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Boost Your Immune System this Winter

Woman sneezingIt’s about this time of year when we all start to think about protecting ourselves from the dreaded winter colds and flu that invariably come along and send us sniffing and shivering back under the duvet with a big box of tissues and daytime TV for company.

You may have already started to take a daily Vitamin C tablet or maybe a herbal supplement to ward of the germs, but have you considered that paying a little extra attention to the health of your gut may well help you avoid a cold this winter?  It’s a little known fact that the human gastro-intestinal tract houses the bulk of the human immune system – about 70% of it – so it makes sense that as part of our cold and flu offensive we look after our gut.

Our gut flora plays a massive role in mediating our entire immune response and it’s estimated that a healthy gut is host to 10 trillion different bacteria.  Low or abnormal gut bacteria levels have not only been linked common ailments such as colds and flue, but also to infant colic, auto immune diseases and even illnesses such as depression and anxiety.  So what can you do to keep your gut healthy and boost your immune system? 

Eat more vegetables.  Your gut thrives on dietary fibre so aim to eat as many different varieties of vegetables as possible.

Eat more fermented foods which are packed with healthy bacteria.  Foods such as sauerkraut, plain natural yogurt and kefir. 

Take a probiotic supplement.  I don’t recommend one of those highly sweetened probiotic drinks that you can get in the supermarket, instead ask a reputable health store for their recommendation.

Avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics.  After taking a course of antibiotics it can take weeks, sometimes months, for the bacteria in your gut to re-balance.  Of course they are clearly needed in some instances, but do be aware that overuse will have a negative impact on the health of your gut.

Eat less refined sugar and grains.  This is good advise for our overall good health but is particularly pertinent for gut health.  Refined sugars and carbohydrates feed the bad bacteria in your gut which is bad news.

Reduce your stress levels.  Stress has a detrimental effect on the health of your gut and, interestingly, problems in your gut can also wreak havoc on your emotions because your brain and gastro-intestinal system are intimately connected.  Try meditating, Yoga, Tai Chi or going for a walk to bring your stress levels down.

So what do you do to help protect yourself from winter germs?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.