Probiotics might be a bit of a buzzword that is trending in the nutrition industry, today, but ongoing research continues to reveal that the science is likely sound. As a matter of fact, the most recent data suggests that the right combination of probiotics and prebiotics are necessary for optimal gastrointestinal health.
Of course, to understand this, we first need to understand the difference between probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms present in fermented/cultured foods like yogurt and kimchi. Prebiotics are things like fiber that we find naturally-occurring in fruits and vegetables.
The most recent research, however, now advises that this balance is not quite as straightforward as it might seem. Specifically, probiotics are known to benefit the body by helping to mediate immune response. And that, of course, is why some researchers believe probiotics are able to help treat immune-related conditions including eczema and allergies. But immunity differs greatly by anatomical sex. Indeed, the medical community recognizes there are sex-based disparities in immune response to a diverse mix of inflammatory and infectious diseases.
Researchers now realize that we do not know as much about the immunological sex differences among infants and perhaps even less about how dietary supplements—with probiotics—could affect early-life immune development.
That said, Lead investigator Dr. Marie Lewis explains, “Correct development of the immune system is essential in ensuring it responds appropriately to both harmful and harmless stimulation throughout life and this development, even during the first days of life, depends on your sex.”
The University of Reading Gut Immunology and Microbiology lecturer goes on to say, “Although we don’t know why, we know that young girls tend to produce a more protective immune response to vaccination than boys. But what we did not expect to find is that young girls also appear to have a more regulated immune environment in their intestinal tissues than boys.”
Effectively, this is important because roughly 70 percent of the human immune system is in the gut [bacteria]. Furthermore, that is where the immune system develops early in life, largely controlled by the bacteria that lives there. Understanding this, then, could help us to tailor early-life nutrition and medical care to promote healthy maturation.