Power Up Your Immune System with Probiotics for
Back-To-School Health!

By - Zonya Foco, RD, CHFI, CSP

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girl blowing her noseWhen my son started back to school recently, I started thinking about last year and how so many of his fourth-grade classmates suffered multiple colds and bouts with the flu. Even though my son was exposed to the same environment every day as his classmates, he never “caught” one cold or “came down” with the flu all year. Why is that? Could eating the right food and taking the right supplements such as probiotics boost his immune system to keep him healthy? I think so! Read on to find out why.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microbes, referred to as “good germs” or “beneficial bacteria,” that when eaten in sufficient quantities, provide a health benefit. How? By helping balance bad bacteria (that we all have) with good bacteria (that we all need).

Meet the Human Microflora

Our health depends on a very “alive” and balanced microflora. The human microflora lives in the moist tissues of our eyes, nose, mouth, lungs, vagina (for women), skin and intestines. Altogether, this makes up almost three pounds per person. Microbiologists and immunologists have referred to this three-pound tissue/microflora as “the forgotten organ” that supports our immune system. Gary Huffnagle, PhD, one such microbiologist and immunologist at the University of Michigan and author of The Probiotics Revolution, says every time we go on antibiotics, it’s like taking a sledge hammer to that organ. Ouch!

Take a look at some of the health problems that could occur when our microflora has been “sledge-hammered” and is no longer alive with “good bugs”

  • Sinusitis
  • Vaginitis
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Colic
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Ulcers
  • Allergies
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Autoimmunity
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Kidney Stones

Additional health problems speculated to occur from unbalanced microflora:

  • Migraines
  • Cardiovascular Disease (high cholesterol)
  • Breast Cancer
  • Depression
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • “Old Age” syndromes

Certainly a list that gets our attention! So, be sure your healthy diet includes probiotics to keep your microflora in an optimally “active” state.

Probiotic Food Sources

yogurt in a glass cupCurrently, food that contains probiotics are primarily dairy products including yogurt and kefir (a tart drinkable style of yogurt containing beneficial yeast as well as friendly probiotic bacteria found in yogurt). Look for the label to say “live active cultures.” Kashi also offers a dry cereal called “Vive,” enriched with shelf-stable probiotics. An awesome “probiotic dessert” is vanilla yogurt (my favorite is Stoneyfield Organic) with fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries or cherries, and ground flaxseed, wheat germ or Kashi Vive cereal mixed in. This is especially advantageous to your immune system when this “probiotic dessert” replaces a bowl of ice cream! And it’s delicious enough to be completely “kid-approved!”

Probiotic Supplements

What if dairy products don’t “agree” with you or you just don’t like yogurt? What if you are facing one of the above-mentioned health conditions and you would like to seriously “rebalance” your microflora to an optimum “alive” state?

These are all good reasons to use a probiotic supplement, and there are many from which to choose. Your choice should be one that offers at least two different strains of bacteria and at least 1 billion friendly bacteria per dose. It should also include a “prebiotic” which is literally the food that allows it to grow once you ingest it. I also recommend choosing one that does not require refrigeration, is convenient to take and tastes good.

 Eden Bifa-15Five years ago, my family began taking the probiotic Bifa-15 by Eden Foods. This contains three billion bacteria, two different strains, a prebiotic, and is as delicious as candy. What’s not to love! If ever one of us needs to take an antibiotic, we take one Bifa-15 a day for 30 days. Then just two or three times a week thereafter. This is in addition to enjoying yogurt most days. From my active travel schedule to my son picking up germs at school, I truly believe taking Bifa-15 has been a key to our family’s enhanced immune system and overall good health.

Eden Foods logoClick here to learn more about Bifa-15.

Keep in mind that Eden offers my readers a 15% discount on Web orders of all their fine products—and that includes Bifa-15. Enter ZONYA in the discount code when ordering.

Perfect for Overseas Travelers

If you are heading to Mexico or other international travel, and are worried about bacteria in the water or food, beefing up on probiotics before and during your trip can be helpful in keeping travelers diarrhea at bay.

Be Patient When Adding a Probiotic Supplement

While many people report an improvement in their digestive issues within three days, something as “invisible” as boosting your immune system is harder to notice. You should also know that taking a probiotic supplement may actually give you gastric upset at first, so begin with half a dose and increase gradually.

Additional ways to support the immune system for back to school

group of four young healthy childern
  • Hydrate, starting first thing in the morning. Keep in mind that kids and adults wake up a bit dehydrated. Don’t just eat a quick breakfast and run out the door. A dry mucosa is not ideal for healthy microflora to flourish.
  • Take a multi-vitamin supplement, which includes vitamins C and D.
  • Exercise one hour a day (proven more effective than supplemental vitamin C).
  • Eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal or snack (to bathe yourself in beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants).
  • Sugar depresses your immune system, so keep sugar intake moderate by eliminating sweetened beverages and keeping sweet treats to no more than two small servings a day.
  • Similar to sugar, too many processed foods such as high-sodium processed meat and refined flour are equally disruptive to the immune system. Keep these from becoming daily staples in your diet.
  • Eat enough protein. For most of us, this isn’t a problem; however, some children, elderly and vegetarians need to make an extra effort to be sure they get at least 5 ounces of meat, fish, chicken, egg, cheese, beans, nuts or tofu each day.
  • Eat fish at least twice a week or take fish oil supplements to get enough beneficial omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Recharge your battery every night! Get the 7-8 hours of sleep you need (more for kids).
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water. And use a paper towel to grab the door handle on the way out of public restrooms!