Microbiome and the Influence on the Immune System-it’s more important than you think!
The composition of the microbiome can influence the function of your IMMUNE SYSTEM. For example, numerous studies indicate that your microbiome can influence your susceptibility to certain bacteria such as Campylobacter, which is often seen in anxiety disorders. In fact, a book by Martin Blaser called “Missing Microbes” discusses that the alteration of the human microbiome could be one of the factors attributed to the rise of conditions such as food allergies, asthma, celiac disease and intestinal disorders such as IBD. His theory is that the modern medical practices, that includes overuse of antibiotics, may have negatively shifted the microbiome in a way that is affecting human health detrimentally. The use of antimicrobial drugs is known to be associated with the development of certain infectious diseases, such as colitis and candida overgrowth, through disruption of this delicate microbiome balance (Casadevall and Pirofski, 2018).
It is hypothesized that the establishment of your microbiome occurs during the first 3 years of your life, and disruptions in this establishment during this time can have long term implications (Blaser, 2016). According to Blaser, 50% of babies in the US are born by C-section, and this can be the beginning of some of the various disruptions in the delicate microbiome balance. This is not limited to bacteria, but also fungal and viral elements of the microbiome, that are also demonstrating a role in human health as well.
Nutritional intervention: Probiotics
A nutritional intervention to address the microbiome is the use of probiotics. Probiotics are live organisms that, when ingested in adequate quantities, exert a health benefit on the host. Probiotics can directly stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and competitively exclude the number of more harmful, toxin producing microbiota (Zhou & Foster, 2015). Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces are three extensively studied and commonly used probiotics in humans and animals.
Probiotics are demonstrating to directly affect your gut immune system, which is responsible for
Three main beneficial effects of probiotics on your gut defense system include the following:
- Probiotics can block pathogenic bacteria by producing substances that directly compete with pathogens for adherence to the intestinal epithelium.
- Probiotics can enhance intestinal barrier function and stimulate protective responses from epithelial cells. This can lower the chance of bacteria translocating into the blood stream and entering systemically. This function may decrease infections and immune related reactions, thus supporting the health of the immune system (Enviormedica, n.d).
- Probiotics are able to modulate the immune system and pathogen induced inflammation through various immune regulated signaling pathways.
Probiotics can regulate host innate and adaptive immune responses by modulating the functions of your very immune cells. For example, a probiotic mixture consisting of L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. reuteri, B. bifidium, and Streptococcus thermophilus stimulated regulatory proteins involved in your immune system that are responsible for both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Intestinal Epithelial Cells
Probiotics can repair damaged epithelial barrier while producing antibacterial substances and protective proteins, as well as regulate intestinal epithelial immune function (such as cytokine production) (Yan & Polk, 2011). For example, l. johnonsii has the ability to upregulate various receptors on your immune cells, which may indicate that the probiotic is able to stimulate the gut immunity. “These findings suggest that probiotics regulation of innate immunity in intestinal epithelial cells may serve as a mechanism for disease prevention and treatment” (Yan & Polk, 2011).
American Society for Microbiology. (2016, September 6). Missing Microbes with Dr. Martin Blaser. Retrieved 2018, May 4 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwK_O0ahDKo
Environmedica. (n.d.). Probiotics for Immune System Support. Retrieved 2018, May 3 from https://www.enviromedica.com/probiotics-immune-system (Links to an external site.)
Yan, F., & Polk, D. B. (2011). Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol, 27(6), 496-501. doi:10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834baa4d
Zhou, L., & Foster, J. A. (2015). Psychobiotics and the gut-brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat, 11, 715-723. doi:10.2147/ndt.S61997