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Daily intake of probiotic “friendly” bacteria showed the ability to effect a considerable increase in immune function, reports a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Conducted in partnership between the University of Southampton in England and the University of Milan, and the Luigi Sacco Hospital in Milan, Italy, study participants that ingested bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis (BB-12) or Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. Paracasei (L. casei 431) showed raised levels—as high as 66 percent—of the immune system antibody IgG3.

Study participants who were given the probiotics over a two-week period were then inoculated with a standard flu vaccine. Tested again four weeks after receiving the vaccine, the probiotic group’s immune antibodies showed substantial increases while the placebo group’s results were considerably less impressive. The study findings corroborate previous studies that also found a connection between daily intake of  probiotic strains and enhanced immune system function.

The study tested probiotic supplements, and not probiotic-rich foods such as live sauerkraut, kim chee, kombucha or probiotic dairy products such as yogurt or kefir. Naturally fermented foods are a well-known source of friendly bacteria, and in addition to immune enhancement, have been shown to regulate mood, support digestive health and even contribute to weight loss.

Recent research has linked the excess use of and wide variety of antibiotics (routine in America) to notable imbalances of friendly bacteria colonies. The study showed a connection between diminished levels of friendly gut bacteria and unusual behavior in certain stomach hormones that were not sending proper signals of satiety to the brain and leading to overeating, obesity and diabetes.

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image: Dylan Luder