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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Immunity and Healthy Guts

After about a three year reprieve, beginning in October my oldest daughter started getting a virus every two weeks. We don't know why she gets this and no doctor has been able to tell us more than just that she'll grow out of it. But, as any parent of a sick child knows, illness throws off a child's balance and the overall momentum of life, not to mention being no fun for either the parent or the child. It can be exhausting and is a strain on the body to be sick so often. We've experienced so many of these cyclical viruses that we've learned to cope and we pretty much know what to expect. But sometimes they still put me at my wits' end. And so, knowing the medical community could do very little to help us, and making it a matter of prayer (again), I realized there were a few changes/improvements I could make to see if they would boost my daughter's immune system.

The biggest thrust of these efforts has been to increase her consumption of homemade yogurt. For the past couple of months I have tried to make sure that we always have this yogurt on hand, which means making about a batch a week (no biggie). When I first got my yogurt maker this daughter wasn't overly thrilled with the result, since she remembered when we used to buy that sugary stuff from the store. (Incidentally, my other daughter, who was never allowed yogurt before, due to her lactose intolerance, grew to love our plain homemade variety more quickly than her sister.) Over time she has come to enjoy it, sweetened with honey, and I no longer have to urge her to eat it.

While it may be too early to tell, I am beginning to notice signs that this effort might actually be making a difference, and I pray that it is so.

Yogurt is basically fermented milk--or cultured, if you prefer. Many cultures include fermented* foods in their regular diets just as a matter of course, and time and research has shown the benefits.

I realize now that I should've thought of regular yogurt consumption long ago, but you live and learn... Of course, we can add probiotics to our diets in other ways, but homemade yogurt--or at least good quality store-bought (plain) yogurt from the store--with acidophilus, bifidum and other cultures, is an easy, tasty way to get it. (Just add honey, fruit, or other natural and unrefined sweetener, if desired.) Eating this kind of yogurt aids in digestion, improves regularity, improves absorption of nutrients, and boosts immunity, as shown in this article, which also includes further nutrient information. No wonder it feels so good to eat it!

While yogurt manufacturers would have you believe that all yogurt is good for the health (and created equally), this is certainly not true. At least in my searches at grocery stores, I have found that most yogurts do not contain the necessary probiotics, and the flavored varieties contain so much sugar as to pretty much negate any good any probiotics may do, since refined sugar is not good for the gut and actually provides food for bad bacteria to feast on (and grow from).

So we will continue our experiment and hope that it proves effective for our daughter! In the meantime, the rest of us are seeing and feeling good results ourselves.

*Let me point out that these foods are not fermented to the point of becoming alcoholic, but only to the point of becoming full of the good bacteria that our guts need to help us stay healthy.

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