How do probiotics boost the immune system?
Our large intestine isn’t a sterile place. There are over four hundred different types of micro-organisms found there which together are called the intestinal-flora. In fact, we are more bacteria than humans!
The ratio of bacteria vs. human cells is 10:1, amazing isn’t it?
And this colonization of bacteria (good or bad) can weigh up to three pounds! With such a large concentration of bacteria in our bodies, it is logical that we depend rather heavily on them for health.
Bacteria are everywhere: in soil, in water, in air, and in the bodies of every person and animal. These microorganisms are among the most numerous forms of life on Earth.
Most bacteria are either harmless, or helpful, or even essential to life. Bacteria break down (decompose) dead plants and animals. This allows chemical elements like carbon to return to the earth to be used again. In addition, some bacteria help plants get nitrogen. Without them, plants could not grow. In the human body, bacteria help keep the digestive tract working properly.
This bacteria are divided into two groups
i) good bacteria (a.k.a intestinal flora or probiotics)
ii) bad bacteria (a.k.a bad yeast forming micro-organisms).
We should always have more good and friendly bacteria over bad bacteria. Dysbiosis happens when this ratio is messed up and we have a lower count of good guys over bad guys.
The bad guys are bad! So bad that they cause things like yeast overgrowth in the gut, gas, bloating, and more serious health issues such as sore throats and food poisoning to swelling of the brain and death of nerves in your skin!
On the contrary, good bacteria are extremely important to our lives as they aid in the digestive process and help support our immune system. 70% of our immune cells are located in the small intestines, no wonder we have to keep our kids’ guts clean in order for them to not get sick. Good bacteria help us even after they die because their bodies provide much of the bulk of the stool.
Where do we get good bacteria from?
- Vaginal delivery – babies get their first shot of good bacteria (or bad) during labour when they are passed through the birth canal. Vaginal delivery is important but not the only thing that matters. If the mother has dysbiosis (the probiotic ratio is messed up) then the baby will “inherit” mom’s state and will most likely struggle with digestive issues throughout his/her entire life. That is why supplementation with a good quality probiotic is so crucial. Kids who are born through a C-section start off their digestion with a lower bacterial count and therefore it is so important to supplement them with probiotics as well.
- Fermented foods in the diet – sauerkraut, kimchi, homemade pickles, raw kefir, organic miso, tempeh, naturally fermented and unpasteurized beers, kombucha – all these foods used to be staples in our homes but unfortunately are long gone from most of our diets. Incorporating these foods back into our lifestyle is especially important for people who do not supplement with probiotics.
Why are probiotics so important?
- They digest unused carbohydrates – that otherwise would be stored as fat
- Heal our large intestines
- Produce vitamins for the host (such as B vitamins and vitamin K)
- Produce certain hormones that are responsible for maintaining proper weight
- and they kill the “bad guys” – that is their most important action when it comes to immunity.
What depletes good bacteria?
- antibiotics/drugs of any kind (even Tylenol and Advil!)
- poor diet
- processed foods
- chemicals of any kids
- high sugar foods
- chlorine/fluoride – tap water, pool, bleach, gum
- introducing solids too early
- c-section delivery
- radiation – X-Rays in hospitals and airports
Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. Examples of prebiotics would be whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes. When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a synbiotic. Fermented foods are considered synbiotic because they contain live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive.
Hippocrates was once quoted for saying “all disease begins in the gut.” Now we know why!
Probiotics for babies (0-1 year): Biogaia – you can buy them at any pharmacy, the cheapest I found so far was Walmart.
How to use: Give off of your finger or, if breastfeeding, from the nipple. Some clients reported that this probiotic is very helpful against colic.
Probiotics for kids (1-8 years): DDS Junior
How to use: You can mix one portion with water/juice or sprinkle it over kids’ food, however, it might turn into a waste because kids rarely finish their food. I have tried it all, the best and the most effective way to give it to them is straight from a spoon. Explain to them that this is a delicious powdered candy (it is actually tasty, I’ve tried it) which will help them stay healthy and strong!