Have a Healthy Holiday Season

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The holiday season is here and so is the flu. The basic symptoms are the same, but the severity of these symptoms differs from person to person.

Common flu symptoms include cough, runny nose, and congestion. However, those with more severe symptoms are also experiencing fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, headaches.

While the flu vaccine can help, it is not 100% effective. This is best explained by the American Medical Association, which states: “We don’t know the effectiveness of the vaccine until we really get into flu season, and we see what types of viruses actually end up circulating in the population…as the flu vaccine is adjusted [each year] to align with what is predicted to be the most likely strains circulating.”

In addition, what causes some people to get the flu worse than others? While a person’s age and health status can influence this, whether (or not) a person gets the flu or how severe the infection, has a lot to do with the strength of their immune system.

Researchers found that people who take probiotics were less likely to get the flu, colds, and other respiratory infections or need antibiotics to treat them, compared to those not taking probiotics. People who received this benefit were those that took probiotics for at least three to six months. Probiotics are found in sour poi, yogurt, kimchee, natto, and other fermented foods.

Probiotics are important in maintaining a healthy immune function. The gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our intestines – has both helpful and harmful bacteria. It plays an active part in many body processes, including the immune system, containing up to 80% of the body’s immune cells.

The helpful bacteria keep the lining of the intestines healthy and strong. This is important to prevent leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability), where infectious “bugs” and other toxins can leak through the intestinal walls. This triggers inflammation, dramatically increasing risk of diabetes, arthritis, obesity, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and autoimmune diseases.

Healthy bacteria also train your immune cells to differentiate between normal microbes vs. foreign invaders. If these harmful invaders are encountered, it sparks a reaction that can neutralize or destroy them. Gut bacteria also stimulates the body to produce antibodies in response to new infections so it will be better prepared to fight them the next time it attacks.

Keeping our gut healthy involves more than just eating probiotics. Prebiotic foods provide the nutrients needed for the helpful bacteria to flourish. This includes limu (seaweed), bananas, onions, garlic, oats, apples, and flaxseeds.

At the same time, limit added sugars, meats, egg yolks, cheese, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. These all kill the helpful bacteria, leading to overgrowth of the harmful bacteria, ultimately weakening your immune system. Other habits that cause this overgrowth is stress, vaping, and smoking.

If you’re looking for gift ideas this holiday season, a bag of sour poi might be a good idea.