The Battle of the Bugs

Dr. Juliet Ghodsian, ND
Probiotic Supplementation During the Cold and Flu Season

Winter is coming! The battle of the bugs has begun. The days grow shorter, the sunlight grows scarcer and our bodies grow more susceptible to viral infections. There are many theories as to why people become sick most frequently during the winter months. Some contributing factors include: decreasing levels of vitamin D in the blood, more time spent indoors, and cold, damp weather which leads more people to use public transit and deposit their germs on common surfaces like handrails, doorknobs and grocery carts. How do we safely navigate this time of year and give our body the best chance of staying healthy?

We know that keeping our diet and lifestyle in an optimal state is the best way to support the health of our immune systems. In addition, over the years there has also been much discussion of the potential for extra support from vitamins, herbs or natural supplements that enhance our ability to fight off a virus once we become exposed. Interestingly, more recent research is demonstrating the effectiveness of not just herbs, but actually using good bugs (probiotics) to help our bodies fight off the bad bug (viruses).

Probiotic organisms are bacteria that commonly colonize the human intestinal tract. Over the years we have learned that these organisms play a hugely important role in not only the digestive process, but also the overall balance and integrity of the immune system of the body. We have an understanding that probiotic supplementation can help keep the bowel movements regular, aid in the digestion and absorption of important nutrients, and minimize allergic type reactions in the body. What we have come to understand more recently is that the presence of and supplementation with certain organisms may stimulate antibody production and improve the infection fighting activity of certain white blood cells. Most research studies have used Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium strains of bacteria and demonstrated that regular supplementation with probiotic organisms can decrease the duration of common respiratory infections.

What does that mean for you? That means that healthy bugs will help your immune system fight off an invading virus more quickly and get you back on your feet and back to your life sooner. That’s good news!

Here are some basic tips to help you and your family fight the battle of the bugs this winter season:
• Wash your hands regularly. Especially after using transit or grocery carts, elevators, etc…
• Eat a whole foods based diet that is low in sugar and refined grain products.
• Stay hydrated!
• Sleep at least 7-9 hours per night
• Stay active and move your body regularly. Get outside for fresh air even if its raining!
• Supplement with probiotic organisms throughout the winter months
• Incorporate other naturopathic products that have demonstrated the ability to enhance immune function and fight viral infection. Ex: vitamin A, vitamin D, echinacea, elderberry, zinc, vitamin C…

Talk to your naturopathic doctor today and create a personalized winter wellness program! Remember, not every supplement or probiotic is right for every person. Make sure you discuss the options with your doctor so that you get the best products for your body and your health. Have a healthy winter!
2. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(4):487
3. Br J Nutr. 2014;112:41–54