Staying Healthy During Cold & Flu SeasonFeb 09, 2023 10:03AM ● By Jan Southern
Staying Healthy During Cold & Flu Season
By Kerri Dodson, MNT, MCHWC, Master Nutrition Therapist
It is that time of year again—cough and flu season. Have you ever wondered why some people never seem to get sick? Even when everyone around them falls, they are fine? Is it the seed or the terrain? Is it the virus or the host? Let’s talk about it.
Most of our immune system (70-80%) is found in our gut. There is a link between your nutrition, lifestyle, microbiome (bacteria found in your intestines) and immune system. If you understand the relationship between them, you can build a strong shield against viruses.
“Good” bacteria help you digest food, maintain the integrity of your gut lining (so you don’t have leaky gut), crowd out harmful pathogens and help your immune system distinguish between friend and foe. The microbiome is constantly changing, responding dramatically to the shifts in your diet, stress and lifestyle. Dietary changes do not just alter the composition of your gut bacteria but they also affect which of your disease-fighting genes get turned on or off which will influence your susceptibility to infection.
What you eat is incredibly important to your overall health. Think about it, is it cold and flu season or is it overeating, processed sugar, over-indulging in alcohol season?
The bacteria in your gut protects you by regulating your immune system to make sure you have the appropriate response when you encounter a virus. The strength of your immune system is dependent on the diversity of your microbiome. Those who tend to get sick often or who get severe viral infections often lack certain helpful bacterial species that are essential for regulating their immune response.
Scientists also know that specific bacteria in your intestines play a role in promoting health or promoting illness. Just as Escherichia coli helps synthesize Vitamin K, Akkermansia helps regulate glucose control. Pseudomonas aeruginosa overgrowth can cause ear infections. Therefore, proper ratios of both good and bad bacteria will facilitate a health gut microbiome and boost your immune system.
How Can You Keep Your Microbiome Robust?
There are several ways you can do this. First and foremost, only take antibiotics if it is necessary. Antibiotics not only kill the bad stuff but also kill the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which will allow for the overgrowth of bad bacteria. It takes your gut microbiome seven months to recover from one round of oral antibiotics, and that is assuming you are doing all the right things to help it along.
Secondly, eat foods that are high in fiber. The good bacteria love to feed on fiber, which will help make them more robust. Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes all contain wonderful fiber. We know that if the good bacteria, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is robust, you will have a significant decreased risk of getting sick from a virus if you come in contact with it.
Thirdly, eat foods high in polyphenols. Polyphenols reduce inflammation and protect us from oxidative stress. Polyphenols also help good bacteria such as Akkermensia grow. Foods high in polyphenols include blueberries, cherries, pomegranates, blackberries and spinach.
Reduce your sugar intake along with your alcohol intake. Sugar is inflammatory and depletes your body of vital nutrients such as magnesium. Alcohol can decrease the intestinal barrier contributing to leaky gut.
Lastly, reduce processed foods. We all know this by now. Processed foods are fake foods and lead to inflammation and chronic disease.
How I Can Help as a Nutrition Therapist
Are you someone who seems to catch everything? Are you fatigued, have digestive issues or allergies? Microbiome mapping will show us exactly what is going on with your gut microbiome and whether it is robust, overgrown, depleted or compromised with pathogens, parasites, worms or fungi.
We can work together to balance your microbiome, increase your immune system, reduce inflammation, reduce allergies, improve digestive function, reverse chronic illness, and get you on a path to a vibrant, healthy life.