Safe to say this has been the most eventful cold and flu season of the century! With all the focus on preventing viral infection lately, you probably have worried at one point or another about the strength of your immune system. Well, let me tell you that it is completely healthy and natural for our bodies to succumb to a virus here and there. However, if you find yourself consistently taking time off due to immune-related illness then it might be time to give it some more attention. Luckily there is a lot that can be done to get your immunity in tip-top shape for winter!
Our feature here is the friendly bacteria that naturally live in your gut microbiome. Fortunately, these microscopic allies are capable of helping your immune system search out viral invaders and reduce the chance of an infection taking hold!
not all probiotic strains are the same
Being the wellness warrior you are, you most likely are aware of how powerful probiotics can be when supporting your gut health. However, isn’t it also interesting that they also make up approximately 70% of your body’s immune system?  They do this by cleverly influencing the activity of your immune cells in the gut. So how do you know which probiotic strains are the best?
First you need to understand that there are many different beneficial probiotics available and each one has a different role to play in human health.
Let’s first look at how a probiotic can enhance immune system function. For starters, the beneficial bacteria living in the digestive tract, mostly the large intestine, play an important role in maintaining the lining of your gut, which itself forms an intestinal defense barrier. This is part of your innate immune system developed when you were just a kid. This layer does however require maintenance and this occurs as a result of our lifestyle choices.
Two of our favourite probiotic strains right now are Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®) and Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2, as they both have shown to increase the activity of immune cells. These specific types of immune cells called Natural Killer (NK) cells are responsible for targeting and killing virally infected cells that generally are associated with a cold or flu, as the name suggests.
In addition to these two, another strain called Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL 9 helps to stimulate another type of white blood cell called Macrophages that alerts your immune system when it identifies a viral invader., These probiotic strains also play important roles in providing anti-inflammatory and immune-regulating signals , which all play an important role in supporting a healthy immune system. This is why conditions associated with chronic inflammation can often be at higher risk of infection, as inflammation is an immune process and chronic inflammation may be related to an immune imbalance.
lifestyle choices are key to prevention
One of the biggest factors that contribute to poorer immune function, is stress. Ever heard that stress is a silent killer? Well, it is true! Stress usually underpins nearly every case that we see in the clinic. So make sure you are actively managing your stress throughout the year. Stress depletes a wide range of nutrients that play an important role, not just in general health but immunity too.
Another important key factor to immune health is overall nutritional status. Make sure you ‘eat the rainbow’ by selecting a wide range of colourful fruits and vegetables, in addition to nuts and seeds and good quality proteins. In doing this make sure you also limit processed foods including refined grains and sugar as these foods also deplete nutrients, just like stress. Challenge yourself to a new recipe using a fruit or vegetable that you have never tried before. Keep it fresh and interesting, so that you grow into a healthier version of yourself over time. This will also help ensure you are feeding your gut microbiome all the essential foods to keep them happy and well during winter too!
Fresh is best, but canned or frozen are good choices too!
Now that you know some more practical steps to supporting a healthy immune response, you can now enjoy the colder months healthy and well!
Make sure you follow social distancing guidelines and practice good hand hygiene. These are all other natural ways to keep yourself safe as we continue to get through these challenging times together.
If you are ready to get your health under control and need some personalized professional guidance make sure you book your FREE Discovery Chat in our online clinic today. Our wide selection of high-quality professional products are available as part of your free consultation and we express post products Australia-wide.
Not ready to ask your Naturopath yet? Check out our do-it-yourself educational and supportive health programs, like our Immune Boost program, instead.