As sunshine-filled months come to a close, it might seem a little early, but it’s good time to start thinking about building a strong immune system to fight off the infamous season linked to cold and flu. With an abundance of health tips out there, where is a good place to start? First of all, know the right timing. Every year we see tips at the start of the season, but the truth is it’s much smarter to work on strengthening your immune system weeks and months in advance to build the strongest defense.
Making sure your gut microbiome is in check is an excellent first step, but did you know the health of your microbiome is linked to the prevention of and reduction of cold and flu symptoms. Often people associate probiotics with maintaining and improving digestion, and although this is true, more studies are revealing that our gut microbiome is linked to the running of several organs and body systems, including a very strong role in immunity. Our gut health is therefore a direct reflection on our overall health, but taking the right probiotic to support this culture is especially important in preventing and reducing symptoms of the common cold or flu.
This topic of probiotics is important but can be confusing, which is why I was recruited as an expert to help create the master guide to unlock the hidden power of probiotics at www.probiotics.com. Here’s how probiotics can help you and your family prepare for a stress-free cold and flu season.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Microbiome. The word alone sounds complicated. In fact, our gut microbiome is one of the body’s most complex systems, but it’s also one of the most vital.
The microbiome is the collection of microbes (bacteria, fungi and viruses) that lives in and on the human body. With trillions of microbes affecting bodily functions, it’s essential to maintain these life forms in the proper balances, especially making sure our beneficial bacteria are thriving, because we have about 10 times more of them than our own cells. Most of these microbes reside in the large intestine, and are referred to as the gut microbiome.
The culture of our gut microbiome is always changing, since it’s heavily influenced by our lifestyles and stages of life. Factors such as our diet, age, gender, frequency of travel and working environment impact the type of microbiomes we house and the forms of supplements we should take to support this ecosystem in a healthy way.
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Promoting healthy digestion and nutrient absorption is the most obvious role of the gut microbiome, but this isn’t the only role it fulfills. The gut microbiome also influences the body’s inflammatory response and immunity, in addition to functions such as mood, blood pressure and cognitive function. Although scientists are still trying to understand the power microbiomes hold over our health, one thing’s clear: A healthy microbiome is connected to overall wellbeing.
Reduced Cold and Flu Symptoms
Obviously, if probiotics help our body’s digest, absorb and even manufacture certain nutrients, this supports our overall health, and will go on to help support a stronger immune system by making sure our cells have absorbed nutrients that play key roles in immunity, like zinc for example. Behind improved digestive health, the gut microbiome directly influences immunity and is therefore another important reason for taking probiotics.
About 70% of the body’s total number of immune cells reside in the GI tract, and a few years ago, research finally identified that the beneficial bacteria actually train that immune system, telling it what it should react to and what it shouldn’t. Without adequate beneficial bacteria this signaling back and forth gets compromised and we tend to develop over-immunity to the wrong things, like food and environmental allergens, while the other side of the immune system that fights pathogenic bacteria and viruses suffers. And now there is plenty of research looking at how probiotics influence our susceptibility to and our ability to fight off colds and flu.
One recent analysis examining 20 published trials concluded that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics can cut the duration and severity of cold symptoms, leading to fewer missed days of work or school. Swedish researchers found that two variants of the Lactobacillus probiotic strain given at 1 billion CFUs per day, reduced common cold symptoms by 2 1/2 days. In examining the effects of a three-strain probiotic blend on children’s sick days, only 25.8% of the children taking the probiotics had a sick day compared to 42.8% of the children who hadn’t taken the probiotics.
Taking a probiotic supplement long term also improves our immunity against cold and flu symptoms over time. According to a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, the intake of probiotic bacteria for at least 3 months drastically shortened common cold episodes by almost 2 days and reduced the severity of people’s symptoms. Another study published in Clinical Nutrition supports this: total cold symptoms, cold durations and number of days with a fever were lower in a probiotic-treated group over a placebo group.
So, probiotics are playing a key role in strengthening our immune systems during the common cold season, making our bodies increasingly resistant to contracting viruses in the future!
Choose the Right Probiotic
Probiotics can be one of your weapons for a stronger immune system during cold and flu season, especially if taken well ahead of time, but how do you go about choosing the right one? Selecting the right probiotic to fit your personal needs can feel overwhelming and confusing, especially with so many supplements on the market. First of all, the quality of probiotics can play a huge role as to whether you get any benefits from it. Secondly, probiotics aren’t a one-size fits all supplement. Probiotic needs are dependent on a number of individual factors especially age.
Recognizing this challenge in maintaining a healthy microbiome, I recommend to my patients Kyo-Dophilus Probiotics because they provide accurate strength and they are one of the only products I know that has studied and can guarantee viability of the probiotics throughout the shelf life of the product. This means they will maintain efficacy. Not many companies can validate that for their products. In addition they use clinically studied probiotic strains and have developed products for various stages of life.
When gearing up for cold and flu season, this probiotic line has something for every family member, from Kids Probiotic to Fifty+ Probiotic. All formulas include clinically studied, proprietary blend of strains labeled as, “The Friendly Trio,” (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1 and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2), which can improve digestion, reduce cold and seasonal allergy symptoms and a restore a healthy microbiome. The Kids Probiotic contains strains that have been shown beneficial for children at dosages that are specific for children, while also being a tasty chewable form that is easy for your child to take. The Fifty+ Probiotic contains the same Friendly Trio, but in older adult specific dosages, because this blend of strains in another study was found to improve an important immune marker in just two weeks, in adults over age 50. This is important because older adults are the most vulnerable to catching the flu due to age-related weakening of the immune system. So, when looking for a probiotic supplement, ensure that it’s targeting both you and your needs and contains these three clinically studied strains.
As a resource, www.probiotics.com offers even more information on the topic of probiotics and you can also ask me specific questions here. This website is a great way to understand how probiotics work and which are appropriate to take and when. It also provides a survey you can take to determine the probiotic supplements that will best suit you and your family’s needs this cold and flu season.
James B. LaValle, R.Ph., CCN, is an internationally recognized clinical pharmacist, author, board certified clinical nutritionist and naturopathic doctorate with more than 30 years of clinical experience. LaValle is best known for his expertise in metabolic and integrative medicine, with an extensive background in natural products, lifestyle drug/nutrient depletion and uncovering the underlying metabolic issues that keep people from feeling healthy and vital. LaValle is author of more than 20 books including, “Cracking the Metabolic Code,” “Nutritional Cost of Drugs,” and, “Your Blood Never Lies.” He has been named one of the “50 Most Influential Pharmacists” by American Druggist magazine. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Council for Organic & Natural Health Association.