Immunity-enhancing probiotics may be the best line of defense for good health

Good bacteria, bad bacteria, billions of bacteria—sounds downright germy. But the truth is that research in gut health is germinating more insight into the role bacteria, also known as "probiotics," play in our overall health and wellness.

We all know that our immune system is a primary defensive line in guarding and defending our good health. And that it can weaken between seasons, and alters with age (as we grow older, immune function declines). But did you know that 70% of the immune system is located in the digestive tract?

Probiotics are live, friendly, beneficial microorganisms. There are trillions of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract consisting of over 500 species. Lactobacillus is the prevalent good bacteria in the small intestine, while bifidobacterium is the most dominant in the large intestine. Together they are a strong defensive line, and amongst their many metabolic activities, they play a vital role in protecting the immune system against disease producing micro-organisms (bad bacteria) including yeasts, fungi and parasites. These bad bacteria are often the culprits behind conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious diarrhea, vaginal infections, stomach and respiratory infections, and tooth decay and periodontal disease.

One way to cause imbalances in our gut flora is by overusing antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria and may be responsible for a number of gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel and Crohn's disease. And it is believed that antibiotics have a residual effect long after their usage has stopped.

Supplementing with probiotics is a smart preventative approach, as research evidence shows that certain probiotic strains are able to enhance immune function, especially in subjects with less than adequate immune function, such as the elderly. In addition to having immune-bolstering properties, supplementing with probiotics helps to manufacture certain vitamins, including B and K, and some digestive enzymes that can help reduce various symptoms associated with gastro-intestinal conditions.

In an age of mutating super-bugs, increasing antibiotic resistance and challenged immune systems, 16 feet of protection is mainly all you've got. It stands to reason that supplementing with immunity-enhancing probiotics is your best line of defense for good health.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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