Are you feeling especially run down and “blah” this winter? If you’re feeling significant fatigue, or find yourself getting sick with every new round of the “crud” that comes your way, the answer to better immune health and increased energy could come from an unexpected source: Your gut.
Aided by bile produced in your liver — which helps break down fats and improves absorption of nutrients — the digestive system is more linked with the immune system than a lot of people realize. For example, the article “Allergy and the gastrointestinal system” 70% of your entire immune system is located in the gastrointestinal system (G. Vighi, et. al., 2008)!
Pros of Probiotics
Healthy bacteria have a tremendous impact on your immune system. Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut, help your body respond to and resist the pathogens (unhealthy bacteria) that can make you sick.
Not only do they help keep the immune system from being overwhelmed when there are lots of pathogens making the rounds (like during cold and flu season), but these friendly bacteria also improve vitamin K absorption and help maintain the pH of the gut. As we noted in one of our articles “Why You Should Take Probiotics This Winter,” probiotics help schoolchildren significantly reduce their fevers and number of school days missed due to illness.
The NEW Link Between Probiotics and Brain Health!
Now there is exciting new research indicating that the benefits of probiotics go far beyond helping to prevent stuffy noses, colds and flu, and digestive complaints. Just as the gut works closely with your immune system, there is evidence that it also sends signals to the brain — and can affect mood and behavior.
In one case study, Boston-area psychiatrist James Greenblatt was able to dramatically reduce and even eliminate a young patient’s OCD and ADHD symptoms by using probiotics in conjunction with medication and psychotherapy (Gut feelings: The future of psychiatry may be inside your stomach, 2015).
Not only that, but Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease are both closely linked with gastrointestinal health — in fact, Parkinson’s may even begin in the gut.
“We have now been able to prove that the [Parkinson’s] disease process actually can travel from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system, in this case from the wall of the gut to the brain,” says Professor Jia-Yi Li, research group leader for Neural Plasticity and Repair at Lund University in Sweden. “In the longer term, this may give us new therapeutic targets to try to slow or stop the disease at an earlier stage” (Disputed theory on Parkinson’s origin strengthened, 2015).
5 Tips for Better Gut Health
Sincemuch of your immune response, brain function and overall health are so closely linked with digestive health, it makes sense to take whatever steps you can to optimize your digestive system.
- Start with a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other fiber-rich foods.
- Drink plenty of water to keep the digestive system working smoothly.
- Help your gut do its job more effectively with digestive enzymes that aid you in getting all the nutrients you can from your food.
- Increase the ratio of friendly bacteria to pathogens in your intestinal flora by adding a probiotic supplement. Our Super Probiotics, with over 5 billion viable cells, and our Ultra Probiotic Formula, with over 35 billion viable cells, both incorporate prebiotics that serve as a source of food for the probiotic bacteria and help more of them to survive.
- Whole foods and fermented foods such as unpasteurized sauerkraut and kefir can also act as probiotics to boost your immune system.
Just as the liver supports digestion, digestion in turn supports immunity and mental balance. If you want to have a better chance of getting through cold and flu season without catching “the crud” too many times— AND get a mood boost, try adding probiotics to your health regimen today!