Fighting bad germs with good germs

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SAN FRANCISCO -- You may be able to help your child keep the swine flu at bay by feeding them certain edible germs like probiotics.

Jo Ann Hattner, a registered dietitian, says, "They protect you because they optimize your immune system. Over 70 percent of our immune response takes place in the gut."

Probiotics are found in a variety of fermented foods: miso soup, some soft cheeses, pickles, sauerkraut and certain yogurts.

Now new evidence demonstrates how live and active cultures found in these foods can ward off the cold and flu. The study found healthy children ages 3 to 5 that were fed probiotics had fewer cases of colds and flu, and when they did get sick, they were sick for fewer days.

Hattner says, "The kids who got the probiotics had reduced symptoms of their fever, their runny nose, their cough."

Hattner has written extensively about probiotics, but she advises if you add probiotic foods to your diet, you should add other foods called prebiotics as well.

Prebiotics are undigestable carbohydrates found in plant foods like artichokes, onions, garlic, bananas and whole wheat. These prebiotic foods help to fuel helpful probiotic bacteria.

"The bacteria munch on the prebiotics -- that is really their nutrition -- that's what causes them to replicate and grow and function," explains Hattner.

While these good germs are not a cure, they may help keep you healthy.


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