Probiotics and immune system health

The benefits of using probiotics to improve our immune system are now starting to be understood.

The best-documented positive effects of probiotics include helping with bowel disorders such as lactose intolerance, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and infectious diarrhoea. Emerging evidence continues to accumulate concerning the potential role of probiotics in various other conditions.

Maria Kechagia from the Microbiology Department, Sismanoglion General Hospital of Athens identified that food products containing probiotic bacteria could contribute to coronary heart disease prevention by reducing serum cholesterol levels and blood pressure control.

Probiotics in dairy products have been shown to improve the therapeutic outcome in women with bacterial vaginosis, by supporting the normal vaginal lactobacilli microbiota.

Most of us now will eat yoghurt for breakfast or a mid-morning snack. Children are often fed yoghurt. This is a great way to bring probiotics to the table.

The range of food products containing probiotic is wide and still growing. The main products in the market are dairy-based ones, including fermented milks, cheese, ice cream, buttermilk, milk powder, and of course, yogurt.

Non-dairy foods include soy-based products, nutrition bars, cereals, and a variety of juices which are appropriate means of probiotic delivery to consumers.

The factors to be considered in evaluating the effectiveness of the probiotic strains into such products are, besides safety, the compatibility of the product with the microorganism and the maintenance of its viability through food processing, packaging, and storage conditions.

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For centuries across the globe, a range of fermented foods, which are foods produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms have been part of the daily fare for families.

In this context, fermentation typically refers to the fermentation of sugar to alcohol using yeast, but other fermentation processes involve the use of bacteria such as lactobacillus, including the making of foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut.


  • Some breads, such as sourdough, use dough that is fermented.
  • Various vegetables or fruits, which have been fermented by pickling with salt and brine or marinated in mixtures based on soy sauce or savory bean pastes.
  • Kombucha is a beverage made from a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast”.
  • Lassi is a popular traditional yogurt-based drink from the Indian Subcontinent and originates from the Punjab. It is a blend of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes, fruit.
  • Pickling is the process of preserving or expanding the lifespan of food by either anaerobic fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar. The pickling procedure will typically affect the food’s texture and flavour.
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Probiotic mechanisms

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that, in adequate amounts, provide a health benefit. Probiotics aid in nutrient digestion and absorption, the production of vitamins, energy metabolism, and the support of a healthy immune system. They also reduce allergic reactions, improve immunity, and facilitate immune defence against pathogens.

The two microorganisms playing an important role in the food industry, particularly in dairy products, although not strictly considered as probiotics are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactococcus lactis, the most commercially important lactic acid bacteria.

Probiotics have various mechanisms of action although the exact manner in which they exert their effects is still not fully known. These range from bacteriocin and short-chain fatty acid production, lowering of gut pH, and nutrient competition to stimulation of mucosal barrier function and immunomodulation.

Proposed mechanisms include interference with cholesterol absorption from the gut, direct cholesterol assimilation, and production of end fermentation products that affect the systemic levels of blood lipids and mediate an antihypertensive effect.

In summary, the evidence is powerful on the probiotic effects to the immune system. Improve your gut health and you improve your overall health while eating great food.

1. Hindawi Publishing Corporation ISRN Nutrition, Volume 2013, Article ID 481651, 7 pages –
2. Changing Habits education – Autoimmunity and Immune dysfunction
3. Wikipedia website – probiotics and fermented food