According the the NIH (National Institutes of Health), “Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria), that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called ‘friendly bacteria’ or ‘good bacteria’. Probiotics are available to consumers mainly in the form of dietary supplements and foods.”
Probiotics help keep our immune systems healthy by fostering a balanced gut ecosystem. Probiotics support an environment where a milieu of beneficial microflora thrive and pathogenic organisms are unwelcome.
Balance in the gut ecosystem stimulates components of our immune system, protects the body from unfriendly organisms, and promotes a healthy gut lining.
For example, probiotics can help prevent the overgrowth of yeast (Candida) and consequently, the harmful toxins they produce which can inflame and damage the gut mucosa, a key part of our immune system.
Inflammation, Leaky Gut Syndrome and Immune Health
Inflammation of the gut mucosa brush-like microvilli that increase surface area allows pathogenic organisms to get past the mucosal barrier and establish themselves on the deeper surface lining of the GI tract.
Once they have established this foothold, the junctions in the gut often become less tight and the gut becomes abnormally permeable.
This allows foreign invaders (pathogenic microbes and toxins) and larger than normal macromolecules to leak through, hence the name, “leaky gut syndrome.”
It is believed by many medical scientists that these out-of-place substances initiate an immune reaction and may develop into an autoimmune disease.
Probiotics, Antibiotics and Immune Health
Antibiotics are often prescribed when you have an infection to kill pathogenic bacteria in your system. Unfortunately, when the “bad” bacteria are killed, so are many of the “good” bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Doctors commonly suggest that patients taking an antibiotic also eat yogurt or other foods with live cultures, to repopulate the good bacteria, keep Candida from overgrowing, and support the intestinal walls.
Many health practitioners also recommend a probiotic dietary supplement.
If, despite preventive measures, a yeast overgrowth develops (yeast infection), there are protocols to decrease the Candida population and reduce inflammation in the gut.