Winter is fast approaching. Whilst we’ve been enjoying the warmth of a seemingly extended summer over the majority of autumn, the cold has started to infiltrate. Apart from the welcome comforts of a warm blanket, a hot drink and a blazing fireplace, a less-than-welcome occurrence begins to show itself – infections such as the common cold, flu, chest infections, cough, etc.

Yes it’s that time of the year again where infections such as flu or the common cold are regular occurrences and can impact not just our health, but our daily lives and activity as well. And so we think to ourselves, what can we do to protect ourselves? What could I take? Do I need a flu shot? Do I need antibiotics?
As a Naturopath, I believe that prevention is the best way to avoid the unpleasantness of immune-based infections. So what do we have that’s available to us to help build up our resistance to infections and give us a greater chance of preventing the common cold or flu?
The following three important key factors can assist in regulating, improving and maintaining our immune system:

80% of our immune system begins within our digestive system so it’s vital to consider its state. Within our digestive tracts, an ongoing war between good bacteria and bad bacteria occurs. In a healthy gut, we have a certain level of bacteria, which is also known as our Gut Flora. A well-balanced Gut Flora would comprise of around 80-85% beneficial bacteria (such as acidophilus) and around 15-20% of potentially harmful bacteria (such as E. coli and Salmonella). This ratio of good to bad is considered normal and can sustain a healthy digestive function, which in turn can support our immune system.

Unfortunately, factors such as the overuse of antibiotics (which can eliminate both bad and good bacteria), increased intake of highly-processed foods such as fast food, general stress and infective micro-organisms from sources such as spoiled food can upset the balance within our Gut Flora

Therefore, the best way to shift the balance towards our good bacteria is through the consumption of extra good bacteria, which are known as probiotics. An effective probiotic supplement would comprise of two of the most researched and studied strains of good bacteria that populate our intestines. These are Lactobacillus acidophilus (which reside in our small intestines) and Bifidobacterium animalis lactis (which reside in our large intestines). Over the past 25 years, more than 100 studies have now been published, emphasising the role of both strains of good bacteria to support the health of our digestive system, which leads to supporting our immune system.

Probiotics are fantastic for boosting the immune systems of our kids, especially those who are prone to infections when attending school or day-care. Studies have now been conducted to show that regular probiotic use can potentially decrease absenteeism in from school and day-care. Probiotics have no flavour so they are easily mixed into food such as yoghurt (without sugar and artificial sweeteners), smoothies and vegetable juices.

Zinc is extremely important in the overall function and maintenance of our immune system. It plays a key role in the maturation our immune cells within a gland known as the Thymus Gland, which is located under our sternum.

Unfortunately, Zinc deficiency is quite common due to low amounts being found within our food due to poor levels in our soils, not to mention heavily-processed food such as junk food. A typical physical sign of Zinc deficiency are white spots on your fingernails.

When selecting an ideal Zinc product, make sure that it’s in the form of either Zinc Gluconate or Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, which are both well-absorbed forms of Zinc.

Echinacea root:
There are now several human studies that have confirmed Echinacea’s role in modulating and supporting our immune function as well as reducing the duration of infections.

The key substances that are found in Echinacea to support immune function are known as the Alkylamides. After extensive research, it was found that the Alkalyamides were not only the key constituents found to enhance immune health, but they were the only constituents found within Echinacea that are effectively absorbed into the body when ingested orally, and therefore capable of promoting immune health.

It’s also important to note that the Alkylamides are primarily found within the roots of the Echinacea plant. Therefore, when looking for a high-quality Echinacea product, always ensure that you’re selecting a product that utilises the roots of the Echinacea plant, as well as having measurable levels of Alkylamides.

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