My mom used to remind me that “statistics don’t lie, but statisticians do”. Keep that in mind while trying to better understand the dire proclamations we hear about deaths attributed to the flu. As it turns out the government agency in charge of keeping track (the Centers for Disease Control) doesn’t really know. By their own admission, they use mathematical models to come up with their best guess. The numbers are greatly inflated because if a person was assumed to have had the flu (i.e. many aren’t tested) and they die, they are counted as a flu fatality (well, maybe not if they are hit by a bus). If they died from heart disease, a kidney condition or lung cancer that they already had, theirs is counted as a “flu death”. Likewise, with pneumonia and sepsis discussed below.
If you do not get the flu or one of the conditions below, you may have your intestinal bacteria to thank. (Hence the party). We know that 75% or more of our immune function is in the intestinal tract, so our probiotic bacteria are logically involved. In my book, The Probiotic Cure, I list a number of studies that show how, with good intestinal microbe balance, your risk of contracting an upper respiratory disease (like the flu) is dramatically reduced. A new review of studies showed that the use of supplemental probiotics could save Canadians millions of dollars each year by preventing respiratory infections. This link is to an article about the study and this one to the study itself.
- Pneumonia. This seems to be the most common cause of death directly related to influenza. However, during the flu season, it may not matter if the person’s pneumonia was caused by bacteria or fungus and not a virus—it is still likely to be classified a flu death. In my first book, Natural Alternatives to Nexium & Other Acid Blockers I show that people are much more likely to catch pneumonia if they take heartburn drugs…even if given in the hospital. On the other hand, folks taking probiotics are much less likely to have heartburn to begin with.
- Sepsis. This condition kills more than 258,000 Americans a year and only a tiny fraction of those are related to the flu. With sepsis the immune system gets so overwhelmed that it releases more protective chemicals than the body can handle. Sepsis can be caused by pneumonia, so again the gut bacteria connection above. Sepsis can also be caused by infections in the GI tract and blood stream. It is fairly obvious how probiotics would help prevent a generic “gastrointestinal infection”. New research goes further stating that supplemental probiotics can prevent sepsis in infants. Article and Study.
We know that if the bacteria in the gut are out of whack (e.g. after a course of antibiotics), the lining of the intestinal tract can become “leaky”. Then pathogenic bacteria can enter the blood stream. Sounds like a way to acquire a blood infection doesn’t it?
Our good gut bacteria also protect us from other diseases; improve our mood; help manage our weight; and even improve our appearance. The list of benefits is very long. So, about that party…what would they like? Well, the good bacteria HATE typical party food such as cake, Doritos and alcohol. They would love a nice salad and a fibrous vegetable. They would appreciate some fermented foods. I give mine a daily boost from Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. (It is made from dozens of fermented foods).