Wanting to make sure that the immune system is healthy is something that often trends in the news. That’s because during certain times, knowing how to protect yourself can speed up recovery or even keep you from catching viruses.
Poor gut health equals a weaker immune response. Studies have shown that by improving your gut health, you can increase the good bacteria that’s in your gut, which is what your body needs to fight infections off.
Using Probiotics to Fortify Your Gut Against an Immune System Deficiency
Certain kinds of foods that you put into your body are what nourish the bacteria in your gut. When you do eat what the bacteria need to thrive, all is well within that system. But when you don’t get the kinds of foods that promote healthy gut bacteria, everything gets out of balance and the bacteria doesn’t work well for you.
There are specific foods that you can eat that can make a difference in keeping you healthy even during times of outbreaks such as the flu.
One of the number one foods that give you this protection against immune system deficiency are those that contain probiotics.
The reason probiotics are helpful is because they increase the number of microbes that you have. When you consume foods containing probiotics, you give your gut a better foundation on which to keep you healthy.
Most people know that good bacteria is found in yogurt. However, you might be surprised to learn that not all yogurts can give you the same gut health benefit. That’s because although there are live and active cultures present across the many brands, not each type of yogurt is going to have probiotics that are known to boost gut bacteria.
So when you buy yogurt to get probiotics, make sure that the label specifically states that the product contains lactic acid. When you consume the probiotics found in foods, it stimulates the immune system.
When your eating plan contains these foods, the probiotics will seek out the germs in your body that don’t belong and fight them.
What you’re looking for are foods that are fermented. It might surprise you to learn that yogurt is one of the fermented foods. It’s made from fermented milk and it’s something that you should have daily servings of.
But since not all yogurt is the same, when you read the labels, look for the phrase stating that it contains live or active cultures. If it doesn’t say this, then it’s not going to be helpful at fortifying your immune system by aiding your gut bacteria.
Also in the dairy section for foods that are rich in probiotics, there’s buttermilk. When you’re picking up some of this, make sure that you choose the one that doesn’t have a “cultured” label on it.
That kind doesn’t have probiotics. Always choose plain buttermilk and read the label to ensure it contains what you’re looking for. If you’re someone who enjoys eating cheese, then you’re in luck because there are some brands and kinds of cheese that do contain probiotics.
Remember that fermentation is the key to choosing the right types. You’ll want to look for ones such as cheddar and mozzarella but there are other kinds, too. Fermented cabbage like kimchi, is known for containing lactic acid, which can give you the probiotics that you need.
By adding pickles to your diet regularly, you can have even more probiotics to help your body.
Pickles are fermented if you get the ones that aren’t pickled in vinegar. Other foods that can help your gut bacteria are tempeh and kefir. You want to make sure that your diet consists of food that provide a stable background for the gut bacteria.
Prebiotics for Probiotics
While plenty of people have heard of probiotics, prebiotics isn’t something that most of them are familiar with. These are carbohydrates that act as a foundation for good bacteria.
They can boost the amount of good bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics are just one of the kinds of bacteria within your digestive system. If you don’t have enough prebiotics in your gut, then it impacts your gut health negatively. The good bacteria won’t be able to do the best job at helping to keep you well.
Prebiotics have a job to do. They help the foods you eat digest quickly. This helps to keep everything moving along. Without them, your food can spend too much time in your system and you can develop what’s known as slow emptying.
These compounds work to make sure that your bowels move so that you don’t develop constipation. The way they work is by benefiting the cells in your intestines. They also boost the way your body absorbs the nutrients and minerals from food.
They can also help keep your glucose on an even keel. These compounds are meant to work hand in hand with probiotics to ensure that your gut works as it should. More than that, they’re also known to fight inflammation.
This can help the body handle flare ups from autoimmune conditions as well as overall inflammation. It can also boost the immune system.
Some foods are already rich in this compound while others come with it added. You can find them in certain fruits such as bananas. Consuming bananas helps to boost the growth of good gut bacteria.
They’re also a food that can help to lessen problems with things like abdominal cramping, gas and bloating due to an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria. You can set up your gut for success by consuming grapefruit.
This is loaded with prebiotics and it’s also high in vitamins and fiber. If you prefer a sweeter fruit, then you can choose watermelon. This tasty fruit is also high in prebiotics. Tomatoes are also a good source of prebiotics.
Apples are another source of this vital gut health source. You can include foods like artichokes or asparagus to get servings of prebiotics in order to boost your gut health. Green vegetables can be a good source also.
Make sure that you eat plenty of broccoli. You should also consume foods such as cauliflower and fennel. If you like onions on a sandwich or in a salad, then go ahead and add some since these contain prebiotics.
There are some types of beans or peas that are beneficial in this area as well. One key to remember when trying to decide what to include in your prebiotic plan is to choose foods that have a high amount of fiber in them.
Most foods that are high in fiber are also known to be high in prebiotics. What many of these foods have in common is that they contain what’s known as inulin. Inulin can cause you to feel full after eating foods that contain it.
Because it works to slow the stomach emptying, your body is able to gain more benefits. Inulin can also help to prevent constipation. Fresh fruit and vegetables aren’t the only way to get prebiotics.
You can also get it by consuming grains. Bran is one type. It can also lower cholesterol and prevent constipation. Oat grains are also a good source of prebiotics. You’ll discover that many of these grains also contain inulin.
Nuts, like walnuts and almonds, are also good to add more prebiotic foods to your eating plan.
The Popularity of Kefir in Protecting Your Immune System
While your body does have some natural defense against illnesses, you can give it a leg up by simply eating or drinking things that are beneficial. One of these items is water kefir.
One of the major benefits of water kefir is that it can help restore balance to the gut. Because it’s loaded with bacteria that your gut needs, it can improve gut health and get your digestive system back on track.
It’s loaded with plenty of vitamins as well. Sometimes people assume that kefir and yogurt are items that are interchangeable. They believe that because both contain probiotics, they both off the same kind of help when it comes to improving gut bacteria.
But while yogurt contains probiotics, the amount that it has doesn’t compare to what’s in the kefir drink. Kefir is loaded with several of the B vitamins along with live probiotic cultures.
One thing that makes kefir such a powerhouse of a drink is that it contains active yeast. You normally have yeast already in your gut. But it can get out of balance. The cultures in kefir can help the bacteria balance.
It works to aid your body’s digestive functions by causing the system to take in the minerals and other nutrients from whatever you eat. When you use this drink regularly, it can restore a healthy gut bacteria balance.
It can also be used to fight back against things that would harm your body. For example, if you get sick and do end up having to take antibiotics, kefir can help to protect your immune system from the harmful effects of antibiotics.
When your gut bacteria get out of balance in the body, a lot of different issues can develop. You can get a UTI. But you can also get oral yeast infections. If your gut bacteria is left out of balance, an oral yeast infection will continue to thrive and can spread into your throat and beyond and cause serious health complications.
By taking water kefir, you can prevent your gut bacteria from reaching this stage. But if you do already have an issue with yeast, then it can be used to help resolve it. The drink has been said to offer other health benefits as well as protecting your immune system.
One of these benefits is that it contains antibacterial properties. These can be useful in helping your body fight back against infections or other inflammatory conditions. Thanks to the calcium in kefir, it can strengthen your bones.
Plus, it can be beneficial with health issues like IBS. As a preventative, it can aid in reducing your risk of getting certain types of cancer. Because kefir is an all natural product, it’s something that’s good for you.
How to Prepare Water Kefir
Water kefir, not to be confused with milk-based kefir, is fermented using water kefir “grains.” Just like milk kefir grains, water kefir grains are not real grains. They are colonies of yeast and bacteria that are somewhat translucent and shaped like miniature cauliflower florets. Water kefir grains require only water and sugar to ferment. While activating dehydrated kefir grains can take two to three weeks, once the grains are active, the fermentation process goes relatively quickly. This dairy-free beverage is an outstanding method for taking in probiotics, staying hydrated, and detoxifying the body!
If you don’t know anyone who makes water kefir, you will need to purchase dehydrated kefir grains. There are many reliable water grain sources on the Internet. To be effective for fermentation, dehydrated water kefir grains need to be rehydrated and activated. This process can take quite a while (one to three weeks), but once the grains are active, they can be used over and over again to make probiotic sodas.
Water kefir tastes the best when it is flavored. Without added ingredients, water kefir has a slightly sweet, lemony, and yeasty flavor, which can be an acquired taste. Adding fruit juices or whole fruit, herbs, or teas allows you to cater the flavors to your pallet. If you know you like sweeter beverages, be sure to add a little extra juice or fruit prior to sealing the bottles for secondary fermentation so that the probiotics have enough sugar to ferment a second time with some leftover sweetness for you to enjoy.
The easiest way of flavoring water kefir is by adding 100 percent pure juices prior to bottling it for secondary fermentation. About 1 cup of juice per 4 cups of water kefir provides good flavor and plenty of fizziness. It seems as though all probiotic drinks love fructose more than sucrose for secondary fermentation. Water kefir will become kefir soda and yield the fizziest results when fruit and/or fruit juice is added to it prior to secondary fermentation.
Improving your gut health is essential to strong immune system. You can’t just eat anything and everything and expect the body to function in a way that protects you from illness. You’ll feel better once you start assisting your gut with the proper balance of bacteria.
Oleia Ann is a biochemist, agripreneur/organic farmer, formulator of Oleia Topical Oil. She advocates taking organic whole foods for medicine, as she promotes supplementation with high-quality nutrients, antioxidants and essential fatty acids from premium oils when, at times, available foods are lacking in nutritional value or when the immune system is compromised due to unhealthy lifestyle.