Flu and cold prevention: Build up a healthy immune system with probiotics

Newspaper flu attackEver since I came back to work after the holidays this January, all I’ve been hearing about is people getting sick. My coworkers, patients, friends, and their kids all getting extremely sick with the flu and often so severely that they are incapacitated for days or weeks at a time. Many of them have even been hospitalized because of it. As the years go by, it seems like the severity of the flu is getting worse and worse. Why is this happening? What can we do about this?

It’s obvious that whatever we are doing is not working. Think the flu shot is going to protect you? CDC issued a statement in December, saying that this year’s flu shot isn’t really going to work because it didn’t target the right strain. Even when they can somewhat accurately predict (months in advance) which strain will be the most deadly, the flu shot still only has limited efficacy. What about taking Echinecea or Vitamin C? Results of many research studies show that neither of these are effective in cold or flu prevention. The only thing that they may do is speed up your healing by a day or two after you’ve already gotten sick. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to just not get sick in the first place?

The key to this is strengthening your immune system. This way you can fight off any bug that comes into contact with your body. You don’t have to worry about catching the cold or flu from people around you or becoming paranoid about touching different surfaces at work or in public. Let’s face it, it’s pretty tough to live your life in a sterile bubble, and you’re going to come into contact with the flu virus sooner or later. Your best bet is to get your body to fight off these bugs naturally.

LoveDid you know that 70-80% of your body’s immune system resides in your gut, or intestine? When harmful bacteria enter your body, it usually enters through your gut first. So it’s important to have a healthy flora in your gut so that you can fight off these pathogens before they enter your body and make you sick. And a lot of what determines how healthy your gut is comes from the food you eat. Harmful bacteria, fungus and viruses thrive on diets high in sugar and processed foods. It’s important to limit these foods and do cleanses periodically to remove the harmful biofilm that is produced from eating these foods over time. (I will discuss more about cleansing in future posts).

So how do you get rid of these bad bugs and build up more of this “good bacteria” in your gut to naturally protect your body? A great way to do this is with probiotics. Probiotics are live cultures of bacteria that help with digestion and fighting off foreign invaders that come into the body. You may have heard that some foods, such as yogurts, are fortified with probiotics to promote a healthy gut. This may seem like a good idea, however, the best way to take probiotics is in capsule form so that they are protected from the strong stomach acids and then can be released undamaged when they reach the intestine.

When should you take probiotics? It’s especially important to take them during and after taking a treatment of antibiotics. Antibiotics are great at killing off bad bacteria and viruses, however they also kill off the good bacteria in your system, so it’s good to help replenish that flora with probiotics after. It’s also a good idea to take them after recovering from the cold or flu, so that you can boost your immune system to prevent from getting sick again in the future. There are different recommendations out there on whether probiotics should be taken regularly or only when you feel like you need an immune boost. I personally choose to take them regularly every night, as I find this has really helped keep me healthy and free from illness.

If you’re thinking about adding probiotics to your daily routine, consult a naturopath or health expert first. It’s important to choose the right probiotic and take into consideration what strains and numbers of cultures to take. If you don’t know where to start, you can also consult with the mentors at Conscious Planet.

Have you had success with probiotics just like I have? Please share your experience by leaving a comment!

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