Jack Frost is not the only thing nibbling on your nose this time of year. It is cold season, and the common bug is harder to avoid than finals week. We’ve all heard the yearly recommendations; wash your hands, do not share food or drinks, and do not touch your face. During cold and flu season remember that what you put in your body is just as important. Trust your gut, it may hold the key to avoiding sniffles and sneezes as the snow comes rolling in. Your gut contains friendly bacteria and is responsible for more than just digestion. It accounts for 50% of your body’s immune response. Now that is important! The good bacteria found here has been shown to boost immunity and decrease cold duration, keeping you healthier and in fighting shape if that cold does come knocking on your dorm room door.
When those germs come invading, your body produces an army of immune cells tasked with fighting off the unwelcome visitors. These immune cells need some help from your diet to grow in numbers. So how do you keep your gut in tip top condition? Feed your body prebiotics and probiotics daily. These important live cultures have been shown to significantly shorten the duration of colds and alleviate the symptoms. There’s a lot of science around these friendly bacteria, but let’s keep it simple. Here is what you need to know:
Prebiotics are naturally found in food. They may promote the growth of helpful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Through this role of growth promotion, they help improve your gut health, and have been found to boost immunity! Simply incorporate bananas, onions, garlic, and whole grain foods such as wheat bran, rye bread, and couscous into your diet.
Probiotics are good bacteria naturally found in your gastrointestinal tract. Incorporate foods with live cultures in your daily meals to increase your beneficial bacteria count. These little active cultures may boost immunity and shorten cold duration. No need to look too far, probiotics are easy to include in your diet. Choose yogurt with live and active cultures. Greek yogurt is a great choice that adds additional protein that keeps you full longer. Kefir is a fermented yogurt drink made from cow’s milk that also provides beneficial probiotics. Another option is to simply reach for a daily probiotic supplement. Yogurt and kefir can be high in added sugars, so opt for plain varieties and add your own fresh fruit at home.
Use your gut this cold and flu season in the fight for better health. Easily combine prebiotics and probiotics into one quick and easy meal. Simply add the aforementioned foods to your daily menu for a delicious treat and immune booster!
LeeAnn Kindness is a graduate student at Drexel University majoring in human nutrition. She plans to become a registered dietitian.
Photo Credit: Sammy Gitlin