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How Probiotics Support Immune Health

5 steps to a healthy microbiome

“Seventy percent of the immune system is located in the gut,” says David Heber, MD, PhD at UCLA health.

Your gut, skin, nose, and airways are home to trillions of tiny bacteria and other microbes—some of which might help your immune system fight off unwanted infections and even inhibit cancer cell growth.

It’s called your microbiome and it is highly influenced by your diet and lifestyle.

We’ve known the microbiome interacts with the immune system for a long time, since it is increasingly well known that breastmilk is highly important to develop a baby’s immune system, but recently researchers at Rockefeller University asked this question:

“Can the human microbiome produce molecules that inhibit the growth of viruses”

Turns out the microbiome and immune system engage in extensive cross talk, explaining the findings that certain bacterial byproducts in the human microbiome can block the growth of viruses by more than 90%. This is primarily the case when the intestinal lining is intact and the gut has robust levels of healthy bacteria.

When the microbiome is imbalanced, it is oftentimes is associated with leaky gut and therefore a “leaky” immune system. This is where probiotics and individualized gut healing protocols are vital. Furthermore, there is evidence that probiotics induce the immune system to help protect against allergies! Dr. Heber also says that “what’s present in the gut determines what education immune cells get.” This is a great reminder that your microbiome harbors beneficial bacteria that interact with your immune system to support your defenses against infection.

So, what can we learn from this and apply it to our own gut and immune health?

 1. We can make choices with our food and lifestyle to support a healthy microbiome. This includes choosing whole foods over processed, consuming a wide variety of vegetables and consuming fermented foods that are naturally rich in probiotics.

 2. Choose fiber! Gut bacteria live on complex fibers that your own cells are unable to digest. These fibers give fuel to healthy bacteria and also reduce inflammation.

3. Avoid foods that you are intolerant to. Intolerance can show itself as skin rashes, upset stomach, changes in stool, brain fog, mood changes, insomnia and more. An elimination diet can help identify food intolerances or a simple blood test can also help.

4. SLEEP! Sleep is key to immune health and anti-inflammatory support. It is when your body heals, repairs and digests. Aim for 7-9 hours of high quality sleep every night. If sleep is a concern of yours, please reach out for more support! It is so essential for optimal health!

5. Probiotic supplements are a simple way to increase the healthy bacteria in your gut.

The study of the microbiome and immunity is ongoing and more details will unfold; however we may never fully understand the synergy nature has created between us and the teeny tiny microbes that live in and on us. In the meantime, we think it’s worth taking simple steps to support microbiome health.

We love to help our patients with personalized and individual plans to support the health of their microbiome AND immune system. Please check out our website for details on how to become a patient!

The above information is not intended to diagnose or treat a disease and is not a substitute for appropriate medical care.


Learn more about Naturopathic Medicine and much more in our other blog posts.

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