When, from November to February, people sniffle, cough, and complain about influenzal infections or the common cold, we are repeatedly reminded to boost our immune system. A strong immune system helps our body to defeat diseases and infections. A crucial factor for our immune system is amongst others a well-performing and well-balanced gut flora (gut microbiota) – a kind of eco system we have within ourselves.
Should stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, excess alcohol, or pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics unbalance our gut flora, we talk of dysbiosis or dysbacteriosis. In this situation, pathogens – bacteria which cause diseases – are able to multiply rapidly because the number of healthy bacteria has been reduced. This weakens the body’s overall immune system. We are no longer able to defend ourselves in the best way possible against harmful bacteria and fungal or viral infections.
And if you should fall sick and prematurely reach for antibiotics, you will only make matters worse. Because antibiotics (anti = against; bio = life) further reduce bacterial diversity. In this situation healthy bacteria do not stand a chance.
A better option would be to strengthen bacterial diversity and hence our immune system against germs. We can achieve this, in turn, primarily through our diet. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and salads are a vital part, but also wholegrain cereals. We may not be able to digest the latters’ fibres, yet they provide bacteria with important nutrition. Using solely probiotics (probiotic supplements) to supply bacteria offers little benefit. We have to offer the bacteria something to eat. They are an organism of their own which has to be kept alive. Only then will it be strong enough to support our immune system.