Fight Off Colds and Flu By Keeping Your Gut Healthy

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
11/29/17  3:18 PM PST
Keeping Your Gut Healthy

Carrie DennettSpecial to The Seattle Times

On Nutrition

Want to stay healthier this winter? While flu shots and frequent hand washing are key strategies for warding off cold and flu viruses, there’s another set of tools that you should add to your toolbox — foods that support a healthy gut.

About 80 percent of your body’s immune cells live in your gut or intestine. The population of bacteria and other microbes — roughly 100 trillion — that make up your gut microbiota play a big role in the strength of your immune system. A healthy, diverse gut microbiota makes it difficult for illness-causing bacteria and viruses to take hold. A weak, sparsely populated microbiota with a shortage of “good” bacteria can leave you open to both minor illnesses — like colds and the flu — and more serious health conditions.

Improving your gut microbiota

Your microbiota is as individual as you are, shaped from birth by your environment and the food you eat, which means you can influence it for better or for worse. Foods to include for a healthier gut and immune system — and maybe a better mood — include probiotics or prebiotics.

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain actual live beneficial bacteria. They can help maintain the delicate balance between your gut microbiota and your immune system. Probiotic bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli are added to milk to make yogurt, kefir and cheese. Probiotic bacteria are also found in fermented nondairy foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented vegetables, as well as kombucha tea, miso and tempeh.

Prebiotics are foods containing fiber that the good bacteria in your gut like to eat. If your good microbes don’t have enough to eat, they’ll eat the mucus layer lining the inside of your intestine, which could lead to leaky gut and other health problems. A plant-based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, along with beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds, will give your friendly microbes plenty to eat. These foods have the added benefit of being anti-inflammatory. To contrast, a diet high in sugar, refined grains (like white flour), saturated fat, fried foods and alcohol can cause a chronic state of inflammation in your gut and the rest of your body.

Read the Full Article at The Seattle Times.

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