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Prebiotics Paired with Probiotics May Boost Immunity, Especially in Mature Adults

A recent study suggests that daily supplements of xylo-oligosaccharide prebiotic fibers in combination with probiotics may strengthen immune function in healthy adults.

Participants in the study included 44 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 65 who were given either a maltodextrin placebo, a probiotic plus placebo, a prebiotic plus placebo, or probiotic plus prebiotic for 21 days. Each intervention was followed by a 28-day washout period, after which the participants switched interventions.

In the 41 people who completed the trial, the researchers found that the prebiotic-only intervention increased the number of bowel movements per day but did not produce any negative effects such as bloating, abdominal pain, or flatulence.

In regards to immunity, the probiotic plus prebiotic supplement was associated with positive immune responses from T lymphocytes Th1 (autoimmune responses) and Th2 (allergic responses). Th2 lymphocytes also produce protein-like cytokines like interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5, and IL-6, which help the synthesis of the immune chemicals immunoglobins bind to allergens.

The researchers believe that these results suggest that supplementation with these probiotics and prebiotic could be beneficial to people with suppressed Th1 activity, which is common in mature adults.

Researchers from the University of Southampton conducted the study. It was published in the June 2014 issue of British Journal of Nutrition.

Prebiotics serve as food for probiotics. While probiotics are most commonly linked to improving digestion and gut health, they have also been shown to have other health benefits, including a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of chronic disease.

Probiotics can be found naturally in many foods, such as yogurt, milk and sauerkraut. You may also consider taking a high quality supplement but make sure it is packaged to block light, air and moisture, which can easily kill probiotics.

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