Why probiotics are so effective in preventing cold and flu

New York Times best-selling author and digestive care expert, Brenda Watson on why you should look to your gut health to fight cold and flu season.
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For those of you who don't know, probiotics are the good bacteria that keep our gut healthy. Naturally grown in the intestinal tract, they aid in the nourishment and defense of the whole body, not just the digestive tract.

In fact, inside each of us is about 100 trillion bacteria, most of which reside in the gut. This is 10 times the number of cells in our body, so think of probiotics as your own personal health army. And while these powerful immune boosters are added to many foods now on the market, the high heat levels used in cooking and pasteurization often render them ineffective. For this reason you're best to invest in a daily probiotic supplement.

When you have an abundance of probiotic bacteria in your gut, it's harder for the pathogenic bacteria, that comes with a cold or flu, to take hold. Probiotics also help the body to produce certain vitamins that help keep us strong and they fight viruses on three different levels:

1. While the virus is still in your intestinal tract, good bacteria surround and neutralize the virus.

2. The good bacteria form a barrier along your intestinal lining to prevent the virus from passing through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream.

3. If the virus gets through one and two, the friendly bacteria actually communicate with your body to produce substances that neutralize the virus before it causes damage. 

Supplementing with probiotics is the easiest way to build up your good bacteria and keep your immune system strong all year long.


There are a lot of products on the market. Here are some things to look for when choosing a supplement:

1. High culture count The culture count refers to the total amount of live bacterial culture in a single serving. Some people may need a higher amount depending on age or health status. A dose of 50 billion per day is perfect for enhancing immunity and overall health.

2. Number of strains There are more than 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Look for the naturally occurring strains like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. A good way to remember is that the L strains are good for the little (small) intestine and the B strains are good for the big (large) intestine or colon. It’s also important to get a variety of strains because each person’s body has a different bacterial footprint and utilizes some bacterial strains better than others. Cover all the bases with one supplement that with eight to 10 different strains for best results.

3. Protected capsule Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to be effective. If they never make it through the stomach acid, they won’t do you any good. Delayed-release capsules are enteric coated to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestine where the pH is more alkaline and where they're needed most.

4. Potency at time of expiration Any probiotic is fresh when manufactured, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date. Make sure the label states that the potency is guaranteed at expiry.


Taking a supplement daily will strengthen your immune system but, if you've already got a cold, add these tips into your routine to minimize your symptoms:

•    Wash your hands regularly •    Get plenty of sleep •    Drink lots of water •    Eat a healthy diet of whole foods like fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds and lean meats. (A diet based on whole foods delivers the vitamins, minerals and fibre your body needs) •    Avoid sugar, since sugar in any form quickly suppresses the immune system by paralyzing white blood cells •    Supplement with a good multivitamin and a probiotic •    Reduce and manage stress

Keeping healthy is all about being proactive and probiotics go a long way to help keep your immune system strong all year long.

For over 20 years, Brenda Watson has dedicated her career to helping people achieve vibrant, lasting health through improved digestive function. A dynamic health advocate, New York Times best-selling author, and PBS health educator, she is among the foremost authorities in North America on optimum nutrition, internal cleansing, and digestion. She is also the founder of Renew Life formulas.


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