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Probiotic bacteria shape a coordinated and complex immune profile that has far reaching impact on health. Not only does this show the delicate balance life has with its environment, including the bacteria that reside in the intestines, but presents the warning that diets high in starch that characteristically disturb healthy bacterial balances can encourage inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

In autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), the immune system attacks host tissue. Research demonstrates that these inflammatory diseases may be caused by a disturbance in the healthy balances of digestive tract bacteria and other microflora (probiotics). Certain beneficial bacteria possess important hair-like molecules on their capsule surface. One such molecule is polysialic acid (PSA) which, via the intestinal wall, can stimulate immune CD4 T cells that regulate both immune cell and antibody reactions. CD4 T cells do this by producing both pro- and anti-inflammatory chemical regulators known as cytokines (interleukein-4,10, and 17, interferon gamma, and others).Without the proper bacteria, the entire body’s immune balance is disturbed (shifted toward the potent inflammatory and autoimmune cytokines TH2 and TH17) such that overt autoimmune disease can manifest. Additional problems from such imbalance include antibody deficiencies, higher susceptibility to infections, reduced amounts of immune generating tissues, and less active and reduced numbers of intestinal macrophages and lymphocytes that destroy pathogens and toxins.

• “…protein deficiency alone can impair immune responsiveness for prolonged periods, perhaps permanently, if imposed during critical periods of immune ontogeny…” Gershwin, M. E., et al. Nutrition and Immunity. Proc Nutr Soc, 12, 1987.
• “…protein supplement accelerated the development of immunity to O circumcincta…”Coop, R.L., et al. Effect of dietary protein supplementation on the development of immunity to Ostertagia circumcincta... Research in Veterinary Science, 59 (1), 24-29, 1995.
• “…8% protein diet [compared to 15% and 33%]…difficulty expressing a competent immune response to pathogenic challenge in the wild.” Lochmiller, R. L., et al. Relationship between protein nutritional status and immunocompetence... The Auk, 110 (3), 503-510, 1993.
• “...the amount and type of dietary protein impacts C. perfringens concentrations in dog faeces. Protein quality may greatly influence intestinal microbiota by changing the amount of protein that reaches the lower bowel. Lower quality proteins that are poorly digested will provide more protein to microbes inhabiting the lower bowel and increase the occurrence of proteolytic bacteria, some of which may be pathogenic and/or produce putrefactive compounds…” Lubbs, D. C., et al. Dietary protein concentration affects intestinal microbiota of adult cats: a study using DGGE and qPCR to evaluate differences in microbial populations in the feline gastrointestinal tract. Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 93 (1), 113-121, 2008.

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