For as long as I can remember, everyone in my family has taken live bacteria probiotic capsules. This includes my daughter-in-law who has recently given birth to my first grandchild, and who took my Live Bacteria capsules and Omega 3 capsules every day of her pregnancy, as well as my mother who is now almost 82.
It’s not because we are plagued with gut disorders – far from it – we take them for the overall benefits of ‘friendly’ bacteria. These benefits include helping you to properly digest food and absorb nutrients; manufacture important vitamins and hormones (including the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin, around 90% of which is manufactured in the gut); ‘crowd out’ pathogenic, disease-causing strains of bacteria, fungi and yeasts; reduce the risk of bowel infections like Clostridium difficile; reduce our risk of colo-rectal cancers; and positively enhance our immune system.
We are all in rude health and are grateful for it, and although we have good genes in the family, we attribute the effectiveness of our immune system, and the protection that it gives us to the ongoing support we give our gut.
This winter, with coronavirus joining all the usual ‘bugs’ that tend to be rife at this time of year, having a strong immune system is paramount. When you have an abundance of ‘friendly’ bacteria in your gut, it’s harder for the pathogenic bacteria (the ones that come with a cold or flu) to take hold. Probiotics also help the body to produce certain vitamins and hormones that help keep us strong, physically and mentally.
How do probiotics boost your immune system?
The good bacteria form a barrier along your intestinal lining to prevent the virus from passing through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream. Even if the virus gets through, the friendly bacteria actually communicate with your body to produce substances that neutralise the virus before it causes damage. In short, supplementing with probiotics is the easiest way to build up your good bacteria and keep your immune system supporting you all year long.
Plus, by fine-tuning certain aspects of your health routine, such as diet and stress management, you can help strengthen your immune system’s defence against bacteria, toxic chemicals, and viruses that cause conditions like the common cold and flu even further.
Let’s not forget about hand washing…
It is important that you wash your hands regularly with hot, soapy water, especially before eating, preparing food, and always after touching door handles, etc in public places. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, anti-bac soap either. If you’re not sure how to wash your hands correctly, this webpage may help.
Dietary and supplement advice:
- Take live bacteria probiotics daily – 80% of the immune system resides within the gut, so keeping your microbiome healthy and diverse will help in preventing you from becoming ill.
- Consume probiotics from food as well wherever you can – good sources include: kombucha, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurts with added cultures (I recommend the diary-free Coconut Collaborative yogurts)
- Eat zinc-rich foods as this is an important component of the immune system; foods containing zinc include grass-fed meats, shellfish, chickpeas, eggs, pumpkin seeds and nuts.
- Get your Vitamin D levels checked, and if your levels are low then take a supplement to boost your levels. Try and spend 30 minutes outside in the winter sun whenever you can, without SPF on, so that you can absorb the Vitamin D from the sun.
- Medicinal mushrooms can be used to modulate the immune system and reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections. You can get these in supplement form, or you can buy shitake mushrooms and add them to your meals (stir-fries, soups, etc). The beneficial ingredient in the mushrooms is beta glucans. Beta glucans can also be found in oats, so try starting your day with a bowl of porridge.
- Make sure you are consuming plenty of Vitamin C in your diet; you can get Vitamin C from the following foods: broccoli, cauliflower, papaya, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, carrots, bell peppers and kiwis. You can also take a Vitamin C supplement, but make sure each capsule contains a minimum of 1000mg to have a therapeutic effect.
- Coconut oil has anti-viral properties so use it when cooking.
- Garlic is anti-viral so try and add this in to your meals.
- Green tea and manuka honey also have anti-viral properties, so you could add a teaspoon of honey to your green tea.
- Bone broth is extremely nourishing, and provides lots of minerals and nutrients to improve your gut health and, in turn, your immune system.
- Try to reduce stress where possible. Take time to relax, as stress dampens your immune system. This includes making sure you are getting enough sleep, as sleep deprivation also reduces the effectiveness of your immune system.
- Exercise (of any kind) for 30 minutes every day helps to boost the immune system. Avoid over-exercising when you are feeling run down though, as this will lower your immune defenses.
Food combinations that promote a healthy immune system:
- Porridge with pumpkin seeds and berries
- Fresh pressed juices with oranges, kiwis, red pepper, carrots
- Add sauerkraut and kimchi to the side of meals
- Pan-fried shitake mushrooms with fresh garlic and wilted spinach on toast for an immune boosting lunch
- Fresh soup, using lots of Vitamin C-rich vegetables. Check out my gluten-free and dairy-free recipes, that include lots of nourishing soups, lunches and dinners, full of healthy immune-enhancing ingredients.
- Sip on green tea throughout the day with a tsp of manuka honey
- Include bone broth in your daily cooking
Kate, who now takes my Live Bacteria probiotics regularly, recently contacted me, as she feels very different this winter compared to previous years.
“I thought I would mention to you one of the outcomes I attribute to continued use of the Live Bacteria capsules – this winter, I haven’t had a cold or indeed any ‘winter bugs’ (unheard of for me, as I’ve always come down with streaming colds in the winter months). My tongue, which can sometimes be coated, is clear and I think this is also down to the gut-balancing effects of the Live Bacteria, enabling proper absorption of nutrients and hopefully fortifying my immune system.
If that is the case, especially in view of the recent outbreak of coronavirus, I feel it is worth highlighting these positive effects to encourage people to be more aware of the importance of balancing the gut in order to support proper absorption of nutrients, which in turn supports the immune system.“