As the winter season approaches, so do your coworker’s or child’s dreaded colds, sniffles and coughs. Let’s take a deep dive into how you can avoid getting sick by keeping your immunity strong. We start by looking to your gut, the battleground where the war against colds and the flu is won. Our own unique intestinal microbiome is where 70% of our immune system resides. One of the most important “residents” is probiotics, also known as “good” bacteria. Research has shown that probiotics reduce the risk and/or duration of respiratory infection symptoms. Once our system becomes deficient in probiotics, we are more likely to experience digestive disorders, skin issues, autoimmune disease and frequent colds and flus. As long as we keep our ratio of good:bad bacteria high, we increase our chances of staving off predatory infections.
In order to boost our immune system and bolster the “good” bacteria in our gut, look no further than probiotics. Increasing your intake of probiotics leads to an abundance of good bacteria, making it more difficult for the bad bacteria from colds and flus to make an impact. Probiotics utilize a three-pronged approach to defeating cold and flu bugs:
- By surrounding the virus, probiotics neutralize it and effectively render it useless
- Probiotics form a barrier along the intestinal walls to prevent any viruses from passing into the bloodstream
- Probiotics communicate with your body to produce more substances that can help neutralize the virus before it causes any damage
Probiotics come in numerous strains and are naturally present in a variety of food groups and supplements: sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, pickles, kefir and kombucha, to name a few. To give yourself the best chance of avoiding illness this Winter, don’t forget to combine the following tips with your daily probiotic food groups and/or supplementation:
-Diligent hand washing
-Proper amounts of sleep
-Stay well hydrated
-Avoid excessive sugar intake (this has been found to suppress the immune system by effectively “paralyzing” white blood cells)
-Reduce stress levels
Unfortunately, due to refrigeration and dangerous agricultural practices, many of our foods not only contain smaller than usual amounts of probiotics but are often full of antibiotics which can kill any good bacteria in our bodies. Just another reason to make sure you buy ‘organic’!
Lehtoranta, L, et al. (2014). Probiotics in respiratory virus infections. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. Aug: 33(8): 1289-1302.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. (2012). Probiotics are secret weapon for fighting symptoms of the common cold in college students, study suggests. Science News. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162335.htm
Watson, B. (Nov. 11, 2013). Why probiotics are so effective in preventing cold and flu. Chatelaine. http://www.chatelaine.com/health/wellness/probiotics-to-prevent-colds/
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