Flu symptoms are a common winter ailment as temperatures drop and viruses begin to circulate.
When it comes to supplements for combating winter illnesses, vitamin C – and more recently vitamin D – come to mind.
However, there could be a key area of the body you’re neglecting when it comes to building up your body’s natural defences through diet.
Probiotics and prebiotics are integral to a happy digestive system – and they could help boost your immunity too.
That’s because they look after the health of your gut – an organ in which 70 to 80 per cent of the immune system is based.
“Gut health and immunity are closely related,” explained Dr Adam Cunliffe from Zaggora, who have launched a range of protein smoothies which contain both pre-biotics and probiotics.
“The gut, along with the skin and respiratory tract is a major interface with the outside world, so having good gut health is a key part of having a ‘barrier’ against infection via the gastrointestinal tract.
“In addition the microbes in the gut can play an important role in the correct functioning of our complex immune system.
“A healthy gut flora is positively associated with good overall immune status.”
So, how to probiotics and probiotics help our gut?
“The gut is host to the gut flora which is an environment of billions of microbes,” said Dr Cunliffe.
“We can boost our gut flora by consuming probiotics or by consuming pre-biotics, which are the food for probiotics.
“According to which pro- and pre-biotics we consume, we can encourage and boost the growth and numbers of specific strains of organisms.
“The principal of competition means that if we boost the ‘good bacteria’, we are by definition ‘squeezing out’ the bad bacteria.
“Therefore, consuming pro- and probiotics helps us rebalance our gut flora and improve our feeling of wellbeing.”
As well as boosting the immune system, Dr Cunliffe explained that a healthy gut enables us to properly extract nutrients from our food.
“It can also prevent dysbiosis – an overgrowth of bad bacteria versus good – which can cause bloating, cramps and irritable bowel symptoms,” he said.
“Research also indicates that the right balance of gut flora can influence our mood and stress levels.”
As well as a supplement, prebiotics can be found in sauerkraut, which finely-cut fermented cabbage.
Probiotic foods include Greek yoghurt and sourdough bread.