through the intestine.
Our immune system is a complex system of organs and cells that work to defend and protect our body against infection. Once a pathogen (bad microbe) has entered the body, our immune system remembers them so they can act against them faster next time we’re exposed.
Probiotics have been shown to prime the immune response and make it more hyper-responsive. They have a direct, and an indirect, immunomodulatory effect – that is, they are able to modify the immune function or immune response and this varies depending on the strain of probiotic. They do this by interacting and communicating with immune cells on their journey through the gut.
More specifically, probiotics can influence the composition of the gut microbiota. When healthy microbe numbers are high, they compete for binding sites on the intestine wall to survive and can be crowded out.
Probiotics also help to create a physical barrier, by strengthening the intestinal wall. They do this by altering the thickness and nature of the intestinal mucus and increasing the production of proteins between cells to tighten up the barrier and decrease permeability in the intestines, preventing harmful substances from penetrating the intestinal wall and entering the body.
Specific strains of probiotics have shown particular promise in supporting our immune system. Bifidobacerium animalis lactis (BB-12) as well as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) found in Vaalia probiotic yoghurt and kefir yoghurt are some of the world’s most documented and studied probiotics.
BB-12 and LGG, particularly when consumed together, were both shown in clinical studies in adults and children to stimulate the immune system and increase the body’s resistance to common respiratory infections and reducing their incidence and severity. LGG was also found to help prevent some allergenic symptoms.
The best way to get the powerful immune support from probiotics is to enjoy it in your diet every, especially through the winter months when you’re more likely to get a cold or flu. You can do this by having Vaalia probiotic yoghurt as a snack, on your breakfast or in a smoothie.