As I’m sure you’ve heard, this year’s flu strain promises to be one of the worst yet. The good news is that there’s one simple thing you can do to help ensure you don’t get sick, and it’s something you’re probably already doing: maintaining your gut health. Probiotics, the friendly bacteria that help keep your gut healthy, also aid in the maintenance and protection of your whole body as well.
Research has shown that taking probiotics can help prevent cold and flu. In a study, those taking probiotics (specifically B. bifidum) reported fewer sick days in a six-week period than those taking a placebo.
You may be wondering how the bacteria in your digestive tract have anything to do with the flu. Fair enough. The gut is actually the gateway to the body, serving as a physical barrier to pathogens and toxins. In fact, about 60-80% of immune cells are associated with our guts for just this reason. When you have a lot of good bacteria in your gut, it’s less likely that pathogens will be able to gain a foothold. While the virus is still in the intestinal tract, good bacteria can surround and neutralize it. Good bacteria also make a barrier along the intestinal lining, preventing the virus from entering the bloodstream. If a virus does make it through, the good bacteria can sound the alarm to the rest of your body, triggering the production of substances to destroy the virus before it causes damage.
This, combined with the myriad of other ways probiotics can help you, means you definitely want to be supplementing your diet with probiotics, especially during the immune-system taxing cold and flu season. Probiotics can be found in foods such as live-cultured yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, pickles, tempeh, and other fermented foods. However, there are also a wide variety of probiotic supplements which can be an easy way to boost your good gut bacteria.