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Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter tune-up – how to get healthy and stay healthy

One way to get and stay healthy is to make sure that your intestinal tract has the right organisms in it.[i] Most of us have been given antibiotics at one time or another – often in our infancy, because we kept getting those pesky ear infections. As it turns out, our intestinal bacterial population is pretty well determined by the age of 2, and that population is what we live with for the rest of our lives. If the population has already been decimated by antibiotics, allowing only the more resistant (and less helpful) bacteria to survive, then we are out of luck.

But wait! What of those probiotics that we keep hearing about?

Interestingly, if we take probiotics (helpful bacteria) and prebiotics (substances that help the intestinal bacteria to flourish), we can actually prevent infections and stay healthier.[ii],[iii] We can even help bring allergies under control.[iv]

How to choose among the hundreds of offerings in health food stores and at your practitioner’s offices? Choose the ones that have GMP certification (Good Manufacturing Practices – certifying that the product is tested by an outside party, and does indeed contain what it says it contains on the label, with no added heavy metals or drugs that are not written on the label). If in doubt, check with your practitioner.

So Moms, take note: give your kids probiotics, and take some yourselves, while you are at it. Your family will be healthier this winter and all year round.

And if in spite of everything somebody gets sick anyway, consider this: Did your mother ever tell you, “feed a cold, starve a fever”? Sometimes mother knew best – as we are finding out from contemporary research.

It turns out that food intake results in stimulation of that part of the immune system which deals with viral infection, while fasting stimulates the production of those substances that deal with bacterial infection.[v]

So either way, have a healthy winter, full of love and gratitude, and good health.

[i] Pregliasco F, Anselmi G et al. A new chance of preventing winter diseases by the administration of synbiotic formulations. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep;42 Suppl 3 Pt 2:S224-33.

[iv] Kukkonen K, Savilahti E et al. Probiotics and prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides in the prevention of allergic diseases: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Jan;119(1):192-8. Epub 2006 Oct 23.

[v] Van den Brink GR, van den Boogaardt DE et al. Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever? Clin Vaccine Immunol January 2002 vol. 9 no. 1 182-183.