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Good Bacteria Fight the Flu

August 15, 2009 | 84,291 views

child, cold, fluBacteria present naturally in your body and sometimes found in food could keep cold and flu viruses at bay.

According to a study, young children who drank a mixture of such bacteria, known as probiotics, had fewer colds, needed fewer antibiotics, and missed fewer days of school.

Researchers have already shown that probiotics can benefit those who are ill, and the bacteria are thought to boost the immune system's response to invaders.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

For most of you reading this, cold and flu season is right around the corner, and with it will come the yearly push urging you to get a flu vaccine to stay healthy.

This year the push will be even more magnified with the exaggerated swine flu risks … and the dangerous vaccine solution … being heavily promoted.

If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be this: you have at your disposal tools to bolster your immune system and drastically reduce your risk of colds and the flu. You do not need a vaccine to do this. In fact, a vaccine could easily make your health worse.

And one of these “tools” that I urge you to look into right away is good bacteria, or probiotics.

Eighty percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, so--it makes perfect sense that probiotics would be very effective at warding off cold and flu viruses

Remember, a robust immune system is your number one defense system against ALL disease, and in order to keep your immune system in top working order you must have a healthy balance of good to bad bacteria in your gut (the optimal balance is about 85 percent “good bacteria” and 15 percent “bad”).

The researchers in this new study actually found quite significant benefits among 3- to 5-year-old children who received either a single strain or combination of probiotics twice a day for six months.

Compared to the placebo group, the single and combination probiotic groups had reduced fever by 53 percent and 73 percent respectively, decreased coughing by 41 percent and 62 percent, and reduced runny noses by 28 percent and 59 percent.

Antibiotic use was also 68 percent and 84 percent lower, respectively, which is a major gain in and of itself because antibiotics are vastly overused in children and contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Why are Probiotics so Important?

Probiotics are one of only two supplements that are recommended to all new patients who come to the Natural Health Center that I stared in 1985 (the other being an omega-3 fat supplement). It’s also one of the few supplements that I personally take every day.

In many cultures, probiotic-rich food and drinks, such as the fermented superfoods natto, kefir, lassi (an Indian yogurt drink) and sauerkraut, are an integral part of the daily diet.

If you eat a diet rich in fermented foods like these that have NOT been pasteurized (pasteurization will kill the probiotics), then you will likely enjoy great digestive, and immune system, health.

However, if you find yourself strongly drawn to processed foods or rely on mostly cooked foods, as is commonplace in the United States, the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract will have a hard time staying optimal.

This is most unfortunate because this ratio between the "good" bacteria and the other bacteria is one of the critical factors determining your optimal health, as the good bacteria are essential for:\

  • The proper development of your immune system

  • Protection against over-growth of other microorganisms that could cause disease

  • Digestion of food and absorption of nutrients

The probiotics in your gut also play a role in helping numerous bodily functions, such as:

  • Digesting and absorbing certain carbohydrates.

  • Producing vitamins, absorbing minerals and eliminating toxins.

  • Keeping bad bacteria under control.

  • Preventing allergies. Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.

  • Providing vital support to your immune system. Beneficial bacteria have a lifelong, powerful effect on your gut’s immune system and your systemic immune system as well.

Sugar is also an incredibly efficient fertilizer for growing bad bacteria and yeast in your gut, so if you indulge in a lot of it you’re fueling the bad bacteria rather than the good.

Likewise, stress, pollution, and taking antibiotics can further upset the balance in a negative way.

Since helpful bacteria are increasingly absent in most people’s diets, it is important to purposely include foods that contain live probiotic bacteria in your diet, or take a probiotic supplement -- especially since flu season is just around the corner.

Here’s What You Need to Know to Avoid the Flu This Year

Now is the time to start making healthy changes that will keep you virtually immune to cold and flu viruses. If you follow the tips I recommend, you can easily sail through each and every winter (and fall, spring and summer) without so much as a case of the sniffles.

How do I know this?

Because I have not caught the flu in over 20 years, and you can avoid it too -- without getting vaccinated -- by following these simple guidelines.

  • Optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is the likely cause of seasonal flu viruses. Getting an optimal level of vitamin D will help you fight infections of all kinds. In fact, the largest study yet of the association between vitamin D and respiratory infections found people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu.

  • Eat plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods, or take a high-quality probiotic supplement to support your digestive and immune system health.

  • Avoid or Limit Sugar. Sugar decreases the function of your immune system almost immediately and a strong immune system is key to fighting off viruses and other illness.

  • Get Enough Rest. Just like it becomes harder for you to get your daily tasks done if you're tired, if your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight off cold and flu viruses.

  • Have Tools to Address Stress. We all face some stress every day, but if stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness.

If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Meridian Tapping Technique (MTT), which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma

  • Exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads.

  • Take a good source of animal based omega-3 fats like Krill Oil, which is crucial for maintaining health.

  • Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap for this -- antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple non-toxic soap that you can switch your family to.

Also, be careful not to overdo it. Washing your hands too much can actually remove much of the protective layer on your skin and increase your chances of acquiring an infection.

[+] Sources and References

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