In the early 1900s the Russian immunologist Elie Metchnikoff theorized that taking yogurt with lactic-acid producing microorganisms throughout life could be the primary factor explaining the difference in life expectancy among various ethnic groups.
In a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemistry (JAC), researchers explain the idea that bacteria in fermented products help to balance out unhealthy microorganisms. This helps the normal human microflora to continue to act as a strong barrier against illness-causing microorganisms from both internal and external sources.
Every day people around the world come into contact with millions of microorganisms that can cause infections. Thanks to the human immune system we’re normally able to successfully battle these infections. The immune system is a network consisting of cells, tissues and organs. White blood cells or leukocytes proactively destroy the microorganisms that cause disease or infections.
The two basic types of leukocytes are phagocytes, which destroy infections, and lymphocytes, which help your body to recognize organisms you’ve been exposed to previously and to destroy them. Lymphocytes are the cells that produce the antibodies, which continue to reside in your body and make you immune to a particular disease or infection.
According to the JAC study, probiotics play several roles in boosting the immune system and preventing or treating infections, beyond increasing the amount of healthy bacteria. Probiotics limit the colonization or multiplication of disease-causing bacteria. They also produce antimicrobial substances such as bacteriocins, organic acids and peptides.
The study also indicates that some strains of bacteria such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) have adjuvant-like effects. Basically this means that they make the immune system respond more effectively to infections.
Studies show that probiotics can prevent or treat infections in the gastrointestinal tract such as ulcers and viral gastroenteritis (or stomach flu). Other research shows that LGG and Saccharomyces boulardii are also very effective in treating children with diarrhea caused by rotavirus. Lactobacillus GG is also an effective treatment for diarrhea caused by antibiotic use.
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that taking the probiotics L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. fermentum RC-14, which exist in the intestine and vagina, orally can help to treat infections of the urogenital tract, and keep it healthy.
The most common species of probiotics used in foods and supplements are Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, or Streptococcus thermophilus. However, in many cases the probiotics in food have been killed. When you’re choosing probiotics to boost your immune system and fight infections, look for those with “live bacteria.”
Video Talking About How Probiotics Help The Immune System
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (2002) 50, 625-627. Probiotics in human infections
Å. Sullivan and C. E. Nord.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 73, No. 2, 437S-443s, February 2001 Probiotic agents to protect the urogenital tract against infection. Gregor Reid.
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