Keeping a strong immune system is critical for your overall health and well-being. According to the Toxicology Pathology journal, the main function of the immune system1 is to protect the host from environmental agents such as microbes or chemicals, therefore preserving the integrity of the body1.
Basically, your immune system is what helps prevent you from catching that cold the guy next to you has when he sneezes everywhere, it’s what helps you put up your best defense against some of the major illnesses that we can fall prey to, and it’s what keeps your entire body feeling energized on a day to day basis. If you’ve ever been suffering from serious sleep deprivation, something that will, without a doubt have a major impact on the immune system according to the Natural Reviews Immunology journal2, you know first hand how a poorly functioning immune system can feel. You feel exhausted, run down, and lacking strength.
When your immune system is strong, however, you feel energized, capable, and ready to take on whatever your day brings.
It only makes sense then that we would want to do everything we could to strengthen our immune system and one of the best ways of doing so is through looking at your gut environment.
About 70-80% of your total immune cells reside in the gut3, so when your gut isn’t functioning as it should, it’s going to have a heavy impact on your immune health.
So what can you do to improve your gut and enhance your immune system? The following are all things you should be looking after.
Immunobiotics is a relatively new term to most people who are most commonly used to only hearing the term probiotics. Imunobiotics are essentially probiotic-based actives that are dedicated towards strengthening the immune system, rather than carrying out other typical probiotic activities, such as warding off diarrhea or strengthening digestion4. It’s exciting times right now in the gut microbiome industry as we are getting new research all the time about how these microorganisms living inside our body are impacting our health. The more we learn about this, the easier it is to harness the powers of these bacteria. Human clinical studies done in Japan has shown that immunobiotics has shown to reduce respiratory diseases such as common cold5and improves the QOL6, indicating that its immunostimulating activity can exert health promotion effects.
These, therefore, are going to play the biggest role in keeping your immune system where it needs to be and should be taken in by everyone. Sadly, many of the probiotic products on the market today don’t contain any immunobiotics, therefore it’s up to you to do your research to find one that does.
This does not mean you should leave probiotics in the dust. You still do need to be focusing on getting enough probiotics in your life because these organisms will be important for ensuring you reap all the nutritional benefits from the foods you are eating, especially dairy products7, which in turn will also help strengthen your immune system indirectly.
Most people are low in the naturally occurring probiotics in their gut for a few different reasons. First, a poor diet can cause depletion of these important microorganisms. When you aren’t providing your body with a varied diet that contains a wide mix of nutrients and fiber8, you may be falling low in prebiotics (more on that in a second), which means your body does not get the nutritional support it needs to properly grow the probiotics you’re looking for.
Second, the heavy use of antibiotics, which kills of bad bacteria in the system but also kills off all the good bacteria as well prove to be devastating to your gut flora environment. Unfortunately in today’s times, doctors are very fast to prescribe antibiotics because they take care of the problem quickly, but they aren’t thinking enough about the repercussions they’ll face in doing so.
Third, stress is also a huge reason why too often we are suffering from lower than normal levels of the good probiotics in our diet plan, according to research published in the Gastroenterology journal9. It’s vital that you are practicing proper stress management techniques on a daily basis as stress can be linked to all kinds of health problems, not just a poorly functioning gut microbiome.
By clearing up these issues and focusing on taking a quality probiotic product, you can position yourself for better success. Probiotics will help do so much more than just enhance your immune system so they’re important to be taking in regardless.
Finally, we also need to not neglect prebiotics. This is something that many people don’t hear about often, but do need to pay attention to. Prebiotics are essentially the food that probiotics feed on. Without sufficient levels of prebiotics in your diet plan, it’s hard for the probiotics to really flourish in the gut, so you’re more susceptible to having lower levels.
Prebiotics typically come from high fiber foods such as bananas, onions, apple skin, and beans, so if you aren’t eating a higher fiber diet and getting in your fruits and vegetables, there’s a good chance that you’re falling short.
Taking a supplement that contains a wide variety of prebiotic fiber can make a world of difference. Different prebiotics diversify your good gut flora for a variety of functions in your body.
The bottom line, look for a product that contains a combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and immunobiotics10. So there you have the main factors that will go into ensuring that your immune system is at it’s best. Of course this also assumes you are taking other important steps such as decreasing the amount of stress in your life, getting a good night’s sleep every night and nourishing your body with plenty of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and fats such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Schultz, Kevin T., and FranziskaGrieder. “Structure and function of the immune system.” Toxicologic pathology 3 (1987): 262-264.
- Bryant, Penelope A., John Trinder, and Nigel Curtis. “Sick and tired: does sleep have a vital role in the immune system?.” Nature Reviews Immunology 6 (2004): 457.
- Vighi, G., et al. “Allergy and the gastrointestinal system.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology 153 (2008): 3-6.
- Clancy, Robert. “Immunobiotics and the probiotic evolution.” FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology 1 (2003): 9-12.
- Fioramonti, Jean, VassiliaTheodorou, and Lionel Bueno. “Probiotics: what are they? What are their effects on gut physiology?.” Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology 5 (2003): 711-724.
- Slavin, Joanne. “Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits.” Nutrients 4 (2013): 1417-1435.
- Mayer, Emeran A., Tor Savidge, and Robert J. Shulman. “Brain–gut microbiome interactions and functional bowel disorders.” Gastroenterology 6 (2014): 1500-1512.