The worst part of winter (besides being horribly pale) is getting sick. All. The. Time.
I have one of the worst immune systems I know. If something is going around, you can bet your snotty nose I’m going to get it. Although I seem to be in good health otherwise, I just can’t seem to fight off the common cold. Like, ever.
So naturally, I pretty much obsess over anything that could help boost my immunity (though I draw the line at the flu shot). I just want to help my body fight off these nasty bugs that I seem to attract.
I’ve done a fair bit of research in this area, having found a essential oils that can fight off infection, and tea that boosts immunity, but it still seemed that I needed a little more help.
It wasn’t until the last trimester of my last pregnancy that I was put on probiotics as directed by my doctor. Probiotics are pretty famous for gut health, so I didn’t think much of it at the time. When I had my baby, I continued to take the probiotics until the container was empty.
Then it hit.
Our baby was only a week old and we got the worst cold we had all winter. Congestion, body aches, and a sore throat, it was bad.
But here’s the thing, I didn’t get it!
My husband who like, NEVER gets sick, got sick and was sick for about a week with horrible symptoms and I didn’t get it! Both my kids (poor Jon was only a week old!) had stuffed noses and cold-like symptoms for about a week too, and I still didn’t get sick!
That’s when I started looking at those probiotics a little differently. So I did a little research and found certain probiotics can definitely boost your immunity.
Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a doctor, this is just my understanding of probiotics and the immune system. All sources of information have been linked and I would encourage you to read and get familiar with them yourself. I would highly recommend talking with your doctor if you have any concerns about taking probiotics. I hope this is helpful and informative!
Probiotics for the Immune System
In a nut shell, probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in your gut and fight off bad bacterial that can make you sick and cause disease. They can be consumed through fermented foods like yogurt and aged cheese or taken as a supplement.
Probiotics for immune support is a fairly new concept, and researchers aren’t exactly sure how the two are connected, but there has been studies done with conclusive results.
There are many strains of probiotics but not all have a connection with the immune system. To make things simple, get familiar with these two main strains.
The Immunity Strains
Look for a probiotic starting with Lactobacillus such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus helveticus, or Lactobacillus casei. Each have been proven to have an effect on immune health such as reducing the severity of symptoms, and reducing the risk of infection.
Pay attention to strains of probiotics starting with Bifidobacterium such as Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium Lactis. Simillarly to the Lactobacillus strains, the Bifidobacterium strains can have a positive effect on the immune system.
What about PREbiotics?
Prebiotics are soluble fiber found in some foods or supplements. An example of prebiotics would be fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a carbohydrate found in some fruits and vegetables.
You might be thinking, how is this relevant Kate? Get to the point.
Ok, the point is prebiotics are like food to probiotics and they help them do their job more effectively.
Although you could get your prebiotics from food, supplements are a more condensed version and therefore, work better.
But don’t worry, this isn’t another pill you have to try to remember to take, if you take a good probiotic, it will have prebiotics in the same capsule.
Keep Your [Probiotics] Cool
Although you could certainly get your probiotics from foods, it would be hard to get enough from foods alone (living off yogurt isn’t practical), so I would recommend taking them as a supplement.
BUT, not all supplements are created equal. Here’s the thing: probiotics are living bacteria, and since they’re living, they need certain “living conditions”.
Basically, your probiotics generally need to be refrigerated (some preparations are in a form that doesn’t break down under normal temperatures –always check the label).
Not only do you need to refrigerate them once you bring them home, but they also need to be refrigerated at the place you bought them from, in traveling to that place, and in the place that they were made.
If anywhere along their journey from where they are made to going into your mouth they become unrefrigerated, the probiotics begin to break down. That’s why it’s important to find a good brand that uses the proper transportation and storage conditions.
How to Choose A Probiotic
When you’re on the hunt for a probiotic to boost your immune system, keep this in mind:
1. High in Active Cells
Also called CFUs (colony forming units), this basically tells you the quantity of probiotics in the formula. CFUs can be as low as 1 billion and as high as 100 billion. I’m no doctor but I would look for at least 10 billion. If you’re planning to go for a super high CFU count, I would recommend talking it over with your doctor.
2. The Name of the Strains are the Name of the Game
Watch for probiotic stains starting with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, they have specifically been proven to have a positive effect on your immune system. Remember that not all probiotics will help with immunity.
3. More is More when we’re talking Strains
Choosing just one strain of the probiotics listed wouldn’t be as effective as combining several strains together. More is more in this case.
4. Cold is GOLD
Make sure your probiotics have been transported and stored at the proper temperature, or it could be less effective or not at all (depending how long it has been out).
I wouldn’t give you all this information and just throw you to the wolves. I’ll leave you with one last tid bit, and that would be a quality probiotic.
Over the past few months I have been taking Natural Factors Probiotics. This is the probiotic I was on when the whole family came down with that nasty bug. And obviously, this is the one I stand behind and would recommend to any family member or friend –that includes you.
Natural Factors is one of the largest nutritional product manufacturers in North America and has been around since the ‘50s. They do everything from choosing the seeds to the final product, which is pretty impressive.
They have a good selection of probiotics to choose from depending on your needs. For immune health, I recommend the Ultimate Multi Probiotic. It contains 12 strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics, 12 billion active cells, and contains the prebiotics, FOS. It’s the full meal deal.
You can read right in the product description that it supports immune function, and even prevents urinary tract infections along with maintaining natural intestinal balance, and improving digestion.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about using probiotics to boost your immune system and avoid those awful bugs that float around all winter!
Do you take probiotics for immune health? Which would you suggest? Let me know!