Do you find yourself battling an annual case of the winter blues? This common experience isn’t surprising when we consider that low temperatures and sunless skies drive us indoors and can snowball into a variety of miserable health issues: colds and flus, depression, achy joints, infections … the list goes on. What many of us might not consider much during this season is the health of our gut, but it may just be the key to better winter wellness.
The benefits of a healthy gut
The gut (and GALT) is home to over two-thirds of our immune-supportive cells—meaning it calls many of the shots when it comes to the body’s response to stressors in our environment and unwanted “guests” known as pathogens. A healthy gut microbiome is a balanced one that allows good bacteria to flourish while keeping bad bacteria growth at bay. When this balance is achieved, something beautiful can happen: our immune system responds in kind, carrying out its role as the body’s protector in a more healthy, balanced way. Here’s just a few of the potential benefits:
- Fewer infections: A healthy gut can help prevent infections before they even start by strengthening the immune response. When the body is able to effectively recognize pathogens and produce antibodies to fight them off, more illnesses pass us by.
- Speedy recoveries: Of course, we can’t avoid all illnesses. But when we do get sick, a healthy gut bolsters the immune system to regulate its response, slow down the spread of infections, and reduce inflammation. This means less downtime when those winter colds and flus inevitably come calling, and potentially less severe symptoms as well.
- Reduced risk of chronic conditions: A healthy gut helps the immune system make sound judgement calls. An imbalanced gut can trigger inflammation in the body and exaggerated immune responses to perceived threats. When this system is on high-alert, it can eventually lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body mistakenly attacks itself.
- Less stress: Never underestimate the power of the great gut-brain connection! The gut is even considered by some experts as the “second brain," with a healthy body of research linking the state of our gut with common mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. It’s no coincidence that when we’re feeling our best physically, a better state of mind often follows—and this goes both ways too!
The keys to a healthy gut
During winter, the gut faces a unique set of challenges that can make tapping into all these wonderful benefits difficult. Constricted blood flow due to cold temperatures can result in more sluggish responses throughout the body, and an increased consumption of junk food—the downside of those holiday get-togethers—can lead to less diversity and imbalance in the microbiome. You might even notice your gut is trying to tell you something is wrong with signs such as bloating, abdominal pain, digestion issues, or a plethora of symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome. When we also factor in higher rates of physical inactivity and a lack of the sunshine vitamin D, it’s easy to see how “happy hormones” can be harder to access, and how our immune function can become further compromised.
How to find balance
Luckily, there are natural ways to restore balance and support overall health. Each one of us has unique strains of bacteria that live in our gut and help us digest food, regulate the immune system, and send messages to the nervous system. Without a variety of these bacteria (which we can supply through our diet), these crucial functions are jeopardized. In fact, studies show a correlation between microbiomes lacking in diversity and poor digestion, infections, food allergies, and skin conditions like eczema. This is why “eating the rainbow” for a diverse diet is recommended. Limiting the use of antibiotics—which indiscriminately wipe out both bad and good bacteria—is another way to ensure that the gut remains a welcoming environment.
But when antibiotics are unavoidable or diets fall to the wayside, a little help from biotics can provide that extra boost of beneficial growth we need to restore and maintain balance. Let’s take a look at how a combination of biotics can work together:
- Prebiotics are most commonly sourced from fibre-rich plants that we eat. They “feed” probiotics and allow their number to increase in the gut.
- Probiotics are live microorganisms that generally work to improve or restore healthy gut microbiome diversity and balance. They use prebiotics as fuel and have also been shown to stimulate immune cells that help defend against infections (like T-cells), reduce inflammation, and produce anti-inflammatory, short-chain fatty acids.
- Synbiotics are a 2-in-1 combination of prebiotics and probiotics that provide both the fuel and essential functions of probiotics.
- Postbiotics are the by-products of probiotics that consumed prebiotics. A particularly beneficial postbiotic is the short-chain fatty acid butyrate, which has been shown to help protect the gut lining with its immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
Harness the power of biotics
To help maintain gut diversity and set up your immune system for success against winter’s many maladies, consider taking a unique, 3-in-1 supplement: AOR’s Probiotic-3. This clinically proven product offers a combination of prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, and postbiotics to help your microbiome thrive.
Created with a one-of-a-kind formula, Probiotic-3 produces clinical amounts of butyric acid, encourages good bacteria growth (like Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia), and reduces pathogenic bacteria growth. As the gut works its way towards a better balance, Probiotic-3 also supports immunity and helps normalize the body’s inflammatory response. Add this perfect remedy to your toolkit this season and find better winter wellness, naturally.
At AOR, our vision is to transform health through natural, personalized, and therapeutic care. We seek to catalyze change and challenge conventions through continuous innovation. For twenty-eight years, it has been our mission to transform scientific research into evidence-based, natural health products that empower people to lead their best lives.