The flu-fighting power of your gut trumps a shot to the arm
The best wintertime flu fighter isn’t a shot in the arm. It’s an all-out, swarming invasion to your digestive tract.
Sound aggressive? Fear not. This is an invasion of the best kind. Think of it as waves of friendly cavalry riding over the ridge to the rescue.
In this case, the cavalry consists of nourishing probiotics (good bacteria), that stream into your gut (where 80 percent of your immune system exists), and deliver a powerful defense against those absolutely miserable flu viruses.
The newest evidence of this comes from Georgia State University where researchers tested a probiotic on influenza A — a virus with nearly 30 different subtypes, capable of mixing and matching to create multiple flu variations.
The Georgia team used a lactic acid bacteria probiotic called Lactobacillus casei DK128, isolated from fermented vegetables.
Researchers pretreated mice with DK128, then infected the animals with a lethal dose of the influenza A virus. Another group of mice were infected, but had no protection beyond their normal immune systems.
In the DK128 group, several immune responses were detected, and significantly less virus was present in the mouse lungs compared to the control group.
Most notably, all the mice in the control group died, while every DK128 mouse survived.
In Scientific Reports, the Georgia team notes that lactic acid bacteria like DK128 are used to turn cabbage into sauerkraut and milk into cheese. Previously, these lactic acid strains have been shown to protect against colds, the flu, and even pneumonia.
In another report about a year ago, Dr. Sarah Brewer — a general practitioner in the UK — explained that lactic acid bacteria can inhibit bacteria responsible for gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and urinary tract infections.
But as powerful as these probiotics are, they get a superboost when combined with vitamins and minerals.
In one study, a regimen of probiotics, multivitamins, and minerals significantly cut back flu duration by nearly two days compared to volunteers who took multivitamins and minerals, but no probiotics.
In another study, participants taking probiotics, vitamins, and minerals for three months reduced their likelihood of developing a cold or flu by nearly 15 percent, and cut back on symptom severity by almost 20 percent compared to a placebo group. Also, the number of days with a fever was cut in half.
Don’t get lost in the probiotic pit
There are a lot of different type of probiotics on the shelf these days. It may be tricky knowing which kind to choose.
Dr. Brewer cautions to always check the shelf life of a probiotic supplement. The closer you get to the posted expiration date, the fewer live probiotic bacteria will be delivered. Also note that some supplements require refrigeration.
One of OmniVista Health’s resident gurus, Dr. Fred Pescatore, also offers some tips for choosing a probiotic in his Metabolic Repair Protocol. In it, he notes that quality always trumps quantity: “The most important thing is getting the right bacteria — and not too many of the same kind. Diversity is key.
“A lot of the probiotic products out there will try to wow you with the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) they deliver. But bigger isn’t always better. In fact, ingesting too many of one type of bacteria can trigger an auto-immune response and cause complete chaos.
Dr. Pescatore also suggests sticking with a quality probiotic supplement that contains prebiotics (to support and stimulate the probiotics). He always recommends Dr. Ohhira’s Original Formula, twice a day (preferably on an empty stomach or 90 minutes before/after a meal).
Diet is also incredibly important when it comes to gut health. Dr. Pescatore recommends sticking to a Mediterranean style of eating. This diet supports healthy gut function by cutting out all processed foods, which are huge irritants of an inflamed GI tract. Its emphasis on fresh fruits and veggies also allows your body to absorb nutrients that battle the inflammation within your body.
To get more probiotic-supporting prebiotics, incorporate the following foods into your diet: onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, jicama, sunchokes, and dandelion greens. In addition, you can get a beneficial bacterial boost by eating naturally brine-fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables.
After you start supporting your “gut cavalry,” you’ll not only feel better, but also strengthen all your bodily systems — particularly your immune system. So when it’s time to fend off the flu, or any other outside invaders, you’ll be ready at a moment’s notice.
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