The Microbiome: A Key to Your Health

Abigail McShinsky
MegaFood Training and Education Specialist

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of probiotics. Perhaps you even take them, as a supplement, yourself. The research and information demonstrating their vital importance to our health is growing, and it’s remarkable. Probiotics comprise what we refer to as the human microbiome – the vast collection of beneficial bacteria that inhabit, and form a deeply symbiotic relationship with, us.

Our digestive tracts are home to over 5,000 different species of beneficial bacteria, all of whom perform specific functions within our body (LiveScience). In addition to aiding in the digestion of food and nutrient assimilation, they are our biggest defense against illness – over 70% of our immune response resides within our gut!

Beyond this role, however, science continues to link the health of our microbiome to things such as allergies, and even lend credence to the phrase “gut reaction,” demonstrating a link between the health of our friendly crusaders and the brain! It begins to make sense, then, why these helpful bacteria, so important to our health and well-being, are called what they are – probiotic – literally meaning for life!

Unfortunately, modern diet trends and a focus on refined foods do not make for a strong microbiome. The Standard American Diet lacks diversity and an emphasis on fresh, whole, and fermented foods that nourish and grow our probiotic army. In addition, our frequent antibiotic use decimates these good guys and lowers our defenses further.

There is, of course, good news at the end of all of this. There are great ways to get probiotics back into your diet, and of course, into your gut, where they belong!  One thing to consider is foods that are rich in probiotics. Traditionally, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and pickles are great options to start including in your daily diet. Just be sure they are the real deal – look for the words ‘fermented’ or ‘traditionally fermented’ on the label, and make sure they come from the refrigerated section, as probiotics are living, and many strains require cooler temperatures to stay alive (they can actually be damaged by heat!)

There are, of course, less-familiar options to look into as well – foods such as kimchi, kefir, and kombucha are delicious and healthy ways to get probiotics into your child’s diet, not to mention helping them create healthy eating habits for years to come.

In addition to fortifying the diet with these good-for-the-gut foods, a probiotic supplement is another convenient choice. Seek formulations that deliver a wide-range of flora strains rather than just one or two, and one that requires refrigeration, to ensure you are getting viable, living strains.

Thoughts on the Mystery Virus, Enterovirus D-68

By Carol Blair, DiHom, CNC Natur-Tyme Wellness Educatorcarol

A mysterious respiratory virus (actually known as enterovirus D-68) affecting mostly children has been spreading throughout the country. Proactive and concerned parents have already contacted me about what they can do preventatively. Here are some of my thoughts on this current health concern:

To keep the immune system strong, the child should be taking, on a regular basis, a good multi-vitamin supplement, vitamin D, and a probiotic. Extra vitamin C would be helpful as well. If a virus ensues, increasing the vitamin C can be very helpful because there are very few viruses that can withstand enough vitamin C. Chewable vitamin C is available in delicious flavors.

If the child is over the age of two, I suggest homeopathic Oscillococcinum at the very first sign of an illness. Then move on to King-Bio Cold and Flu, another homeopathic formula that usually proves to be beneficial. I always have these on hand.

Umcka has a strange name but not-so-strange benefits. Studied in Europe, it has been shown to increase interferon, the body’s own natural, anti-viral substance. It has been used in Germany for such illnesses as colds and flu, bronchitis, and TB.

Elderberry has been shown in many studies to keep viruses from replicating. One such study, performed at the University of Oslo School of Medicine in Norway, showed that Elderberry reduced viral flu symptoms by 50% and reduced the duration of flu viruses from 7.1 days to 3.1 days.

For older children, Zinc Throat Spray or Zinc lozenges are excellent choices. If they can swallow capsules, consider Russian Choice Immune to increase Natural Killer (NK) cells.

So parents, don’t lay awake at night worrying about this “mystery virus.” No deaths have been reported although with any respiratory illness, including a cold, those with asthma obviously have higher risks. As you can see, there are many options, so handle it like you would any other cold or flu virus–by keeping the immune system strong!

Supplements for Women Part I

By Laurel Sterling, MA, RDImage

Ladies, no matter where you are in your life: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond, there are basic supplements we all need for overall general health. Generally speaking, we are the caretakers of the family. If we cannot maintain our health, then we cannot assist others when they need us. All too often, I see many female clients tending to their health last, and then paying for it later with chronic fatigue, weight gain, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, etc. I believe in starting with what I call the “Core Four.” These consist of: a multivitamin, EFA, probiotic, and calcium/magnesium/D3.

The multivitamin should have enough B vitamins (particularly B-6 and folate), iron, vitamin A, vitamin D3, and vitamin E. A quality multivitamin-mineral can help prevent the depletion of important vitamins and minerals when a less-than-desirable diet or extra stressors are taking place. For women ages 20-45, be sure the multiple has 400-800 mcg of folic acid in the event pregnancy should occur. A food-based multiple would be a fine choice. It is generally well-tolerated by those who have sensitive stomachs.

An essential fatty acid supplement is also necessary for a variety of reasons. Omega-3s from fish or fl ax oil help with mood, memory, and fetal eye and brain development, amongst other wonderful things.

Omega-6 fatty acids (such as Evening Primrose oil or Borage oil) nourish dry skin, hair, and mucous membranes, as well as, aiding in natural hormone production.

It is important to build good bones beginning in your teens; therefore, calcium/magnesium/D supplement is very useful and becomes critical should pregnancy occur. These minerals are also nature’s tranquilizers and assist with sleep. The calcium should be a citrate or glycinate source, the magnesium should

be citrate, malate, or glycinate and the 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 should be cholecalciferol. From the fall months until around May (when the sun is pretty much nonexistent in Syracuse!) additional D3, about 2,000 IUs, would also be important. Vitamin D helps with moods and the immune system!

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) are very important as 70-90% of the immune system lies in the gut. Probiotics also help detoxify harmful estrogens. Make sure the probiotic you choose has over 1 billion CFUs with a combination of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.What’s in your vitamin case?

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