Probiotics Can Help Prevent Flu in Elderly and Improve Your Flu Shot
6 minute read
With deaths from the flu at an all-time high, getting a flu shot is not something to avoid unless you have been ordered by your doctor not to get one.
The most important reason to get a flu shot is to boost herd immunity, saving the lives of the old, young, and those with compromised immune systems.
That said, studies have found that the effectiveness of the flu shot decreases as we advance into very old age. Whether you worry about a flu vaccine still being able to adequately protect you, or if you’d like to supplement your defense year-round, bolstering your immune system is never a bad idea.
Thankfully, probiotics that help strengthen your gut can also strengthen your immune system. Ensuring the health of your gut bacteria is important for the cold and flu season and to help prevent the flu throughout the year.
Your Gut and Your Immunity
The flu virus is known to be one of the most common causes of death and disability in aging individuals. The flu and other viral infections are more common among the elderly because our immune systems start to slow down as we get older.
It is for this very reason that as you get older, getting the flu shot each year is strongly recommended. The flu shot works by introducing the common strain to your body so it can produce the necessary antibodies to fight it.
The flu vaccinations contain dead viruses, so you will not develop the flu, but your immune system may trigger symptoms as it works to produce the necessary antibodies. In some cases, people develop allergic reactions to vaccination.
probiotic digestive health supplement could be the answer to the flu problem. Along with boosting your gut health, your immune system gets a boost too.
Studies found that individuals receiving multi strain probiotic supplements
had a significantly reduced risk of getting the flu, and those that did contract the virus had less severe symptoms and shorter duration of the illness.
The same study concluded that taking probiotics can help improve the effectiveness of the flu shot.
Why Probiotics Help the Elderly and Others
The role probiotics play in flu prevention comes from their role in your overall immunity. Most of your immune system lives in your gut.
These bacteria support optimal digestion as well as immunity. In fact, your intestinal immune system contains more antibody-producing cells than any other part of your body.
Any imbalance in this delicate bacterial environment can disrupt the immune system function and increase your risk for illness.
When your immune system is not functioning at optimal levels, your overall health is at risk. Aggressive diseases that target elderly individuals take advantage of weakened immune systems, and the flu virus is no different.
A weakened or slow immune response leaves you vulnerable to infections, and an overactive immune system (as triggered by the presence of too many bacteria) produces chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is an underlying factor in many diseases that affect the elderly, and a major player in catching the flu virus. Balancing the gut microbiome is the best way to get ahead of this problem and reduce your risk in the first place.
A strong bacterial community regulates your immune response to prevent chronic inflammation and protects you from those viruses that target weakened individuals.
How Probiotics Come Into Play
The medications you are typically given to fight cold and flu viruses are designed only to reduce the symptoms of the infection. They do not address the underlying cause because they are not able to activate your immune system to fight the infection.
High potency probiotics are different. They can activate your immune response and trigger a defense against these infections.
A balanced gut recognizes the foreign pathogens quicker and the immune response is more accurate. Your immune system produces antibodies to fight pathogens. When the levels of these are adequate, these antibodies are primed and ready to protect you as soon as an infection is detected.
Conversely, an unhealthy gut can cause a delay in activation, as the new bad bacteria are not as quickly detected.
Antibodies like IgA are especially important because they target bacteria and viruses in your respiratory tract, which is where the flu mainly hits. Pre and probiotic supplements support the production of these antibodies, which allows them to target and present flu viruses for destruction before they can get a foothold over your respiratory system.
Probiotics essentially break the cycle needed for viral replication, which can prevent full-blown infections. Studies have proven that under probiotic therapy, the production of antibody IgA increases and cold and flu-like infections are significantly reduced.
The studies revealed that there are three specific probiotic strains that provide this protection.
♦ L. plantarum
♦ L. rhamnosus
♦ B. lactis
A complete probiotic blend consisting of these strains not only prevents flu infections, but it also reduces the duration should it get a foothold. With elderly individuals being more at risk for respiratory infections, these probiotics could be a powerful form of protection moving forward.
| Related: The Pros and Cons of Using Probiotics Supplements |
Along with the elderly, any individual that has a weakened immune system can benefit from the additional protection and support that a specific probiotic cocktail can provide.
The Bottom Line
The flu virus is one of many that threaten us all. It seems to take on new and stronger forms every year. Since we cannot get rid of it, the best defense is offense—get your flu shot every year.
Staying ahead of the infections by promoting a strong immune system will keep you healthy, and can even increase the effectiveness of the flu vaccine An unhealthy gut will invite the flu in through the front door, but probiotics will help to promote bacterial balance and keep you healthy.