Cold and flu season is upon us and it seems like everyone has their own strategy when it comes to the best way to avoid coming down with something. Whether it’s frequent hand washing, extra vitamin C or oil of oregano every day, everyone is looking for a magic bullet to avoid being stuck in bed with a box of Kleenex and heating pad.
The fact is that 70 percent of your immune system is located in your gut. For this reason, it’s basically impossible to have a strong and healthy immune system when your digestion and gut health are struggling.
And if you have a sweet tooth, are regularly under stress, use birth control pills or prescription medication, or have ever taken a course of antibiotics then chances are your digestion and gut health are not as strong as they could be. Here are three things you can do to start to rebuild your gut health to boost your immune system:
1. Add More “Good” Bacteria with Probiotics
There are billions of bacteria living in your gut. In fact, for every human cell in your body, there are 10 bacterial cells so they actually outnumber you 10 to 1! Ideally all the different kinds of bacteria live in harmony in your gut, keeping one another in check so that no one strain takes over.
However, when things get out of balance, because of one of more of the reasons I listed above, this delicate balance gets thrown off and certain strains of bacteria – the “bad” guys – take advantage and begin to take over.
A good way to start to kill off some of those “bad” guys is by bringing in more of the “good” guys to get them back in check. Probiotics are the “good” guys and there are a couple of different ways you can get more of them into your gut:
Look for a high quality product (you typically get what you pay for with probiotics) that is refrigerated and that contains both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and as many bacteria as possible.
These foods are packed with naturally occurring probiotics. They include: raw sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, etc. If you like these and are able to find them or make them yourself, try having a few tablespoons every day with your meals. If you’re buying any of these foods, make sure the label says “raw” and “unpasteurized” since heating through pasteurization kills off the probiotics we’re looking for.
2. Include Prebiotics in Your Diet
Prebiotics are the foods that feed the “good” guys in your gut. These are non-digestible foods (also known as fibre). You can find them in supplement form, but they are also abundant in foods such as:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Bananas (especially green) and plantains
- Potatoes – cooked and then cooled
- Beans and legumes such as lentils
- Uncooked rolled oats
Add as many of these into your meals and snacks as possible to encourage the good bacteria in your gut to grow and multiply.
3. Incorporate Gut Healing Foods
When you’ve had an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria for some time, there is usually a fair amount of inflammation and damage done to the wall of your intestinal tract. Luckily, there are some foods you can incorporate into your diet that are very healing on the lining of the gastro intestinal tract. These foods will help you start to reduce that inflammation and heal that damage:
A good quality bone broth has amazing healing properties for the gut. Bones contain significant amounts of the amino acids proline and glycine which are important for a healthy gut and digestion and are almost non-existent in the muscle meat that most people consume.
This bright yellow spice has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. You can include turmeric in soups and stews, curries, as a dry rub on meats, and even make a tea with it.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty Acids (especially Omega 3 and Omega 6) are excellent at reducing inflammation. Most of us get more than enough Omega 6 so concentrate on increasing your Omega 3 intake with fish oil, walnuts, chia, hemp and ground flax.