The probiotic strains fighting for your immune health


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The probiotic strains fighting for your immune health


In order for our immune system to function at its best, it needs to be stimulated by a healthy and balanced microbiota. Our microbiota is made up of many different communities of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies, including in the gut, in our mouths, and even in our lungs. When it comes to our immune health, the gut microbiota is of particular importance.

The immune system in the gut and beyond

Did you know that most of our immune system is concentrated below the lining of the digestive tract, the mouth and nose, and the lungs? Because these parts of the body are in constant contact with the outside world through the food we eat and the air we breath, they are also where infectious microorganisms will attempt to enter the body. When they’re successful, we become sick. This is why much of our immune system is stationed in these parts of the body- to intercept and prevent infectious microorganisms from gaining a foothold (1). Almost eighty percent of all immune cells are accumulated in these parts of the body, with seventy percent in the gut. These immune cells travel between each location in order to share their intelligence, and create a united front against infectious microorganisms (2).

The importance of the gut microbiota for enhancing immunity

When we are born, the immune system is still quite immature and must learn how to fight off infections. The colonisation of the gut with a community of microorganisms is essential for this process via the stimulation of immune cells lying just below (3,4). This stimulation teaches the immune system to identify microorganisms that are beneficial to us, and mount an effective immune response against those that are not. This improves immunity both in the gut and, because of the transit of immune cells, the rest of the body.

The benefits of the gut microbiota for immune health begin at birth and continue to play an important role throughout the rest of the lifespan. When the right balance of beneficial microorganisms are present in the gut, it helps to enhance the immune system and the body’s natural defences through a range of different mechanisms.

Disturbances to the gut microbiota can impact the function of the immune system throughout the body and negatively affect infection resistance. In people who are frequently unwell with respiratory infections, targeting the gut microbiome may help to improve immune system function and reduce the occurrence, duration and severity of their infections.

Specific probiotics for the immune system

During the approaching cold and flu season, specific probiotic strains can be used to target the gut microbiota and the mucosal immune system to help improve immune health and infection resistance. Some strains are particularly suited to enhancing the immune system of adults while others are optimal for children’s immune health.

Looking specifically at adult immune health, medical research has identified a number of specific probiotic strains that demonstrate significant immune stimulating and immune modulating effects. While primarily interacting with immune tissue in the gut, the transfer of immune cells ensures that the beneficial effects of probiotic strains within the gut can be transferred to the respiratory tract and beyond for systemic effects. As the beneficial effects of probiotics are strain specific, it is important to select specific probiotic strains or combinations of specific strains that have been shown to be of benefit for the particular health concern being addressed.

Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL9 and Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2

For adults, the combination of two specific probiotic strains Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL9 and Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2 have demonstrated an ability to act as an immune booster for adults and reduce the occurrence, duration and severity of common colds.

In a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 272 adults over a single winter period, the group of participants who took this combination of probiotic strains experienced 29% fewer colds overall compared to the group taking placebo (p<0.05) (5). When breaking it down into the number of colds each individual person caught, those taking the probiotic were far less likely to get sick multiple times across the 12-week trial: 37% fewer people taking the probiotics caught two or more colds and 54% fewer caught three or more colds compared to placebo. However if those taking the probiotic did get sick again, their symptoms were significantly less severe suggesting a more effective immune response. Another randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 310 adults over a 12-week winter period also found a significant reduction in the severity of common cold symptoms in those who took this specific combination of probiotic strains (6). When compared to placebo, there was a 38% reduction in the severity of their symptoms overall. It was confirmed that the two groups initially experienced similarly severe colds, and that symptoms had lessened in severity and resolved more quickly in those taking the probiotics. This also corresponded to the number of days the average cold lasted, with the people taking the probiotic recovering more than one whole day quicker than placebo.

Boost your immune health this winter

You can’t point to your immune system and the gut-immune axis will never show up on an x-ray – but the clinical research behind immune-specific probiotic strains is tangible. And if you’re looking for a couple of tough strains to help you fight for your wellness this winter, Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL9 and Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2 are up for the job.


  1.  Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di Cara G, Frati F. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clin Exp Immunol. 2008 Sep;153 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):3-6.
  2.   Holmgren, J., Czerkinsky, C. Mucosal immunity and vaccines. Nat Med 11 (Suppl 4), S45–S53 (2005).
  3.  Kasarello, K., & Sajdel-Sulkowska, E. (2019). Developmental significance of early gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) – microbiota interactions in health and disease: Creating balance between tolerance and inflammation in children. Open Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, 4(1), 040–046.
  4.  Walker, J. A., & McKenzie, A. N. J. (2017). TH2 cell development and function. Nature Reviews Immunology, 18(2), 121–133.
  5.  Berggren et al. (2011). European Journal of Nutrition, 50(3), 203–210.
  6.  Busch et al. (2013). Food and Nutrition Sciences, 04(11), 13–20.




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