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Immunity and Probiotics

As promised I said i would write a little about immunity and probiotics: those benefiical microbes that help support our gut health.

First of all … what exactly is a probiotic?

A probiotic is defined as a live organism: bacteria or yeast which promotes health.

According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics: “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”

You would know them by common names like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. You may already buy them from the chemist fridge in capsule or powder form and eat or drink them in things such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut. All these things work as ‘carriers’ for the beneficial flora.

Food sources are considered a source of live and active cultures but are not strictly considered PROBIOTICS. This is because they may contain undefined amounts of bacteria, species and colony counts compared to a specific strain in a supplement.

Both may be considered as “therapeutic” but because the supplement is more measurable with well characterized clinical effects in precise doses that is what i will be talking about today. I do believe that fermented foods & drinks play a vital role in keeping our gut healthy though. A healthy gut forms a protective barrier against antigens from foods and microorganisms and also plays an important role in immunity.

Probiotics have been shown to have an antimicrobial effect in the gut while also promoting immune modulation (increases a low immune response while also being able to dampen down an excessive immune response such as in an auto-immune disease) They can help to support gut barrier function (reducing so called ‘leaky gut’) and may help to reduce allergic and inflammatory responses while at the same time improving resistance to pathogens.

Probiotics and Pets support immunity!

Photo by Andrea Turner

Numerous studies have shown that having pets in the first few years of life protects against allergies to pollens/dust/animals which can lead to hayfever, dustmite sensitisation, allergic rhinitis and asthma by modulating the immune system.  So, being exposed on a daily basis to microbes actually supports a healthy immune response. Our daily exposure to microbes from the environment and other people which has been reduced due to social distancing could potentially be replicated with the use of daily probiotics.

Many studies have shown that children have less colds & influenza symptoms like fever (53%), coughing (41%), ear infection (56%) and days off (32% less) school/daycare with probiotic supplementation.  Other studies show a reduction in antibiotic use in the short and long term (19%) for respiratory tract infections and fewer days with symptoms. Infection rates for common infectious diseases was also 19% lower with the use of another well known probiotic strain (ALL REFERENCES BELOW).

Remember though that these results are strain dependent…. so if you want to get a specific effect you need a specific strain that is proven to confer that benefit. Some strains work to improve immunity, some work to reduce inflammation, some work to support a healthy mood or skin or even cardiovascular health. There are hundreds of studies which have been performed or are currently being performed which show undoubtably the huge benefits that probiotics can have for our health

So what do you need to know?

Take a probiotic if you are concerned about immune support this winter. They may help reduce sick days and use of antibiotics. Remember to take an evidence based strain that clearly shows strain names/numbers on the bottle. If you need further help come and have a chat! I can prescribe high quality practitioner products to stop the guess work and provide value for money. If you are a patient we can set you up with easy online ordering for the supplements mentioned above.

Next week i will be talking about some common myths about probiotics and about PREBIOTICS and what they are.

As always…

Stay Well !

Fin Mackenzie Iridologist








Fin Mackenzie – Naturopath & Herbalist

BHSc(CompMed), ADNat, DNut, DRM, MATMS


Call us 02 9979 9888



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Hill, C., et al., Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2014. 11(8): p. 506-514.

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The Teddy Study: *NOTE below

TEDDY Study Group The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study: study design. Pediatr. Diabetes. 2007;8:286–298. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5448.2007.00269.x. [PubMed] [CrossRef[]

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Household Pet Ownership and the Microbial Diversity of the Human Gut Microbiota, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 10.3389/fcimb.2020.00073, 10(2020).

Birth Mode, Breastfeeding, Pet Exposure, and Antibiotic Use: Associations With the Gut Microbiome and Sensitization in Children, Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 10.1007/s11882-019-0851-9, 194, (2019). Crossref

Leyer GJ, Li S, Mubasher ME, Reifer C, Ouwehand AC. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics. 2009;124(2):e172-e179. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-2666

Hojsak I, Snovak N, Abdović S, Szajewska H, Misak Z, Kolacek S. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2010;29(3):312-316. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2009.09.008

Rautava S, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy–a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2009;101(11):1722-1726. doi:10.1017/S0007114508116282

Merenstein D, Murphy M, Fokar A, et al. Use of a fermented dairy probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus casei (DN-114 001) to decrease the rate of illness in kids: the DRINK study. A patient-oriented, double-blind, cluster-randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010;64(7):669-677. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2010.65

The TEDDY population offers a robust analysis of gut microbiome development of 903 infants from months 3 to 46 of age, with regular sampling (more than 12,000 stool samples), extensive metadata … We showed that the first year of life is a key phase for the development of the microbiome, with the receipt of breast milk being the main factor that influences microbiome development over this period. Birth mode, geographical location, household siblings and furry pets were also associated with the microbiome over this period. We considered the first year of life as developmental, the second year of life as transitional, and from year three of life the microbiome stabilized.



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