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Happy Guts, Less Sniffles

It’s that time of year! Headaches, mucus, chills, coughs, dry throat, fever…
Schools, workplaces, and even trips to the gym and grocery store expose you to all kinds of unpleasant illnesses. Sometimes it is inevitable that you will get sick, but the majority of the time a little effort on your part can decrease your chances of feeling ill or maybe prevent it all together!
With some simple supplements and dietary changes, I have drastically decreased the amount of doctors visits, viruses, colds and flu. You can do this too!
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DID YOU KNOW? The human gastrointestinal tract constitutes about 70 per cent of the immune system. Wow!

GUT HEALTH: If you do not have a healthy gut and enough beneficial bacteria, it is very difficult for your body to fight off infection and illness. We need to be exposed to this “good” bacteria early in childhood and if we aren’t it can be the start of multiple health issues throughout our entire life. If you haven’t consumed fermented or probiotic containing foods, or you were breastfed for a short time or maybe not at all, this may cause your population of good bacteria to be compromised.
Foods that damage our gut flora include foods from the standard American diet such as: sugar, vegetable oils, gluten and other grains and processed foods.

Most individuals do not have enough beneficial bacteria, particularly if you have taken antibiotics in your life or oral contraceptives. These will diminish your supply even more. Perhaps you have noticed a pattern in yourself or someone else – the more antibiotics and medications someone is prescribed, the more they continue to get sick.
If you keep driving your car and don’t stop to put gas in, it is inevitable that your supply gets lower and lower until you have to replenish. Antibiotics act like a car consuming gas, if you were to accelerate full speed up a long hill. It uses up the good bacteria in a hurry.

WHAT TO DO? Eat fermented foods or supplement with probiotics. Many people reach for food items like yogurt; however buying a sweetened yogurt can actually counteract the benefits of the probiotics. Plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurts are best. You can even buy plain cultured coconut milk and almond milk. If you aren’t sensitive to dairy products, Kefir is an even better source. It is like a concentrated yogurt, so just a couple tablespoons a day will help improve your gut health. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha are also great sources (if they are prepared correctly).

Without enough good bacteria, digestion will also be compromised and can cause irregular bowel movements which means even more “bad” bacteria building up.

Our gut flora is like the human body security system. If intruders proceed beyond the boundaries, the flora sends an alarm for the immune system to step in. When our immune system has to work hard and attempt to capture the intruders and keep things under control, it is unable to function to the best of its ability.

Regular intake of foods or supplements containing probiotics can improve your immune health and provide your body with a better fighting chance against some of this icky sickness going around. Most people don’t and won’t eat or prepare fermented foods. So the easiest way to ensure your healthy bacteria levels are sufficient is to supplement with probiotic capsules. There are many available now, even powders if you don’t like to take capsules. Some varieties are shelf-stable so they don’t have to be stored in the fridge. I always recommend purchasing supplements from a health food store to ensure you aren’t wasting your money on products that don’t work.

It is most critical to supplement with probiotics when the body is under stress, you are feeling under the weather, or have just finished a round of antibiotics.

If you are managing your gut health, there are some additional supplements to turn to.
For maintenance purposes, I suggest these 3 KEY SUPPLEMENTS that can be taken on a daily basis:

1. Vitamin C-antioxidant and helps ward off colds and flu. If you want to increase your supply with food, eat things like bell peppers and green leafy vegetables which are fantastic sources.
2. Vitamin D3-the benefits of D3 supplementation outweigh any risks and can enhance your immune system and assist with healthy bones, muscles and teeth.
3. Zinc- healthy immune maintenance and antioxidant. Increasing your intake of red meats, eggs and tree nuts are good food sources.
***recommended amounts vary on an individual basis

SUMMARY
All of these foods and supplements are beneficial and will help your immune system; HOWEVER if you are not looking after yourself with a clean diet, proper sleep, or managing chronic stress, you will still battle the sniffles and infections among other health issues. Diets high in sugar, gluten and processed dairy products tend to weaken the immune system even more. Dairy will also cause more mucus, so it’s critical to cut back or eliminate these products, particularly when you are sick.
Set boundaries and look after yourself. Your body and immune system will thank you for it!

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