It’s already an adage that your stomach—and the helpful colony of gut bacteria it harbors—is one of your first lines of defense against disease (the other is your skin). But those protective bacteria may actually play a more intricate role for your immune system, helping it to learn how to recognize invading pathogens from its own cells.
While good bacteria benefit your immune system, bad bacteria may actually turn your immune system against you. Prevotella copri is a bacteria that is more common to people with rheumatoid arthritis. When given to rats, Prevotella copri causes wild inflammation in the stomach which spreads throughout the body.
You can encourage a healthy probiotic colony of good bacteria by eating probiotics regularly. Yogurt, home canned pickles, kefir, and other fermented foods are all great. For days when you miss the fermented food group you can make it up with a probiotic supplement.
Probiotic supplements are also a great way to give a quick influx of probiotics to your immune system after you’ve been sick. Whether you’ve had stomach troubles or had to go through a round of antibiotics, you’ll probably need to really take some probiotics after an illness.
This is especially important to note for elderly people (whether they visit a hospital or an elder care facility). Immune systems get weaker with age, and the elderly are far more likely to be given antibiotics, so it’s really important to make sure that they get probiotics after each illness!
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