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Probiotics and the Immune System – How Can They Help?

Adding probiotic foods like yogurt to your child’s diet help keep their microbiome healthy.

It is almost two months since the situation with the Coronavirus had become a serious Public Health issue worldwide. We are witnessing a massive increase in sales and interest in immune boosting supplements, vitamins and probiotics. People are looking to strengthen their immune system hoping that they will be strong and healthy enough to fight the COVID-19. But, how do probiotics really help our immune system? Why do we need them in our quarantine days?

Probiotics and the Immune System

When we are talking about fighting a virus, besides the personal measures we take to avoid our exposure, it’s important to strengthen our immune system. This is where Probiotics can help in multiple ways.

What Exactly Are Probiotics?

We all know about Probiotics in food, and that they improve our gut health, but what exactly are they?

Probiotics are live microorganisms known for their health benefits on the host and their regular consumption helps in the maintenance of a positive balance in the gut microbiota(1). Probiotics have been found to enhance our natural immunity and adjust the pathogen-induced inflammation(2).

Moreover, there is a study reporting the beneficial role of Probiotics against viral infection. According to a 2011 study, the intake of Probiotics reduces the risk of acquiring common cold infections(3). Specifically, the supplementation of Probiotics for 12 weeks resulted in reduced risk of common cold episodes, the number of days with common cold symptoms, frequency and severity of symptoms, and immune response in common cold infections.

How Can Probiotics Boost Our Immune System?

The connection between the Probiotics intake and the immune system was recently highlighted in a 2019 review, concluding that Probiotic bacteria improve our immune systems through the activation of multiple immune mechanisms both at the gut and distant sites(4).

Similar findings were reported in another review that investigated the impact of Probiotics on the regulation of immune health in humans. This review highlighted that the use of probiotics can protect us against infection, and stimulate an immune response(5).

Another fact showing the importance of Probiotics, and its necessity nowadays is the discussion among scientists about the potential role of Probiotics as factors that can be modified for the delivery of vaccines and to strengthen the effects of vaccination(6). 

Less Exercise – Fewer Fruits and Vegetables = More Stress

girl working from home During the “Stay at Home” period that we are now experiencing, there is increased stress, lack of physical activity and reduced consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

According to a 2017 study, Probiotic supplementation increased the systemic immune response and protected against infection, suggesting that the use of Probiotics can potentially minimize the damage induced during a stressful situation like the one we are facing now(7).

Most of the day we sit on a chair or lie on the sofa. We don’t walk enough and our physical activity is limited. Moderate physical activity or moderate–regulated training has been shown to enhance the immune function(8). Moreover, research demonstrates that acute exercise is an immune system adjuvant leading to an improved defense activity. Additionally, there is an inverse relationship between exercise training and illness risk(9).

At the same time we need to consider that according to research, an increased fruit and vegetable intake links to improved immune function(10). However, the rules that governments globally set, to force people to stay at home, plus the fear of being exposed to the Coronavirus, reduce the chances for quality food and the chances of being able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables regularly. 

Everyone tries to buy food that lasts long and we are not in a position to visit supermarkets as frequently as before. Moreover, studies that examined the association between fruit and vegetable intake in asthma showed a protective effect against either systemic or airway inflammation(11).

Taking seriously the above -mentioned facts, since our fruit-vegetable consumption is limited and our physical activity is reduced, these factors make it even more demanding the need of getting a supplement of Probiotics to boost our immune system. 

dietary fiber intake from oatmeal can treat constipation Probiotics and Their Effect on Treating Constipation

Research demonstrates that dietary fiber intake can obviously increase stool frequency in patients with constipation(12). Physical activity and exercise can also help us to have a normal bowel function. Additionally, psychological stress which most people experience during the Coronavirus outbreak has long been known, both clinically and experimentally, to cause bowel dysfunction(13). 

On top of that, according to research, constipation was significantly higher in children exposed to stressful life events(14). All these factors prove that the “Stay at Home” period can affect significantly the normal function of our bowel and lead to constipation. 

Researchers have concluded that Probiotics may improve whole gut transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency, with subgroup analysis indicating beneficial effects of B. lactis in particular(15). There is research showing that Probiotics increase the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3 times, and soften the stools, making them easier to pass(16). Another study showed that 70% of the patients taking Probiotics were satisfied with their symptomatic relief of bowel movement frequency(17).

Boosting Immune System With Probiotics

The duration of the “Stay at Home” days due to the Coronavirus remains unknown and the countries that adopt this kind of restriction increase rapidly. Staying at home affects not only our emotions but our overall health. The majority of people try to boost their immune system by getting vitamin supplements instead of looking beyond past beliefs on nutrition and immunity. 

Probiotics are not a trend of our days, but they are scientifically proven to boost our immune system and they prove to be a necessity of the Coronavirus days. Furthermore, they can help us overcome any dysfunction of our bowel due to the inactivity, stress and reduced fruit and vegetable intake. Additionally, there is evidence that Prebiotics can improve your immune system by increasing the population of protective microorganisms(18).

Therefore, the Probiotics and Prebiotics With Sunfiber and FOS is a great product combining the benefits of Probiotics and Prebiotics and providing the necessary tools to your body to function properly and built your immunity.


References

(1) Kim, D., Yoo, S. and Kim, W., 2016. Gut microbiota in autoimmunity: potential for clinical applications. Archives of Pharmacal Research, 39(11), pp.1565-1576.

(2) Yan, F. and Polk, D., 2011. Probiotics and immune health. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 27(6), pp.496-501.

(3) Berggren, A., Lazou Ahrén, I., Larsson, N. and Önning, G., 2010. Randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled study using new probiotic lactobacilli for strengthening the body immune defence against viral infections. European Journal of Nutrition, 50(3), pp.203-210.

(4)Maldonado Galdeano, C., Cazorla, S., Lemme Dumit, J., Vélez, E. and Perdigón, G., 2019. Beneficial Effects of Probiotic Consumption on the Immune System. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 74(2), pp.115-124.

(5)Ganjbakhsh SE, Rezaee P. The effect of probiotics on immune system. J Bacteriol Mycol Open Access. 2017;5(4):319‒320. 

(6)Marieta Georgieva, Kaloyan Georgiev and Peter Dobromirov (November 18th 2015). Probiotics and Immunity, Immunopathology and Immunomodulation, Krassimir Metodiev, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/61337. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/books/immunopathology-and-immunomodulation/probiotics-and-immunity

(7)Martin Manuel, P., Elena, B., Carolina, M. and Gabriela, P., 2017. Oral probiotics supplementation can stimulate the immune system in a stress process. Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, 8, pp.29-40

(8)Romeo, J., Wärnberg, J., Pozo, T. and Marcos, A., 2010. Physical activity, immunity and infection. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 69(3), pp.390-399.

(9) Nieman, D. and Wentz, L., 2019. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 8(3), pp.201-217.

(10)Gibson, A., Edgar, J., Neville, C., Gilchrist, S., McKinley, M., Patterson, C., Young, I. and Woodside, J., 2012. Effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on immune function in older people: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(6), pp.1429-1436.

(11)Hosseini, B., Berthon, B., Wark, P. and Wood, L., 2017. Effects of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption on Risk of Asthma, Wheezing and Immune Responses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 9(4), p.341.

(12)Yang, J., 2012. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 18(48), p.7378.

(13)Chang, Y., El-Zaatari, M. and Kao, J., 2014. Does stress induce bowel dysfunction?. Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 8(6), pp.583-585.

(14)Devanarayana, N. and Rajindrajith, S., 2009. Association between Constipation and Stressful Life Events in a Cohort of Sri Lankan Children and Adolescents. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, 56(3), pp.144-148.

(15)Dimidi, E., Christodoulides, S., Fragkos, K., Scott, S. and Whelan, K., 2014. The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(4), pp.1075-1084.

(16)Publishing, H., 2018. Health Benefits Of Taking Probiotics – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics> [Accessed 27 March 2020].

(17)Kim, S., Choi, S., Park, K., Park, M., Shin, J., Lee, T., Jung, K., Koo, H. and Myung, S., 2015. Change of Fecal Flora and Effectiveness of the Short-term VSL#3 Probiotic Treatment in Patients With Functional Constipation. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 21(1), pp.111-120.

(18) Davani-Davari, D., Negahdaripour, M., Karimzadeh, I., Seifan, M., Mohkam, M., Masoumi, S., Berenjian, A. and Ghasemi, Y., 2019. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods, 8(3), p.92.