Relationship between the gut, probiotics and the immune system

Relationship between the gut, probiotics and the immune system

It’s little known that there is actually a close relationship between the gut microbiome and the immune system. We’re going to explain what that relationship is– but first, you might be wondering ‘what exactly is the microbiome?’

The microbiome is what we call the ecosystem of microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses and fungi living in and on your body. It plays an important role in supporting your overall health, and it develops and changes with you throughout your life.

Almost 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, which means that a whole lot of the work your body does to keep out foreign bacteria and viruses takes place in your digestive system.

The gut lining acts as a barrier, allowing essential nutrients to pass through[1], we also have special immune cells called ‘dendritic cells’ in the immune system outside of the gut. These dendritic cells identify and present bacteria to T helper cells. T helper cells then determine a correct course of action by emitting cytokines.

What all of this essentially means is that communication between the immune system and the gut plays an important role in immune system function.

So, we’ve established there’s a relationship between the immune system and the gut, but where do the microbiome and probiotics come into play? Beneficial bacteria such as those in probiotics maintain and support functioning of the immune system in quite a few ways:

  • Some beneficial bacteria take up space in the gut that would otherwise be occupied by other foreign bacteria
  • Probiotics can support the intestinal microbiome by maintaining the beneficial bacteria

 If you’re wondering how you can help support beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome, the first port of call is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh food and fibre and get plenty of exercise.

References:

[1] (Dongarrà et al., 2013; Vighi, Marcucci, Sensi, Di Cara, & Frati, 2008)

 


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