Probiotics are powerful workhorses in your gut, especially for modulating your immune system. Your intestines have 10 times as many microbial organisms as there are cells in the human body. The juncture between your small and large bowel has over 500 different species of bacteria for a total of about ten billion. Anything that upsets the amount or type of bacteria can cause changes in your immune system producing inflammation and autoimmune disorders or making you susceptible to all kinds of infection.
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as: “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” In addition to modulating autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies, these good bacteria have been shown to reduce the duration and frequency of cold and flu in adults and children. Many studies have shown that taking probiotics on a regular basis can enhance your immune response and protect you against not only diarrhea and intestinal illness; they can also prevent and fight respiratory illness. These may be important supplements to add to your healthcare regimen.
Although yogurt contains probiotics, the amounts are small and not all of the live cultures survive the acidic environment in your stomach, nor do they stay alive and multiply in your intestine. The organisms typically found in foods with live active cultures are often not the same microbes for which significant research data exists regarding health benefits. In addition, some yogurt preparations in the United States are pasteurized, thereby killing the bacteria. The freeze-dried form of probiotics (powdered and necessary to refrigerate) is most stable and easily used by the body, however some companies make a stable form that does not require refrigeration. Buy a dairy-free variety to avoid any intolerance you may have. Look for a dietary supplement with at least 10 to 20 billion CFU (colony forming units) and several strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The dose is dependent on the condition being treated and your overall health. Start low and go slow to avoid gas and bloating. For severe immune disorders you can consult your doctor to get prescription strength probiotics that have trillions of colonies. Get your probiotics from a reliable source to assure effectiveness and have an infection free and healthy cold and flu season.