Probiotics and the Immune System
Our immune system is what protects us from diseases, viruses, and harmful bacteria. Over 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract. It is like a protective shield that guards us from the inside as well as the outside. We should realize that even if we eat food and it gets to our stomach, it is technically still OUTSIDE of our body. Everything that has not been absorbed into our bloodstream, behind the gut lining, is still really outside. And while it can cause serious damage there (think of leaky gut for example), it is still manageable to keep the bad guys where they belong outside of our bodies. For our bodies to be able to manage this, it is very important to keep our immune system working properly.
Our gut is home to so many bacteria that we can easily say that the human body contains more bacteria than actual human cells. Our gut flora helps us by metabolizing food, absorbing nutrients, fighting viruses and pathogens, and managing inflammation. Standard diets include many foods that are harmful to our gut, especially gluten-rich grains and lectins found in legumes (think wheat and soy). These compounds can, and in many cases do, damage the gut lining, allowing amino acid chains to enter the bloodstream, like the proteins from gluten-rich grains and that is where many problems start. When the gut is damaged and leaky in this way, the immune system recognizes the unfamiliar proteins in the bloodstream as an attack and naturally deals with them accordingly. But fighting these foreign proteins keeps your immune system too busy to deal with other potential threats like pathogens that would normally be a piece of cake to handle. We need to protect our gut lining in order to maintain a healthy immune system, no doubt about it.
Having a healthy gut translates into having a healthy immune system, and as a result of that, we get a healthy body that is able to naturally protect itself and fight against bad bacteria without the need for a medical prescription. Probiotics and prebiotics are excellent tools to build or rebuild healthy gut flora. We have to feed our good bacteria with proper nutrition to help them grow and thrive in our immune systems. Of course, too much of any bacteria, even the good guys, might be a problem, so it is important to keep things in a balance suitable to your bio-individuality. When we are prescribed antibiotics, not only are we killing the bad guys (which is good), but we are also robbing ourselves of the good guys, resulting in weakening our immune systems, making us more vulnerable and prone to diseases.
The antibiotic pill doesn’t know the difference between the good and the bad. It is like spraying your garden with a liquid weed killer; all flowers get damaged by that. The liquid weed killer Doesn’t recognize the difference between a tulip you want to keep and the weed you want to get rid of. It’s not just the presence of antibiotics that can throw our microbiome out of whack. All kinds of lifestyle factors affect our bodies and can support bad bacteria, like using pharmaceutical drugs, birth control, stress, lack of sleep, lack of movement, and poor diet choices. Everything goes back to the gut, so tend your microbiome well.