Probiotic bacteria, which are living microorganisms that have
beneficial effects on human health, have mostly been studied as
treatments for different gastrointestinal diseases and allergies.
However, not much is known about what kind of effects they have on
the immune system in healthy adults.
A new study shows that
probiotics can modulate immune
responses via your gut's mucosal immune system.
It was found that probiotics have an anti-inflammatory
potential. They caused a decrease in serum CRP levels, and a
reduction in the bacteria-induced production of pro-inflammatory
May Probiotics Do In Adults?
Journal of Gastroenterology
Probiotic bacteria, defined as living
microorganisms that have beneficial effects on human
health, have mostly been studied in the prevention and
treatment of different gastrointestinal diseases and
products, however, are usually consumed by the general,
healthy population but not much is known what kind of
effects they have on the immune system in healthy
adults. It is not clear how probiotics exert their
health effects, but one of the most probable action
mechanisms is the modulation of immune responses via the
gut's mucosal immune system.
The study, performed by the groups of Dr Korpela,
Professor Vapaatalo and Professor Julkunen,
will be published on April 7, 2008, in the World Journal
This study investigated the immunomodulatory effects of
probiotics bacteria in healthy adults. It was found that
probiotics have an anti-inflammatory potential seen as a
decrease in serum CRP levels and as a reduction in
bacteria-induced production of proinflammatory cytokines
in peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
Understanding of the specific immunomodulatory effects
of probiotics may help in designing future probiotics
for targeted purposes.
effects in the present study were investigated in
healthy adults, the real impact of probiotics on
inflammatory variables warrants further evaluation
during inflammatory processes and in individuals
suffering from various types of inflammatory or
This research was carried out in collaboration with
University of Helsinki (Finland), Valio Research Centre
(Finland), and the National Public Health Institute
(Finland). Part of the study was funded by the Academy
Reference: Kekkonen RA, Lummela N, Karjalainen H,
Latvala S, Tynkkynen S, Järvenpää S, Kautiainen H,
Julkunen I, Vapaatalo H, Korpela R. Probiotic
intervention has strain-specific anti-inflammatory
effects in healthy adults. World J Gastroenterol 2008;
14(13): 2029-2036 http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/14/2029.asp
Correspondence to: Riitta Korpela PhD, Assistant
Professor, University of Helsinki, Institute of
Biomedicine, Pharmacology, PO Box 63, 00014 University
of Helsinki, Finland. email@example.com Telephone:
+358-10-3813026 Fax: +358-10-3813019
Most people, including many physicians, do not realize that 80
percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system,
making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain
optimal health. Remember, a robust immune system is your number one
defense system against ALL disease.
Although I do not recommend taking supplements on a regular basis
(as food is your best source of vital nutrients), a high quality probiotic is one of my exceptions. In fact, it’s the one supplement
recommended to all new patients in my clinic.
This is because the nutritional root of so many health concerns are
related to an imbalance of intestinal bacteria (the optimal balance
is about 85 percent “good bacteria” and 15 percent “bad”).
Proper food choices will help shift the bacteria. But, just like
your lawn, sometimes you may need to "reseed" areas that have become
barren for whatever reason.
Normally, you don’t need to take probiotics forever, but I have
found them to be incredibly helpful at certain times, such as when
you stray from the food program and consume excess grains or sugar,
or if you have to take antibiotics.
I also take them when traveling to foreign countries or when eating
at suspicious restaurants, and I’ve found that using a high-quality probiotic every 30-60 days will typically help maintain a
well-functioning digestive system.
The Vital Functions of
The friendly bacteria that reside in your gut have a number of very
important functions, including:
absorbing certain carbohydrates. Without good gut bacteria,
your body cannot absorb certain undigested starches, fiber,
and sugars. The friendly bacteria in your digestive tract
convert these carbohydrates into primary sources of
important energy and nutrients.
vitamins, absorbing minerals and eliminating toxins.
Probiotics help in the production of both vitamin K and B
vitamins, and promote mineral absorption. They also aid in
metabolism and the breakdown of toxins.
bacteria under control. A large part of the influence of the
"bad" bacteria is on your intestinal lining (mucousal
barrier) that is over 300 square meters, or about the size
of a tennis court. Simply stated, friendly bacteria compete
with the bad guys for room and board, but since beneficial
bacteria are more at home there, they win most of the
battles for nutrition and attachment sites within your
The good bacteria tell your body how much nutrition they
need and your body responds by supplying just that much and
no more - so that any excess bad bacteria are starved out.
The helpful bacteria also produce a substance that kills
allergies. Friendly bacteria train your immune system to
distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and
to respond appropriately. This important function prevents
your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful
antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.
support to your immune system. Beneficial bacteria have a
lifelong, powerful effect on your gut’s immune system and
your systemic immune system as well. The bacteria play a
crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal
immune system in your digestive tract. They also aid in the
production of antibodies to pathogens.
As you can see,
probiotics perform a wide variety of functions, which renders them
useful and beneficial for a number of health concerns, including the
prevention or control of:
Food and skin
allergies in children
in pregnant women
and bladder infections
Probiotics Found Beneficial
for Athletes as Well
Another recent study that confirms the use of probiotics to boost
your immune function was published in the British Journal of
Sports Medicine earlier this year
In that study, probiotic supplements were able to
significantly reduce the number and length of infections suffered by
Strenuous training can affect your immune system and make athletes
vulnerable to coughs and colds. But athletes in the study were able
to cut the number of days they showed symptoms in half, by taking
Are All Probiotics the
Not necessarily, which was also confirmed by this latest study in
the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Here the researchers looked
at three different kinds of probiotic bacteria:
animalis ssp. Lactis
Propionibacterium freudenreichii ssp. shermanii
They concluded that
probiotics seem to have strain-specific anti-inflammatory effects in
In this case, the CRP (a sensitive marker of inflammation) was lower
in the Lactobacillus and Propionibacterium groups,
showing greater effectiveness as anti-inflammatories, compared to
the groups receiving the Bifidobacterium or placebo.
In addition to checking out which bacterial strains are included,
other main features you should look for when purchasing a
probiotic supplement are:
No need for
Long shelf life
stomach acid so that it reaches your small intestine
in your digestive tract long enough to be effective
Even though I’ve come to
the conclusion that no one solution works for everyone, the
Bacillus Coagulans strain has been proven highly effective. It’s
the one I use personally, and the one we recommend in my Natural
Health Center. Its main benefits are that it is present in spore
form, and survives the acidic environment of your stomach - making
it to your small intestine where it does the most good.
They also survive high
temperatures and do not need to be refrigerated, which adds
What’s Even Better Than
a Probiotic Supplement?
Historically, people used cultured or fermented foods to support
their intestinal and overall health, way before the invention of the
Cultured foods like yogurt, some cheeses, and sauerkraut are good
sources of natural, healthy bacteria. And fermented foods, such as
natto, can give your body the similar benefits of consuming a
whole bottle of good bacteria, at a fraction of the cost.
One of the best and least expensive ways to get healthy bacteria
through your diet is to obtain raw milk and convert it to
which is really easy to make at home. All you need is one half
packet of the kefir start granules in a quart of raw milk, which you
leave at room temperature over night. By the time you wake up in the
morning you will likely have kefir. If it hasn’t obtained the
consistency of yogurt you might want to set it out a bit longer and
then store it in the fridge.
A quart of kefir has far more active bacteria than you can possibly
purchase in any probiotics supplement, and it is very
economical as you can reuse the kefir from the original quart of
milk about ten times before you need to start a new culture pack.
Just one starter package of kefir granules can convert about 50
gallons of milk to kefir.
Don’t even think of using pasteurized milk, however, as pasteurized
milk has its own set of negative health ramifications and should be
avoided at all cost.