Sniffling, sneezing, runny nose, achy muscles, headache, fatigue, and malaise. These are some of the many symptoms that you are probably hoping to avoid as we get into the “busy flu season”.
With news media and marketing campaigns underway to inform you on the statistics on illnesses from flu this year, you may be wondering what you can do to keep healthy this winter.
Where should you focus on for maximum health and protection from illness?
With up to 80% of the immune system located in the digestive tract, strengthening and supporting the digestive system should be the first consideration given when trying to prepare your body for cold and flu season.
Here are some of the ways the digestive system protects you:
- Digestive juices and the mucous layer of your intestinal tract provide a strong defensive barrier against invading bacteria and viruses
- The mucous membranes of your small intestine are rich in macrophages, neutrophils, and other immune cells
- The beneficial bacteria in your gut help prevent against unwanted invaders.
Despite the vital role that the digestive system plays in overall immunity, most people focus on the area where symptoms present – the respiratory system – as they look to prevent winter illness.
Ever wonder why colds and flu are more prominent in the winter months?
Sure, the change in seasons and decreased sunlight can have an effect, along with being stuck indoors exposed to more germs from more people, but there is also another explanation that may prove to be more important.
According to Dr. Ellen Cutler, a pioneer in enzyme therapy, the main reason people get sick in the winter is not due to a crazy super strain of the cold and/or flu virus, but due to overwhelm on the digestive system in the later part of the year.
“From Halloween to New Year’s Day, people eat junk and more empty calories. It isn’t that there are more viruses around, but that people eat so poorly and that people are filling their bodies with empty nutritional calories that their immune system is compromised.” – Dr. Ellen Cutler
If you suffer from intestinal gas, bloating, pain, and indigestion on a regular daily basis, the overindulgence during the holidays can be even more detrimental to your immunity. Supporting your digestive system will not only improve your immunity, it can also help improve indigestion and gas, normalize weight, balance hormones, improve sleep, and increase your overall energy and vitality.
Due to the importance of good digestive health on every system in the body, Dr. Cutler states that “enzymes should be the first supplement one thinks of for increasing health and wellness.”
What you can do to improve your digestive health and immunity
While people suffering from long-term digestive complaints and other illness may require additional support, the following tips are a great place to start for anyone looking to improve their overall health, immunity, and vitality:
1) Take a good quality, broad-spectrum vegetarian digestive enzyme.
Enzymes are required for virtually every biochemical reaction in your body. While it’s true that your body does manufacture its own enzymes, processed foods, coffee, medications, chlorinated water, stress, and other factors present in your daily life can deplete your body’s natural enzymes, resulting in improper digestion.
Taking supplemental digestive enzymes decreases stress on your digestive system and diminishes the burden on other areas of your body that require enzymes to function properly.
2) Take a good quality probiotic daily to help balance the gut ecology (good bacteria).
Beneficial bacteria in your gut help with digestion and assimilation of food, maintain bowel regularity, produce vital nutrients in the gut, and protect you against invading microorganisms that can lead to infection, illness, and disease.
Antibiotics, chlorinated water, acidic foods, drugs, overuse of laxatives and harsh fiber supplements, excess alcohol, and a diet high in sugar can all disrupt the delicate balance of your gut microflora.
Daily supplementation with a quality probiotic ensures that you have the right mix of good bacteria working to support your entire body.
3) Restrict sugars and alcohol, which weakens the immune system.
Sugars and alcohol (particularly wine and beer) promote the growth of yeasts and other undesirable bacteria that can grow out of control and lead to infection, disrupting the entire digestive/immune system.
Due to their high sugar content, fruits and fruit juices should be limited to no more than two servings per day.
4) Drink plenty of fresh, non-chlorinated water daily.
Water is essential to keep cells healthy and hydrated and flush out toxins. Water should be pure, filtered water, free of chlorine, heavy metals, and other chemicals lurking in many municipal tap waters.
Chlorine found in tap water can destroy the beneficial bacteria in the gut, decreasing immunity. There are many water filters available on the market, the most basic being a carbon-filter such as the “Brita” system.
Along with other common-sense strategies to maintain good health, you can start improving your immunity now by supporting your digestive health.
Following the tips above can help you balance your digestive health, leading to improved energy, vitality, and immunity. With all of the benefits that come from supporting your digestive health, what are you waiting for?