If you’re reading this, you might be battling the sniffles, or gearing up for cold and flu season, and looking for ways to boost your immune system. But first, it’s important to understand what the immune system actually is and how it works.
Basically, your immune system is the body’s defense against infection and other invaders. The immune system—a network of cells, tissues, and organs—attacks harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. In some cases, the immune system can also attack the body’s own cells if they have become dangerous due to an illness, like cancer.
When your immune system is running normally, you’re healthy and feel great. It’s when the system becomes compromised—you’re stressed, overtired, or your body came into contact with a pathogen it’s not familiar with—that you get sick and find yourself here, looking for ways to boost your immune system quickly.
Read on to learn about the best vitamins, foods, and lifestyle choices that can help boost your immune system.
6 Immune System Boosters
Sure, it may sound boring, but eating a balanced diet is key to keeping your immune system healthy. The next time you hit the grocery store, be sure to load up on these foods, which are good sources of immune-boosting nutrients. And in some cases, it might be worth considering a vitamin supplement.
Yes, you often associate oranges with high levels of vitamin C, but strawberries actually offer more of the disease-fighting vitamin—85 milligrams per cup versus 70 milligrams in an orange. But why is vitamin C the go-to vitamin when you feel the sniffles coming on? In the simplest terms: It helps with the production of white blood cells, which fight disease, says Natalie Rizzo, a registered dietitian in New York City.
That said, taking as much vitamin C (either in your diet or as a supplement) as possible won’t make you invincible.
“Because it’s a water-soluble vitamin, any extra—more than 400 milligrams a day—is flushed out,” says Rizzo.
We get that these guys aren’t for everyone, but to really give your immune system a kick in the pants, try oysters. They pack 74 miligrams of zinc per serving; that’s more than any other food (other good sources include red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, and fortified breads and cereals). While vitamin C is more of a preventive nutrient, says Rizzo, research has shown that zinc can help you kick that cold more quickly (1).
“It’s really interesting that people take mega doses of vitamin C when they get sick, but zinc has really been shown to shorten the duration of a cold,” says Rizzo.
Zinc helps strengthen your immune system much like vitamin C, but it helps boost the production of T-cells, which are a type of white blood cell.
While the research is still fairly new, it’s becoming more evident that the probiotics found in fermented foods, such as kefir, have significant ties to a healthy immune system. And that’s because much of the immune system seems to be located in the gut (2).
“Kefir is a fermentable yogurt, with almost the same amount of protein and calcium,” says Rizzo. “But during fermentation, it creates probiotics that are good for the gut. And the better you treat your gut, the healthier you’re going to be.”
Sunflower Seeds (and Sunflower Butter!)
One of the best sources of the fat-soluble vitamin E is sunflower seeds (talk about tiny but mighty). Not only does vitamin E help the body boost the immune system to fight infection, it also serves as an antioxidant.
Antioxidants, found in many fruits and vegetables, help protect the cells from damage by free radicals, which are formed when the body converts food to energy. Free radicals also come from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
There’s a reason you keep Grandma’s chicken soup recipe on hand for when you come down with a cold or the flu, but it’s not for the reason you think. Chicken soup isn’t the cure-all people make it out to be, but it is rehydrating. When you’re under the weather, you need fluids and in some cases, electrolytes to replace the ones lost through vomiting or diarrhea.
“Being hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your health,” says Rizzo.
Hands down, turmeric is one of the best anti-inflammatory herbs. Its main ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to fight the effects of chronic inflammation, says Rizzo. Why is that important for your immune system? When the body is sick or injured, it’s inflamed, and that’s what kick-starts the immune system’s response.
While you can add turmeric spice to foods—1/2 to 1 teaspoon may have certain digestive and cognitive benefits—most researchers study the effects of turmeric extract (found in supplements), which is about 95 percent of the curcumin compound (3).
Other Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Making healthy lifestyle choices—outside of your diet—is another way to keep your immune system on the up and up.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. But when you burn the midnight oil too often, your body doesn’t have those precious hours of sleep to help repair and rebuild. And that’s when you can become sick, says Rizzo. Research has shown that sleep plays a role in strengthening the immune system (4).
Aim for at least seven to nine hours of shuteye per night.
Engaging in regular exercise—daily walks or runs, weight-lifting, yoga, swimming—is good for your all-around health. It helps keep your weight in check and your heart healthy. That said, researchers aren’t sure if or how exercise increases immunity to certain illnesses. There are theories, but none of them have been proven (5).
Like staying active, being smoke-free promotes your overall health, says Rizzo. Studies have also found that cigarette smoke has negative effects on the immune system and are associated with chronic illnesses like Crohn’s disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (6).
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Too much booze has been shown to depress the immune system, making you more prone to illness and disease. What’s more, Rizzo points out, is that recent research found that people who drank more than the recommended amount—one drink per day for women and two per day for men—had shorter lifespans (7).
When was the last time you thought about the bacteria in your stomach? Probably the last time you came down with a case of food poisoning, right? Well, it’s time to start thinking about what’s going on in your gut more often. That’s because science is unlocking secrets about the powerful connection between the health of the bacteria in your digestive system and your general health.
Good news: If you follow a few simple rules, you can boost your good bacteria (also called probiotics), which may lead to a stronger immune system, a trimmer waistline and improved digestion.
Don’t worry, learning about probiotics is way more fun than coming down with food poisoning.
What Are Probiotics and How Do They Work?
Think of your digestive system as a game of checkers. Let’s say you’re playing as the black pieces. Those pieces are the good guys. The red pieces, by default, are the bad guys. And so greater the number of black pieces and the fewer the number of red pieces on the board, the greater the chance you have of pulling off a win.
The same goes for your digestive health. Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, are the good guys. The more you have—and the less bad bacteria you have—the more likely you might be to have success with weight loss, digestive issues and other health problems.
You’re probably most familiar with probiotics because of yogurt. Bacteria helps yogurt ferment, giving it that slightly sour yet pleasant taste. Though there are numerous types of probiotics (bifidobacteria, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus coagulans and other fun names), yogurt manufacturers commonly use the lactobacillus strain in production.
That said, yogurt isn’t the only game in town when it comes to foods with good sources of the beneficial bacteria. Here are some more probiotic foods you may not know.
6 Best Probiotic Foods
Okay, okay, so it’s also referred to as “drinkable yogurt,” but you should include this probiotic-loaded beverage in your diet even if you already eat yogurt. First off, you don’t need a spoon to consume it, and it’s a great base for shakes and smoothies (just substitute it for milk). Second, like milk and yogurt, it’s also a good source of calcium and protein. Oh, and look for unsweetened varieties. “Some kefirs are super high in sugar, so choose one with as little sugar as possible,” says Abby Langer, a registered dietitian and owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto. “Also, choose one with a high probiotic count—the highest one you can find.”
This fermented Korean condiment is made from cabbage and can contain ginger, garlic, chile peppers, radishes and other ingredients. Some varieties are spicier than others, but you’ll always taste a tanginess, which comes from the fermentation. Kimchi may help contribute to weight loss and delay the effects of aging, the latter likely due to its antioxidant properties, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology (1). Try some chopped and scrambled into eggs or atop steak tacos.
Like kimchi, this condiment also derives its probiotic powers from fermented cabbage. It’s important, however, that you’re eating real-deal sauerkraut, not the shelf-stable supermarket kind in a can. “Unfortunately, the pasteurization process kills off good bacteria,” Langer says. “Try to find fresh sauerkraut. It’s usually sold in delis.” Yes, kraut is great with bratwurst, but it also works well with the flavors of lighter dishes, such as roasted turkey wraps, grilled chicken or homemade coleslaw. Bonus: Two tablespoons of the stuff contain only five calories.
This bubbly, buzz-worthy drink is technically a fermented tea that’s made with probiotic strains of bacteria and yeasts. Sounds gross? The flavor is actually mellower than you might think and, when chilled, it’s refreshing. The antioxidants within kombucha may have the ability to fight bad bacteria, according to a 2016 lab study published by Indian researchers (2), though more research is needed to prove an effect in humans.
You know this stuff as the primary flavoring to miso soup, but the fermented (seeing a trend here?) soybean paste tastes great in other dishes too. One warning: “If you add it to boiling water, the heat will destroy the good bacteria. Instead, let the water cool a bit before adding the miso if you’re making soup, or use miso paste in salad dressings and other cold sauces,” Langer says. Not only does miso contain probiotics, but soy products in general may help battle diabetes. Study participants who took in more isoflavones, a compound found in miso, tofu and soy milk, had an 11 percent less risk of Type 2 diabetes than participants who ate little, found a 2016 Harvard study (3).
If you think you’re the master of all things fermented foods, if you believe that there’s no funky-tasting flavor you can’t handle, well, then natto is for you. This fermented bean dish looks a little like it’s been covered in stringy snot and smells a lot like stinky feet. It’s loaded with probiotics, but it’s most definitely an acquired taste.
Aside from fermented foods, probiotics can also be found these days in packaged snacks like granola, popcorn and chocolate, as well as in beverages like sparkling water and tea. Unless the probiotic quantity is listed on the nutrition label, however, it’s difficult to determine the potential health benefits of probiotic-enhanced foods and drinks. Probiotic supplements and foods naturally rich in probiotics are likely a surer bet.
Other surprising places probiotics are popping up include face creams, body lotions and deodorants. While there is evidence that probiotic-enhanced skincare products can help restore balance and promote the growth of good bacteria on the skin, the jury is still out on the benefits of probiotic deodorants.
When Should You Take Probiotic Supplements?
The study of probiotics is still evolving in the scientific community, and you won’t find a daily recommended value on your cup of yogurt any time soon either. So until researchers have a better understanding of these beneficial bacteria, don’t put your digestive system under duress eating mounds of fermented foods. Just try to eat a little more. All the foods above aren’t just great sources of probiotics, they’re also just generally great for you.
That said, if you’re suffering from digestive issues, need additional help losing weight or are worried about your immune system, the topic of taking a probiotic supplement may come up. Before doing so, please check with your doctor before purchasing any product. The FDA has not approved any probiotics for preventing or treating any health problem, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And, because there are so many different strains of even the same type of bacteria, it’s tough to tell which supplements are most effective.
“Because probiotics work beyond the stomach, you also want to ensure that the probiotic you choose has been formulated to survive the acidic environment of the stomach so they make it to the right location in the gut to have an effect,” says Langer.
Your doctor will know best.
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Fermented foods seem to have become quite popular in recent months. Whether you’ve heard about the benefits of drinking vinegars or are simply wondering why yogurt is such a hot option for breakfast, you most likely want to know what all the fuss is about. People are clamoring for fermented products lately because these foods and drinks are excellent sources of probiotics.
For those a bit shaky on what probiotics are exactly, it is best to think of them as good bacteria for your gut (1). While you might associate bacteria with germs and other sickness-causing agents, the truth is there are many bacterias your body requires for healthy functions. Probiotics help to encourage digestion by affecting the nerves that control the various muscle movements in the stomach and intestines, keeping a person regular and comfortable (2).
If you feel like you’re ready to explore these options for yourself, you will be happy to learn there are several simple ways to get started. Take a look at these tips on how to work fermented foods into your diet and see which tactics work for your lifestyle.
Do you like yogurt? If you do, then you’re already on your path to including more fermented products in your diet. The cultures found in dairy products like kefir and yogurt can provide your body with the right daily dose of probiotics to encourage a happy gut. Start your morning right by grabbing a bowl of yogurt and topping it with your favorite crunchy granola and fresh fruit slices. You might even enjoy the experience so much that you forget you’re treating your body to a healthy meal.
While dairy cultures are excellent fermented products to include in your daily meals, there are a number of people who cannot eat dairy. For those who are lactose intolerant or vegan, there are other avenues to explore. Coconut yogurt cultures can offer all the digestive power offered by dairy without the discomfort or bloating.
Yogurt is the centerpiece ingredient for fermented breakfast options, but there are less obvious ways to include probiotics in your meals. Plenty of people enjoy eating quick meals like sandwiches and salads for lunch. For those who want to work more probiotics into lunchtime, consider adding fermented pickles to the mix.
By themselves, pickles do not offer a ton of nutritional value. Though tasty, these briny cucumbers are more for flavor and crunch than anything else. Still, eating a pickle on or with your lunch has been reported to increase the good bacteria in your gut and promote easy digestion (3). While pickles might be an acquired taste, the simple health benefits can make them a lot more palatable.
Speaking of acquired tastes, sauerkraut is another great option when it comes to eating more fermented foods. Since it is made from cabbage, sauerkraut contains a ton of fiber. This by itself is enough to encourage a healthier digestive system (4). Due to the fermented nature of sauerkraut, it also enhances the digestive experience by introducing healthy probiotics into the mix.
It is also important to note that introducing too much sauerkraut to your system at once can have a negative impact on the way your stomach feels. You don’t want your stomach to turn from the experience, so it is best to use sauerkraut sparingly at first. Increase how much of it you use with time and you’re likely to feel the benefits in your stomach in no time at all.
Switch to Sourdough
Finally, you can do wonders for your diet by switching what kind of bread you eat at home. Unlike other options found at your local grocery store, sourdough bread packs a ton of digestive benefits into one loaf. This type of bread is made with only water, salt and flour, with the rest of the process being more about fermentation than anything else. While sourdough has long been considered a great option for people having trouble achieving glucose homeostasis (5), there are many who are now seeing the digestive benefits.
The longer the dough has been fermenting, the better it will be for your gut. Instead of opting for whole wheat or white, see how using long-fermented sourdough can transform your meals.
Get creative with the way you infuse fermented foods into your day. While you might not want to eat a sauerkraut and pickle sandwich on sourdough with a side of yogurt, you can easily find more practical ways to ingest these helpful sources of probiotics.
Got diarrhea? Take a probiotic. Irritated skin or acne? Again, probiotics. Bad breakup? Why not try a probiotic!?
There’s no denying that probiotics have a cult-like following. They’ve been taking over the supplement aisle for the past few years, thanks to a surge in research revealing the massive extent to which the health of our gut microbiome influences pretty much every other aspect of our health—from our mood to our digestion to our weight to our skin. Problems in these areas may arise when the “bad” bacteria in our gut start to outnumber the “good.” But some studies—and plenty of anecdotal accounts—suggest taking a probiotic supplement can ease health woes such as diarrhea, yeast infections, urinary tract infections and weight gain by fortifying your gut with good bugs and restoring balance.
But now, probiotics are extending their reach beyond supplements and into the snack, beauty and pet food aisles. Which begs the question, do you really need a probiotic face cream or granola? Or, uh…does your dog? Here, we reveal some of the more surprising new places that probiotics are popping up—and whether they live up to the hype.
Consuming probiotics via food used to mean opting for naturally fermented stuff like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yogurt. But now, they can be found in everything from granola to popcorn to chocolate. Essentially, probiotics can be added to anything edible.
Nearly all probiotic-enhanced packaged foods today contain GanedenBC30, which is a proprietary preparation of the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans (1). The good news: Research has shown that this type of probiotic protects itself in a spore-like casing that allows it to withstand (at least to some extent) the manufacturing process, time spent on a shelf and the acidic conditions of your stomach (2). Meaning, it actually stands a chance of reaching and colonizing your gut.
But does it help you once it gets there? After all, not every probiotic strain treats every ailment. Some studies suggest GanedenBC30 has promising digestive benefits and can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including gas and bloating (3) and diarrhea (4). But still, it’s very difficult to know just how beneficial these probiotic-enhanced foods actually are in reality, says Jen McDaniel, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A lot of that depends on whether there’s enough present in the food to begin with (1 billion CFUs is a good minimum number to aim for, she says). But because many foods don’t list a probiotic quantity on the nutrition label, it’s often a bit of a gamble.
Probiotic Waters and Teas
When you think of a probiotic-packed drink, you probably think of kombucha, which naturally contains gut-friendly bugs. But now, you can find probiotics in beverages like flat and sparkling waters, and even in tea bags.
Like probiotic-enhanced foods, many (if not all) of these drinks contain the probiotic strain GanedenBC30. So the benefits are likely to be the same. However, based on our research (aka scrutinizing lots of labels), bottled drinks are more likely to list the number of probiotic CFUs on the package than foods or tea bags, with counts ranging from 2 to 4 billion CFUs at time of manufacture. If you do opt for one of these drinks, just be sure it’s not loaded with sugars, artificial sweeteners or any other questionable ingredients that could counter the probiotic health benefits.
Bottom line: Both foods and drinks containing added probiotics could potentially be beneficial, but probiotic supplements and foods or drinks naturally rich in probiotics likely offer more bang for your buck, says McDaniel.
Probiotic Face Creams and Body Lotions
Turns out, our skin has its own microbiome that’s teeming more than 1 trillion bacteria, many of which are beneficial and help keep your skin clear, vibrant and healthy. But if your skin’s microbiome is out of whack (say, from harsh cleansers or a poor diet), this can compromise your skin’s natural barrier, which could result in painful and embarrassing skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema, according to Whitney Bowe, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center and the author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin (5).
Bowe believes that increasing the variety of healthy bacteria species on the skin can help reduce inflammation and minimize these conditions, and that one way to do this is via quality probiotic-enhanced skincare products (6). A few beneficial bugs to look for in skincare products: Streptococcus thermophilus, which may help retain moisture (7); Bifidobacterium, which may help reduce skin sensitivity (8); and Lactobacillus plantarum, which may help prevent acne (9). Just make sure that the other ingredients in these products are gentle and preferably natural—no harsh chemicals, which will only compromise your skin’s barrier further.
So, if probiotics are good for your face, are they good for your pits? There are a bunch of new probiotic deodorants on the market promising fresh underarms without the chemicals. How it supposedly works: The good bacteria in the deodorant fights off the bad, odor-causing bacteria in your armpits, leaving you fresh as a daisy (or something like that). Unfortunately, there are no studies proving this benefit, and the strains of bacteria used in these deodorants (typically Lactobacillus acidophilus) aren’t naturally found on the skin—so, odor experts say, their deodorizing effects would likely be very short-lived (10). And who wants to reapply five times a day? If you’re looking to use a more natural deodorant, that’s cool…there’s just no obvious reason to make it one that contains probiotics.
Probiotic Supplements for Dogs
Probiotics for dogs are a thing now, too. And the research is promising. In a 2016 study, dogs given a probiotic supplement containing various strains of Lactobacillus bacteria maintained their appetite and recovered faster from a bout of acute diarrhea than dogs given a placebo (11). There were also fewer pathogens in the feces of the probiotic-treated dogs, making them less likely to pass on this harmful bacteria to other dogs. In another study, dogs with diarrhea that received a specific strain of Bifidobacterium animalis recovered faster and were less likely to need antibiotic treatment compared to the placebo pups (12). Many vets agree that probiotics are harmless for dogs and likely offer some digestive benefits (13).
If you are looking for a product that can help promote a strong digestive systems and at the same time enhance your immune system, probiotics
are the answer.
One of the best supplements to be taken on a regular basis, probiotics are dietary supplements that provide beneficial bacteria which can prevent gastrointestinal infections and convert sugars and carbohydrates into lactic acid. Found in foods such as yogurt and dairy products, probiotics are known as the “good bacteria” and can fortify the immune system as well as help lowering cholesterol, managing lactose intolerance, lowering blood pressure, preventing colon cancer and reducing inflammation.
Probiotics are live microorganisms very sensitive to high temperature. The majority of products must be kept refrigerated in order to maintain high potency. During the summer months, hot temperatures may a problem for probiotic products but shelf stable probiotics are also available. Although shelf stable probiotics do not have the same potency as live products, you can still benefits from these products as they contain good amount of probiotics bacteria in their formulas.
Probiotics contain many different stains and they provide different benefits. Here’s a quick list on how to choose a probiotic if you are looking to improve you immune system or to enhance your digestive system.
The coconut’s status as one of those elusive “good fats” has skyrocketed in recent years, with the tropical stone fruit being repurposed as a dairy substitute (think coconut milk and butter), beauty product (hair masks, skin lotion) and household cleaner among countless other uses. Coconut oil even has an SPF of 8! Check out some additional ways that the coconut can be added to your health, beauty and healing regimens.
According to many studies, lauric acid—a protective type of fatty acid—has been linked with improved cholesterol levels and heart health. Because coconuts contain minerals important for circulation and controlling blood flow, coconut milk is also useful for lowering blood pressure and keeping blood vessels flexible, elastic and free from plaque buildup.
The Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) in coconuts can help rid your gut of harmful microorganisms. Coconut oil, which can be used in baking and as an alternative to butter and oil for sautéing, is considered an anti-inflammatory food. Those anti-inflammatory benefits help heal injury to the digestive tract in patients who suffer from diseases like Crohn’s. Finally, coconut fats fight candida yeast that lives within the digestive tract.
It’s no wonder that coconut products make the perfect natural additions to add to your beauty regimen. Naturally antibacterial and antifungal, coconut oil is an excellent body moisturizer and it penetrates hair better than other “typical” hair conditioners. However, be careful not to overdo it when applying it to your skin. Coconut oil is comedogenic, meaning it may clog pores.
Monolaurin and Monocaprin are the naturally occurring fatty acids in coconuts than can boost the immune system. For an example of what they can do, consider that Monolaurin is found in breast milk as a way for mothers to boost the immune strength of babies.
Compared to the long-chain fatty acids found in most of your diet, the medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are metabolized a bit differently, heading from your digestive tract straight to the liver. There they are converted to energy which helps nourish and rejuvenate the body.
Winter is the time of the year we talk about our immune system. Everyone wants to have stronger immunity
during the cold months in order to prevent sickness, particularly the common cold and flu. One important element is often overlooked as an immunity enhancer, but it shouldn’t as, this mineral plays an essential role on our immune system. We are talking about zinc.
Zinc is important to the body in many different ways but it’s known to keep the immune system strong as well as fight infection, heal wounds, and support normal growth. While zinc deficiency occurs frequently in developing countries, in the U.S. it’s quite rare since most diets provide more than the recommended dietary allowance.
Zinc supplements have become a popular treatment for the common cold and studies have found that zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of cold by as much as 50%. A variety of zinc lozenges are available and people can take them whenever needed without any major side effects. Zinc helps and heal wounds.
The immune system normally works well against disease-causing microorganisms but eventually, particularly during the winter months, it may fail or is unable to stop germs that make you sick. Certain vitamins as well as herbal preparations may help enhance your immune response and zinc is definitely one of these “helpers” that can boost your natural reaction.
It’s important to remember that other factors play an important role on our immunity such as age, diet, exercise, psychological stress, among other things. Overall, healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand.
How much zinc should one take? The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) includes the zinc you get from both the food you eat and any supplements you take. Women should take 8 mg/day, increasing to 11mg/day when pregnant and 12mg/day when breastfeeding. Men should take 11mg/day.
Learn how the body’s immune system is related to stress and digestive health, and how the three systems are all interrelated. You will discover how they can be supported with lifestyle choices.
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Probiotics are the living bacteria in our bodies (the good kind!) that help keep the bad bacteria in check. In this episode, Dr. Wolf explains how probiotics contribute to digestive health, and the other ways they function in the body.
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Probiotics are not all the same. These amazing products contain different strains that can provide different health benefits. In order to help you undertand this a little better, we have prepared a quick list of 3 top strains of probiotics
1. Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Perhaps the most important strain of the lactobacillus species, L. acidophilus is known to keep the balance of good vs. bad bacteria and enhance the immune system. A common ingredient in fermented dairy products such as yogurt, this bacterium colonizes most densely in the small intestine, where it helps maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall, ensure proper nutrient absorption, and support healthy overall digestive function. L. acidophilus is also known to boost immunity, help relief of cramping, gas, and diarrhea, as well as curbing the growth of Candida in women.
2. Lactobacillus Plantarum
Lactobacillus plantarum is considered by many as one of the most beneficial bacterias in your body. Known for its ability to produce hydrogen peroxide, which the body uses as a defense against bacteria consumed in food, L. plantarum survives in the stomach for a long time and performs many functions that help regulate immunity and control inflammation in the gut. L. plantarum can quickly digest protein, helping to prevent food allergies, and is known for its ability to absorb and maintain important nutrients such as brain-friendly omega- 3 fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants.
3. Bifidobacterium Longum
Known to support overall digestion, detoxification and immune health, bifidobacterium longum is one of the most common strains of bifidobacteria found in the GI tract. It is known to break down carbohydrates and to scavenge and neutralize everyday toxins found in the gut, and has been associated with improving lactose tolerance and preventing diarrhea, food allergies, and the proliferation of pathogens.
balance the spectrum of live organisms that naturally colonize the human GI tract. Probiotic bacteria is essential for healthy digestion, ensures the intestinal lining stays up to par and aids in the detoxification process.
Immune Support – Did you know that 80 percent of your immune system is located within your digestive system? Simply put: a healthy gut equals a healthy you! Without a good probiotic, your body cannot absorb fiber, sugars or starches. The good bacteria in your GI tract converts carbs into energy and nutrients for your body.
Childhood Allergies – A recent study found that women who took probiotics during pregnancy had a 30 percent reduction in the instance of childhood eczema (an early sign of allergies) in their infants.
Weight Control – Stanford University researchers found that obese people had different gut bacteria than those whose weights fell in the “normal” range. Weight factors including metabolism, hormones and inflammation are all influenced by gut health andprobiotics can help restore this system back to balance.
Women’s Health – Probiotics play an important role in maintaining balance and preventing bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections in women. Also, L. acidophilius can not only help prevent infection but can help manage active ones.
Urinary Health – If you suffer from frequent UTI then you need a probiotic, stat! The good bacteria may help fight off bad bacteria that can invade your urinary tract.
Infant Health – Colicky babies can benefit from a probiotic. According to Italian researchers, infants given probiotics during the first three months of life appear to have fewer bouts of colic. And it can also help with constipation and acid reflux in babies.
Filed Under: Immunity
at 8:00 am | By: Jessica Justh
With winter comes cold and flu season. Although many people associate illness with schools, workplaces and crowd-filled restaurants, many illnesses are actually caused by chronic stress which suppresses the immune system
and affects the body’s ability to ward off foreign invaders known as antigens.
Your immune system is made up of billions of cells that travel throughout the body, with the most common being the two types of white blood cells – lymphocytes and phagocytes. The stress hormone corticosteroid can lower the number of lymphocytes and make you vulnerable to many forms of winter illnesses. Even worse, unhealthy coping strategies that we associate with the winter holidays, such as overeating and drinking alcohol, can lower your resistance even further.
Here are some tips to help curb your stress and keep calm this cold and flu season:
It’s free and contagious (in the good kind of way). While smiling comes naturally when you’re happy, studies suggest that smiling when you’re stressed can activate areas of the brain associated with reward and triggers release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Plus, you know what they say: “laughter is the best medicine!”
Get moving! Research has shown that the release of endorphins during exercise can help you reduce stress, and can even help with depression, anxiety, ADHD & other mental health diseases.
Listening to music reduces anxiety and stress by quieting the mind and relaxing muscles. Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that music can even change brain function to the same extent as medication.
Meditation is one of the most popular ways to achieve mindfulness. Numerous studies have shown that the benefits of meditation rival those of some antidepressants.
5. Get Outside
The concept of forest therapy – sometimes called forest bathing – has gained traction in recent years, as a natural tonic against the myriad of distractions and accelerated pace of modern life. Research has shown that spending as little as three hours (without distraction) in a natural setting such as a forest helps lower blood pressure, pulse rate and the stress hormone salivary cortisol.
Styles including yin and restorative yoga are especially great for letting go of stress and everyday worries. For instant relief, try putting your legs up the wall, shutting your eyes and focusing on breathing for 10 minutes.
7. Just Breathe
Pranayama, or the yogic art of breathing, can calm you down by stimulating the parasympathetic reaction.
You get it. Vitamin C is good for you. Diets rich in vitamin C have been associated with everything from improved wound healing to reduced risk of cancer. Then there are the immune-boosting properties we’ve heard about for ages (1).
But if you don’t like oranges or your stomach can’t tolerate citrus, then you’re out of luck. Right?
Not so fast.
When it comes to vitamin C, citrus is only half of the equation, says Becky Kerkenbush, a clinical dietitian at the Watertown Regional Medical Center in Watertown, Wisconsin.
There are plenty of other natural sources of vitamin C out there to help you reach the recommended allowance of 75 milligrams for adult women (2). “You don’t have to rely just on citrus,” Kerkenbush says.
Move over OJ. Here are five of Kerkenbush’s favorite natural sources of vitamin C, plus tips on how to shop for and cook each one.
60 mg of vitamin C in ½ cup steamed broccoli
Packing in almost as much vitamin C as an orange, broccoli also provides vitamin K, folate, fiber, vitamin A and B vitamins, Kerkenbush says.
While perusing the produce section, Kerkenbush recommends looking for broccoli that has a firm stem and a crown that’s tight and springy, not limp. It should keep for a week in your crisper drawer, she says.
Serve it raw or roasted. You can also enjoy it in a stir-fry, steamed or boiled.
Just don’t overcook it, Kerkenbush warns. It reduces the health benefits. “If you boil it to the point where the water turns green, that’s the nutrients leaking out,” she says.
1 cup chopped green pepper provides 120 mg of vitamin C
Peppers provide your daily dose of vitamin C (and then some!), as well as vitamin A and fiber.
Look for peppers that are firm and free of blemishes or bruises, Kerkenbush says. Store unwashed peppers in a plastic bag for four to five days in your veggie drawer. Add liberally to salads or sautés, or stuff them with cooked quinoa, black beans, corn, garlic powder, cumin powder, chili powder and salsa. Bake and top with lime juice, avocado, nonfat Greek yogurt (in place of sour cream) or cilantro.
55 mg of vitamin C in 1 cup cooked cauliflower
Like broccoli, you want to look for cauliflower that’s firm to the touch, Kerkenbush says. Also keep an eye out for yellow or green spots—these are a sign the plant is immature, which means it won’t taste as good, she says.
You can roast it, steam it or microwave it, Kerkenbush suggests. Or, if you’d like, you can use mashed cauliflower as a replacement for traditional pizza crust. This ups the pie’s vitamin C and fiber count while lowering its calorie count, she says. Cauliflower is also a good source of folate and vitamin B6.
1 large baked potato with skin provides 29 mg of vitamin C
Potatoes are another vegetable that can be mashed, roasted, steamed or zapped in the microwave. While potatoes provide a lot of vitamin C, thiamin, folate, niacin, magnesium, potassium and fiber, you want to go easy on the toppings to avoid overloading your spud with extra fat and calories.
Nonfat Greek yogurt is a great replacement for sour cream, Kerkenbush says. She also likes to use salsa instead of margarine or butter. “Picking a smaller potato will help you from overdoing the toppings,” she adds.
Look for potatoes that are firm to the touch, Kerkenbush recommends. Store in a cool, dry and dark location to maximize their shelf life. (Hot tip: Don’t store potatoes near onions. Kerkenbush says both ingredients emit a natural gas that will cause the other to spoil faster.)
1 medium kiwi fruit contains about 70 mg vitamin C
These teeny fruits pack almost all your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. They also contain vitamin K, folate and fiber.
“You can eat it right out of its shell or slice it up and put it on salads,” Kerkenbush says. “Just don’t eat the skin.”
When kiwi shopping, look for fruits that are brown and fuzzy with no dark spots, mold or wrinkles. “If it’s too wrinkly, it will be overripe and not taste as sweet,” Kerkenbush says.
Rustic and warming are two combos you gotta love for winter recipes. This month at LuckyVitamin
we are honoring the mighty mushroom
. They have been used for centuries to fight off the flu and keep colds at bay. Head straight for your kitchen and get ready to enjoy this comforting, hearty dish and make room for the shroom!
This vegetarian, immunity boosting meal is perfect if you’re gluten-free or just trying to avoid carbs. Spaghetti squash is a great low-cal replacement for pasta and, as a bonus, is high in fiber that helps keep you feeling fuller, longer. The free-radical fighting, mineral-rich mushrooms provide a great source of selenium. Garlic is a natural immune booster with antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. Finally, parsley contains high amounts of vitamin C and B12 to help strengthen the immune system.
1 medium sized spaghetti squash
1 cup of sliced white button mushrooms
1 cups of sliced baby portabella mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp thyme
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the squash length-wise and spoon out the seeds.
- Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.
- While the squash is baking, heat oil in a skillet. Add garlic and thyme and cook for one minute. Add mushrooms and cook until soft (8 minutes).
- Once squash is done and cooled, use a fork to remove the squash in strands.
- Add squash to skillet and combine with mushroom mixture.
- Top with parmesan cheese and parsley.