Thursday, January 30, 2014

Probiotics are at the Core of Immunity

Homemade Kimchi:  teaming with immune system-enhancing probiotics!


Most people are aware that certain nutrients are important to feed the immune system.  While this is true, and nutrients (like vitamin C) are crucial for immune function, the health of your digestive system is at the core of your immunity.  It has been estimated that around 80-85% of the immune system is located in the gut wall.

According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neuroscientist and creator of the highly effective GAPS diet, the epithelial surface of the digestive system is inhabited by huge numbers of bacteria, which are in fact the cradle of the immune system.  Ideally, our digestive system is inhabited by a majority of essential or beneficial bacteria.  These beneficial bacteria engage the lymphoid tissue of the gut wall and are involved in the production of large numbers of immune system cells.  Armed with an abundance of immune system cells, the body becomes ready to protect the body from any type of invader. 

Improving your digestive flora is simple!

Tip 1:  Eat vegetable foods, rich in "prebiotic" fibers that naturally break down into healthy bacteria in your gut.  These include fresh fruits and vegetables, goat's cheese, leafy greans, starchy root vegetables, whole (gluten free) grains, and well-cooked beans.

Tip 2:  Eat lacto-fermented foods and drink lacto-fermented beverages, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha tea.  Each serving of these can provide trillions of beneficial bacteria (more than even a supplement provides.)

Tip 3:  If you don't eat fermented foods, be sure to supplement with a high quality probiotic.  I recommend Ascended Health products probiotic, for example.

Tip 4:  Avoid foods and beverages imbalance digestive flora, such as:
    - Fluoridated water
    - Conventionally raised meat and dairy products, which regularly contain antibiotic residues
    - Refined sugars and corn syrup
    - White flour
    - High-gluten grains like wheat
    - Genetically modified foods

Antibiotics can have a devastating affect on the bacterial in your digestive tract, as can other medications (such as birth control pills).  In circumstances where these medications are used, special care should be taken to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria and prevent immunological problems from occurring. 

Can you cut your chances of getting a cold by 42 percent just by making sure your gut is full of healthy bacteria?   Mike Gleeson, PhD. professor of exercise biochemistry at Loughborough University in England, suggests that you can.  He recommends taking probiotics- in the form of foods or supplements- to reduce the risk of both respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.  In a meta-analysis of 10 studies, people taking probiotics were 42 percent less likely to get a cold than those on a placebo. 

Sources:
Mercola M.D.,  Joseph. "Viruses Worldwide Battled by Gut Microbes."  Mercola.com, 14 July 2012.  Web. 30 Jan. 2014.
Campbell-McBride MD, Natasha, Gut and Psychology Syndrome.  Medinform Publishing, 2012.  Print. 
Ince, Susan (2012 October). 15 Ways to Prevent Colds and Flus.  Prevention Magazine.  Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com.  

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