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How to fight the flu with your food


If you are looking for the best way to make it through the cold and flu season disease-free, the solution may be in your kitchen. A major key to a healthy immune system may be to cultivate the trillions of critters living within your body.

We are hosts to over 100 trillion microbes representing over 1000 species of bacteria and other microscopic organisms who have co-evolved with us and are responsible for a multitude of physiologic and metabolic processes within our bodies. Humans ARE an ecosystem. And immune function is one of their primary goals.

The human microbiome is the first line of defense against foreign invaders. These friendly bugs secrete toxins which kill would be pathogens and create an environment that makes potentially harmful bugs feel very unwelcome.

The presence of a healthy and varied microbiome helps make our body’s immune system more complex and help develop our defenses against the numerous colds and flus that may come our way.

What to eat

In order to cultivate your own healthy microbiome, you must feed it well. Our gut bugs eat what we can’t digest, meaning indigestible or fermentable fibers. This includes plants such as onions, garlic, tomatoes, cooked and cooled potatoes, green leafy vegetables, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, grains such as whole oats and flax.

You can add to the biome by ingesting “live culture” foods such as kimchi, kefir, aged cheeses, fermented miso, kombucha (fermented tea), sauerkraut and pickles.

Additionally some studies suggest ultra-processed food can be harmful to the gut biome including artificial sweeteners, high loads of refined sugars and the quality of your carbohydrate sources (think Pringles potato chips as opposed to a potato). With this in mind, the standard American diet may be a nuclear bomb for a health of these symbiotic organisms.

Fight the flu — feed your fauna.

About Jennifer Jackson MD

Jennifer Jackson MD, FACP, serves as the medical director for the Via Christi Transitional Care Programs focusing on disease management in high risk and vulnerable patient populations.