Are you wondering if probiotics can help you avoid the common cold and the flu this season? In some ways, the human body is like a battlefield. The immune system fights off "intruders" (free radicals) and bad bacteria to keep the body in good working order. If you're having frequent problems with poor digestion, infections, colds and the flu, it could be a sign that your immune system needs a boost. It could simply be that you have an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria in your body—more bad is present than good. A lot of the tuning up your body needs can be carried out in the digestive tract, and you can correct problems by increasing the amount of probiotics in your diet.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are organisms that help keep your system healthy. It is a substance that comes in food and supplements that you can buy at the store. It is full of good bacteria that balance out the bad bacteria in your system that can cause infections and colds. Probiotics help stimulate the enzymes that keep your digestive system working properly.
One of the most common reasons why someone might have to take a probiotic is to replace the "good flora" (bacteria) in the digestive tract that are wiped out by taking antibiotics. When taking an antibiotic, you can ask your doctor to give you a prescription for a probiotic as well to replenish your system with good bacteria. Eating yogurt for its live active cultures can also help replenish probiotics after a course of antibiotics, but sometimes yogurt isn't enough.
Benefits of Probiotics
You may wonder what's the big deal about eating a daily diet that is high in probiotics and exactly what it can do to help your body. Here are a list of a few of the benefits:
- improves and strengthens the overall immune system
- helps the body fight off colds and the flu
- helps reduce the length and occurrence of yeast infections, which are caused by an imbalance in bacteria
- prevents and treats diarrhea symptoms
- assists in the correction of digestive issues, like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- eases gastrointestinal and stomach problems
- may help treat symptoms of Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis
Foods that Contain Probiotics
You can take a probiotic supplement (found at your local drug or vitamin store or via prescription) or you can simply eat more foods that are rich in probiotics. Yogurt is one of the best choices, especially Greek yogurt -- the yeast cultures have plenty of the good bacteria that your body needs to stay healthy. Retailers also sell special probiotic-rich dairy drinks. Other foods rich in probiotics include dark chocolate, sauerkraut, miso soup, some pickles and kimchi. Try drinking Kombucha tea regularly to replenish your body with good bacteria.
If you're frequently getting sick with colds and flu, or have problems with your stomach and challenges maintaining proper digestion, it could be that your body desperately needs probiotics to help the digestive tract and boost your immune system. You'll find that adding more to your diet is as simple as picking up a spoon or a drink. Be aware that some probiotics are strong and may upset your stomach, so you may need to try a few brands of yogurt or supplements before you find one that works for you. Be sure to consult with your primary doctor before starting any new supplements and to rule out other causes behind any symptoms.