Let Your Gut Fight the Flu

Immunity.  About 80% of our immunity is in our gut. Essentially, if we are feeding our gut with unhealthy foods that bad bacteria live off of (refined, white sugar), those bugs are likely to destroy the good bacteria in our gut; thus, negatively taking over our immune system.  Have you ever felt over-stressed, started eating junk and had trouble sleeping?  Then, the second your stress-levels start to decrease and you begin to feel normal again, BOOM you're sick.  Stress, diet and sleep each play a role in gut health and immunity. 

There is no magic pill to avoid the flu. But during flu season you can take some extra precautions.

Easy tips for avoiding the flu this season:

  1. Sneeze into your arm.

  2. Wash your hands for at least twenty seconds with warm water, turning the faucet off and opening the door with a paper towel.

  3. Clean your phone and desk area regularly.

  4. Use a mask when flying, take Airborne, and sanitize the tray table.

  5. Keep your hands out of your nose, eyes and mouth to prevent germs from getting into the mucosal lining.

Antibiotics. Before I go more in depth about lifestyle flu prevention methods, I want to talk about antibiotics.  Did you know that one round of antibiotics can decrease the diversity of intestinal microbiota for at least one month? If you work hard to keep the healthy gut bugs in our stomach or have an autoimmune diseases, food intolerances, IBS, etc.,  it is extremely disheartening to know that the healthy bacteria that play such an important role in our body can be so easily destroyed.  Before accepting antibiotics, ask if it is 100% necessary. Stand up for your gut!

Natural-lifestyle flu prevention tips

1. Food

  • Avoid the white stuff (refined sugar, dairy), as these all limit gut microbiota health and can't provoke immune response in the gut.

  • 75% of each meal should be plant based (fruits, vegetables, legumes /or lentils).

  • Take or eat vitamin C before you start to feel sick (if you have an iron deficiency, it's great to pair vitamin C with iron dense foods -meat, beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, cashews & baked potatoes -to increase iron absorption & increase energy levels).

2. Probiotics & Prebiotics

  • Probiotics modulate the immune system and enforce a protective barrier in the gut with microbial metabolites; this plays an important role in flu protection.

  • Prebiotics are the food sources that feed the probiotics in our gut and are mainly found in fermented foods: kombucha, kefir, miso, “live” yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, onions, raw jicama, leeks and garlic.  

3. Herbs

  • Cook with fresh ginger, garlic, onions and turmeric that have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and immune supportive properties.

  • Homemade chicken noodle soup is a great flu prevention tip. Add all the herbs listed above, multiple vegetables, and bone broth or homemade vegetable stock for a powerful natural defender.

  • Eat as many species as you can daily (herbs, tea, spices, deep pigments, smoothies, fish, prebiotics) to create a diverse microbiome.  Diversity introduces all the different types of healthy and happy bacteria.  

  • Drink herbal teas daily. Different types make up different antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and are full of phytochemicals.

4. Sleep & Stress 

  • Sleep at least 7-8 hours each night, with children needing more than that.

  • Our bodies are super resilient and can regenerate, repair and heal; however, we need that downtime or we can lose our ability to bounce back over time.

5. Avoid Alcohol

  • Alcohol is a gut irritant that impairs the function of the immune system.

6. Vitamins

  •  Vitamin D, C, E, A, Selenium and Zinc are essential for immune health.

7. Avoid antibacterial soaps, sanitizers and bleach.

  • Most household cleaning products are endocrine, respiratory and cardiovascular disruptors.  The antimicrobial and antibacterial products are over-sanitizing our systems and destroying all the good bacteria throughout our body.  I use Dr. Bronner’s and you can add water and essential oils to a foam pump and make your own homemade hand soap.  Children who are exposed to and wear bleach have been noted to have more infections with a higher risk of getting the flu.  You're not really doing yourself any favors by killing off bacteria, especially as children are building their immunity for the rest of their lives..."let them eat dirt!"

8. Use a humidifier with care.

  • Humidifiers are great to purify the area and help stimulate better breathing; however, be careful as they have high mold content with high humidity, which is where bad bacteria and viruses love to live. Be sure to keep it clean!

It has been my experience that practicing good gut health and following a flu-preventative lifestyle can keep you flu free! Start implementing these tips now to enjoy a healthy flu season.


Jordan Hostetler

Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist who owns a blog where she encourages others to live their happiest and healthiest life through nutrition tips, recipes, and education.

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