Up to 70% of your immune system is located within your gut, therefore taking probiotics can directly influence your immune system and strengthen your defenses against cold and flu.
Studies show probiotics confer protection against bacterial, viral and pathogenic infections in a number of ways:
- By managing inflammation,
- By directly killing or neutralising pathogens,
- By managing the overgrowth of pathogenics or opportunistic bacteria by competing for space,
- Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM®) strain interacts with specific immune cells which help to module the immune response,
- Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (HN019™) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001™) both improve natural killer cell activity; natural killer cells recognise and kill the cells in someone’s body that have been infected by viruses or tumours.
- Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (HN019™), Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001™) and Bifidobacterium lactis (Bi-07) improve the activity of phagocytes, such as neutrophils and monocytes, which are like Pac-Man and protect the body by engulfing bacteria and dead or dying cells.
Not all probiotics are the same.
Probiotics have long names to identify exactly what type of organism is in your supplement. The first name is called the genus of the bacterium, and is most commonly Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. The second name is called the species (e.g. acidophilus), the species narrows down the bacterium class but clinically doesn’t give you enough information. The most important part of the name is the strain; the letters and/or numbers at the end of the name (e.g. NCFM®). This tells us exactly which probiotic was used in clinical studies, and ensures you have that exact same strain in your supplement to mimic a similar treatment outcome. Probiotics can help to manage a number of different conditions such as allergies, mood, diarrhoea, constipation, leaky gut, cardiovascular disease and infections. Therefore, it is essential that you choose the correct strain for you and the health condition you are aiming to treat.
In combination with a strain-specific probiotic we recommend a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets containing a large variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grain fibres every day ensures you are consuming a diverse range of prebiotic foods to feed your probiotics and support a healthy microbiome. Other microbiome enhancing foods include cultured and fermented foods such as yoghurt, kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir. In a consultation we may also prescribe the additional prebiotic herbal medicines high in polysaccharides like Slippery Elm, Guar Gum, Astragalus and Codonopsis.
To find out which strain-specific probiotic supplement is right for you to support your immune system this Winter, contact our staff or book a personal consultation with one of our qualified practitioners.
Written by Ebony Jordan, Naturopath