One of the most frustrating symptoms of an imbalanced gut is the way it weakens your immune system. The regular headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with Candida or SIBO are bad enough, but adding regular colds and viruses to the mix can really make life difficult.
Flu season is particularly bad, but this can happen throughout the year. A chronically weakened immune system leaves you vulnerable to every virus that comes along. Sometimes the cold viruses can arrive so frequently that it’s tough to know where one cold ends and the next begins.
Unfortunately, pathogens and other germs aren’t easy to avoid. No matter what time of year it is, you’ll be exposed to viruses and other bacteria in the air, in food, and on everyday items. If your immune system has been chronically weakened by a gut imbalance like Candida, you may find that you’re picking up every infection that comes your way. That’s especially if you have young kids.
Gut Imbalances Can Weaken Your Immunity
Your weakened resistance to opportunistic bacteria and viruses is largely due to what’s happening in your gut.
In addition to helping your body digest and absorb nutrients from food, your gut microbiome plays a major role in the health of your immune system. In fact, up to 70 percent of your immune system cells are located in the walls of your gut. (1)
Unsurprisingly, when the balance of your gut microbiome has been upset by a Candida overgrowth, it can’t fight off invading pathogens as well as it should. This can lead to an overall weakening of your immune system.
One of the main goals of a Candida treatment program is not only to kill off that harmful yeast, but also to rebuild your immune system defences. The best way to do it is through probiotics.
Probiotics: Proven Protection Against Pathogens
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that support the health of the bacteria already living in your gut. One of their main jobs is to ‘crowd out’ harmful pathogenic bacteria and yeasts, including Candida.
Probiotics also help in the digestion of the food you eat, and improve the efficiency with which you can absorb vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, probiotics support your immune system and help to protect you from harmful microorganisms.
There is now plenty of scientific research to explain how and why probiotics help to boost the immune system. The many different species of beneficial bacteria in your gut work to provide a protective barrier within your colon and intestines. When you take probiotic supplements or eat fermented foods, you are helping to optimize and support these beneficial bacteria. (2)
Research has shown that the huge range of bacteria in the gut all work together to keep your immune system primed and ready to act. (3)
Antibiotics Undermine Your Immune System
When those healthy, immune-supportive bacteria are diminished – such as during a Candida overgrowth or SIBO – your immune system is at a major disadvantage. Essentially, your body loses its protective army of good bacteria, whose job it is to fight off any pathogens that enter your body.
This is also one of the main reasons that antibiotics are so harmful to your immune system. While a doctor will readily prescribe a course of antibiotics for treating any infection you may have (including a cough or cold!), this medication may in fact chronically weakan all ALL the bacteria in your gut – good and bad. (4)
This depletes your immune system even further. Broad spectrum antibiotics cannot discriminate between the various types of bacteria at all.
How Probiotics Help Your Immune System To Fight Pathogens
What your immune system really needs is support from a regular dose of probiotics. This will help to re-establishing the healthy balance of microorganisms in your gut, and reassert the strength of your ‘good’ bacteria over the bad.
Scientists now know that taking probiotic supplements can boost your immune system and help you to overcome everyday ills.
Probiotics have been found to help promote the production of bacteriocins (bacteria-killing agents) and short chain fatty acids, as well as lowering gut pH and competing for binding sites on the cells of the gut lining.
All of these measures prevent harmful bacteria from establishing themselves in your body.
At the same time, probiotics stimulate the function of your mucosal barrier (the line of defence in your gut walls) and improve the availability of nutrients in your colon, so your healthy bacteria can go on fighting. (5)
Probiotics: A Key Part Of Your Candida Treatment
Before you go rushing off to purchase the first probiotic supplement you see on the shelf, keep in mind that a simple capsule alone won’t be the magic solution to your Candida.
A healthy gut comes with a healthy diet – and even the most expensive probiotic supplement needs the right environment to establish itself in. That’s why your anti-Candida program should comprise of a low-sugar diet with plenty of prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods.
Foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut are rich in the kind of probiotic bacteria that help to support the bacteria in your gut.
When choosing a good probiotic supplement, be sure to read the label carefully. A quality supplement should have a high CFU count (colony-forming units) and a wide variety of individual strains.
The most-researched strains of probiotics – and the best for supporting your immune system – include Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium infantis. In fact, the more strains, the better! A major advantage of probiotic supplements is that you can select the strain of bacteria suited to your needs, as well as the potency.
Many supplements can also guarantee a certain number of “live” colony-forming units in each dose. This refers to the number of bacteria available that can establish themselves in the gut. The higher the CFU count, the more likely the bacteria are able to colonize, which means you’ll feel the benefits sooner.
Most importantly, look for a probiotic supplement that can deliver its bacteria to your gut. Most probiotics come in vegetable capsules that are quickly broken down by stomach acid. These probiotics will typically deliver less than 4% of their bacteria to your gut.
I recommend the Balance ONE probiotic, which I personally helped to formulate. It uses patented BIO-tract technology to form its probiotic bacteria into tablets. These tablets have been shown to deliver 60% or more of their bacteria past stomach acid.
How To Get Probiotics From Food
Taking probiotic supplements may be the first step back to optimal immune health – but eating fermented foods is important, too!
Fermented foods have undergone a special process that allows natural, healthy bacteria to develop. The fermentation process is rather similar to what bacteria do in your gut anyway: breaking down food that you’ve eaten. It’s for this reason that probiotic foods are technically ‘pre-digested’, because the nutrients are already available to be absorbed. This is a remarkably easy way to deliver vitamins, minerals and healthy bacteria to your gut.
What’s more, the bacteria obtained from eating fermented foods can boost the diversity of the microbiota in your gut. This helps to improve the health of the bacteria already present in your gastrointestinal tract, allowing them to thrive.
By including fermented foods with every one of your meals, you’re giving your immune system a helping hand. These foods have been found to reduce inflammation in the gut, improve your microbiota profile, and improve digestion and the absorption of minerals. Long term, they can even support mental health. (6)
The best types of fermented foods include unsweetened yogurt, kefir (a fermented probiotic milk drink), sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled vegetables.
Don’t Forget Prebiotics (From Food, Not From Supplements!)
Another valuable way to boost the health of your immune cells is with prebiotics. Prebiotics are not actually bacteria themselves but the food that bacteria “eat”. They’re actually a type of fiber that can’t be broken down in the gut.
One of the major groups of these fibers is “oligosaccharides”, but the whole group of fibers can include fructo-oligosaccharides, other oligosaccharides, inulin and polysaccharides.
Prebiotics themselves are present in foods such as garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, dandelion greens, and onions. Because the gut can’t fully break down this type of fiber, it passes through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and remains ‘whole’. It then moves through the small intestine to reach the colon, where it’s fermented by the gut microflora.
Including some prebiotic foods along with your probiotics is an easy way to keep those bacteria flourishing.
Probiotics: The Best You Can Do For A Weakened Immune System
Restoring gut health requires a multi-pronged approach. While antifungals and a sugar-free diet must form the basis of a Candida treatment program, you must consider the other aspects of your health too. Your immune system needs support during your recovery and, with so many of your immune system cells residing in your gut, it only makes sense to begin there.
When you begin supporting your gut microbiome with quality probiotics, you’ll be giving your immune system what it needs to function efficiently again. Life is a constant battle with pathogens, allergens and disease – and your gut microbiome is always in need of a helping hand to fight these.
In our Ultimate Candida Diet program, Dr. Wood and I go into much more detail on how probiotics can help you to beat Candida. We discuss exactly when in your treatment you should begin taking them, and provide a detailed timeline for you to follow during your treatment.
Beat your candida in 60 days with this detailed 5-step program
If you're looking for a more comprehensive Candida treatment plan, check out the Ultimate Candida Diet program, written by Lisa Richards and Dr Eric Wood. This plan is based on the latest research into Candida Related Complex, and contains everything you need to know to beat your Candida overgrowth.