Did you know that more than 70 percent of your immune cells are located in your gut? That makes having a balanced gut flora essential to a healthy immune system and in keeping infections like colds and viruses at bay.
Factors such as stress, too much alcohol or caffeine and poor nutrition can also compromise immunity.
The immune system needs a range of nutrients to function optimally – vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium, to name a few. You should be able to get these nutrients by eating a varied, whole-food diet.
On the other hand, consuming a diet rich in processed foods (like white bread, pastries, pasta, etc.) can feed unwanted bacteria and yeast in your digestive tract, outnumbering the “good” bacteria that supports a strong immune system.
See also All About Prebiotics
Many health practitioners recommend a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic with between 1 and 15 billion colony forming units (CFUs) to make sure the good bacteria in your gut outweighs the bad.
In addition to keeping your immune system humming along, research has found that a daily probiotic may also:
- Improve digestion
- Increase energy levels
- Prevent and treat urinary tract infections
- Improve skin conditions such as acne and rosacea
- Support a more restful sleep
Wondering which probiotic is right for you and your family? Here are a few to consider:
With no preservatives or artificial flavors, this probiotic comes in a range of products and forms, from pills, to gummies and chews. Contains BC30, a patented probiotic that survives stomach acid 100x better than leading probiotics and yogurt to deliver good bacteria where you need it.
This allergen-free probiotic from Nordic Naturals contains six well-researched probiotic strains that support digestive, vaginal and urinary health in women. Research shows that vaginal health is important for healthy pregnancy, and Lactobacillus strains have been linked to improved fertility outcomes.
This complete probiotic for men contains 90 billion live cultures per capsule and is formulated to promote healthy digestion and reduce gas. The Bifidobacterium strains in this formula also support colon health.
Research shows that in addition to boosting immunity, probiotics may help improve oral health and digestive health in children. This probiotic powder formula can be added to water, milk or juice and given to kids as young as 3 months old. The dose can be gradually increased as directed by your pediatrician.
Don’t forget your furry friends! Your pets can also benefit from taking a probiotic.
Karen Morse, MPH, is a freelance health and nutrition writer. In her free time, she enjoys Pilates, exploring nearby hiking trails and cooking up fresh, seasonal eats in the kitchen. Her work has appeared in Clean Eating, Weight Watchers, YouBeauty.com and others.