Health

5 Reasons Gut Health Matters During Flu Season

With flu season underway — typically running from October through April, per Cleveland Clinic — you may be wondering what steps you can take to avoid getting sick, or developing a serious illness if you do get the flu.

The most obvious step is to get an annual flu shot. This vaccine is recommended in September or October for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — but you can benefit from taking this protective measure anytime during the flu season.

Your immune system, which fights outside invaders like influenza (flu) viruses, is an elaborate network in your body that is influenced by many different factors. One major determinant of how your immune system functions is the health of your gut microbiome — the bacteria and other organisms that live in your digestive tract.

“In someone who is healthy, this gut microbiome is protective against pathogens” — harmful bacteria or viruses — “that can enter the body through the food we eat or water we drink,” notes Nancee Jaffe, RDN, a gastroenterology nutritionist and the lead dietitian at the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases in Los Angeles. This role can even extend outside the digestive system, potentially warding off respiratory infections like the flu.

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