Dear Pharmacist: What is your go-to supplement for immunity? I want to get through the season without getting sick this year. — L.S., Long Island, N.Y.
Dear L.S.: The answer is probiotics. They improve energy and metabolism by activating thyroid hormone. This makes you feel energetic and helps you lose weight. Your microbiome includes beneficial bacteria that extract vitamins and minerals from your food, thus "feeding" your cells. A person can eat and eat, and it won't support you nutritionally at a cellular level unless the nutrients are extracted from your meals. This is why overweight people are actually malnourished at the cellular level.
Probiotics also improve allergies by retraining your immune cells to tell the difference between harmful and non-harmful things you are exposed to. This is particularly helpful to asthmatics. Probiotics improve autoimmune conditions, by helping your system differentiate between "self" and "non-self" particles, so that your immune cells (born in your intestines) don't overreact to your thyroid gland or your myelin, for example.
Probiotics relieve constipation, which reduces headaches because if you eliminate waste properly then toxins don't build up in your body. If toxins build up in your blood, they back up in your head. These toxins are "migrenades" — they go off in your body like a grenade causing migraines. Probiotics can get rid of some migrenades.
Probiotics help rid you of excess neurotransmitters. If you are stressed, nervous, sad, overwhelmed or you cry easily, I suggest taking probiotics. They influence hundreds of genes in your body, including the genes that help you fight infection, which is a terrific perk this time of year.
High-quality products are sometimes fermented to combine different strains. Here are some of the most popular strains found in supplements.
Bifidobacterium breve: Prevents diarrhea and supports natural antibody production.
Bifidobacterium infantis: Fights E. coli and protects against colon and stomach inflammation.
Bifidobacterium longum: Protects you from negative effects of nitrates in food; eases lactose intolerance, diarrhea and food allergies.
Enterococcus faecalis or TH10: Very potent against some deadly organisms, this strain also removes toxins in the colon, digests proteins and helps with allergies.
Lactobacillus acidophilus: Neutralizes yeast, campylobacter and some flu strains, while helping to lower cholesterol levels. You often see this in yogurt, though I am not convinced it's alive for long in yogurt.
Lactobacillus bulgaricus: May help with digestive problems and acid reflux.
Lactobacillus plantarum: Protects against some gram-negative bacteria and produces natural antibodies. Often found in sauerkraut and pickles.
Streptococcus thermophilus: Possesses strong antioxidant activity due to superoxide dismutase, an enzyme known to have anti-tumor activity.
This is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Go to DearPharmacist.com.