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With flu season and air travel at their peak during the holidays, prevention is key for a healthy immune system—especially with the increasing concern over antibiotic resistance, which is a growing public health threat.
Gautam Dantas, an assistant professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and his colleagues recently published a paper showing that the friendly microbes in the intestinal tracts of healthy American children were found to have numerous antibiotic-resistant genes.
It turns out that with repeated exposure to antibiotic drugs, bacteria develop a genetic resistance to these drugs.
According to Dantas, "From birth to age 5, children receive more antibiotics than during any other five-year time span in their lives.” (1)
Once microbial genetic code is wired for resistance, this information moves on to later generations, as well as nearby species of microbes. In other words, microbes can swap genes coded for antibiotic resistance as easily as a shopkeeper swaps money for his wares.
Dantas warns, "Frequent exposure to antibiotics accelerates the spread of antibiotic resistance. Our research highlights how important it is to only use these drugs when they are truly needed."
Strengthening immunity is especially important around the holidays when flu and stress-related sickness are on the rise. A healthy immune system can also decrease antibiotic overuse that can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Fortunately, antibiotics are not always necessary. Safeguard your immune system with the following tips:
1. Avoid Sugar. It is especially important to avoid refined sugar stripped of minerals and fiber. Sugar is to your immune system what kryptonite is to Superman. Sugar can devastate your defenses.
Excess sugar tends to link up with proteins and fats, forming cross-links. After a certain amount of time, the cross-link between a sugar and a protein becomes permanent. This is what is known as an AGE (advanced glycation end product). AGEs wreak all kinds of havoc in the body, with a tendency to interfere with the immune system and its ability to protect against respiratory infection. (2)
We like sugar, and microbes do too.
One reason that we like sugar is because our cells use sugar as a source of energy. Microbes are no different, and they rely on sugar molecules to survive—and even thrive. Like fuel on a fire, sugar feeds Candida and other opportunistic organisms in your body. Instead of sugar, sweeten foods with stevia. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar, hitting the sweet receptors on your tongue without crashing your immune defense system.
2. Enjoy Fermented Foods with Every Meal. Fermented foods contain probiotic microbes. Probiotic microbes displace the bad guys in the intestinal tract, and they also produce natural antibiotics that kill any stray disease-causing organisms.
Probiotic microbes work with your immune system, giving it the buffer it needs during times of stress. This includes air travel, missed sleep, heavy meals, mental fatigue, or physical overexertion.
We always suggest probiotic foods—such as coconut water kefir, cultured veggies, or InnergyBiotic—over a probiotic supplement. Research shows that the beneficial microbes in fermented foods are far more likely to survive the harsh environment of the intestinal tract when delivered with their fermented substrate, such as dairy, cruciferous vegetables, or coconut water. (3)
3. Focus on Healthy Fats (and Fat-Soluble Vitamins). When you eat healthy fats as they are found in nature, you find that they are often accompanied by fat-soluble vitamins, which nourish the immune system. These vitamins—like vitamins A, D, and K2—work together to support a resilient immune system.
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines contain especially high levels of vitamin D, a key nutrient to ward off illness.
Vitamin D works best in concert with vitamin A. Some research suggests that vitamin K2 may act as a natural antibiotic, halting the growth of infectious microbes and protecting against infectious disease. (4) You will find vitamin K2 in fermented foods, such as natto and cheese, as well as egg yolks, butter from grass-fed cows, and goose liver.
4. Relax, Laugh, and Be Mindful. Relaxation and laughter feel good, so it may not come as a surprise to learn that they are also good for you (and your immune system). Relaxation, laughter, and mindfulness support a healthy immune response.
Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine found that compassion mediation actually helped to reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines—or messengers that activate an inflammatory response. (5)
Other research out of the University of Wisconsin shows that mindfulness practices like meditation can increase resistance to respiratory infection and enhance recovery time. (6)
Boosting immunity is key during flu season and over the holidays, a time when air travel and stress are on the rise. A hardy immune system is especially important to fight a growing epidemic known as antibiotic resistance. Research confirms that repeated exposure to antibiotics can cause bacteria to develop genetic resistance to such drugs. This is why it's critical for antibiotics to be used only when needed and for steps to be taken to boost the immune system at the same time.
To stay in tiptop shape over the holidays, there are 4 natural steps you can take to boost your immunity:
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