We’ve been repetitively taught that germs cause disease. That getting sick means our immune system has faltered, bacterial infection requires antibiotics, and immune function depends on genetics. But this is, in fact, not nearly the whole truth.
Your immune system is intricately designed to protect you from environmental and internal insults and injury. This finely tuned network includes cells you may have heard of like…
B lymphocytes that make antibodies in response to a foreign invader. These special proteins attach to the harmful entity, identifying them as an attacker. This sends a virtual wave to the T lymphocytes, alerting them to the danger.
T lymphocytes then seek out and destroy these flagged invaders.
The bone marrow, thymus, lymphatic system, spleen, and tonsils are each important components of the immune system. But, while these organs are important, the incredible gut with its billions of tiny inhabitants (called the microbiome) form a key part of immunity.
Your digestive system often remains under-considered when it comes to immune health. The focus often rests on pharmaceutical options to destroy pathogenic organisms. But its role couldn’t be more crucial.
Did you know that over half of the cells that make the antibodies we just talked about are produced in the small intestine and the appendix?
Then there are the billions of bugs that reside in the large intestine that make it difficult for invaders to get a foot hold or enter the body proper.
Without a healthy digestive system, it is simply impossible to remain well.
Yet, modern life raises many challenges that harm the microbiome. Stress, consuming junk food and drink and insufficient nutrients and fiber, leading a sedentary life, taking antibiotics, and being exposed to toxins are but a few triggers for negative change in your microbiome. This results in movement from protective and healthy to imbalanced, even pathogenic. This alters how our immune system works.
See, as a study published in the Human Microbiome Journal said:
Microbiome and the immune system are constantly shaping each other, in a mutual aim to thrive, defining the unstable equilibrium of the healthy individual.
Our vast compliment of gut bugs continually talks to our immune system. This conversation is reciprocal. When the former is adversely altered, the latter suffers.
This provides an answer to why probiotics can be beneficial for both gut health and immune function.
The World Health Organization has defined probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” In essence, they are supplemental good gut bugs that provide positive effects.
They can stop pathogenic bacteria from sticking to the intestinal wall and produce compounds that inactivate their toxins. They aid in survival of the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract and prevent permeability, thus, protecting the body from foreign invaders. They also directly modulate the immune system by enhancing lymphocyte function.
The human body is incredible, with immune cells playing a key role in health and function. However, the billions of under-appreciated gut bugs that make up our microbiome form an indispensible piece of the puzzle. Quality probiotics allow us to stack the odds in firmly in our favor.