Want to prevent flu and relieve intestinal irritation? Eat dark chocolate and dairy products | fitness | Hindustan Times
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Want to prevent flu and relieve intestinal irritation? Eat dark chocolate and dairy products

Eating a diet rich in flavonoids (such as dark chocolate and red wine) and tryptophan (found in milk and cheese) can boost microbiota or bacteria and viruses living in our digestive systems. Microbiota protect us from pathogens such as flu and inflammatory disease.

fitness Updated: Aug 08, 2017 10:47 IST
Red wine, dark chocolate and cheese contain nutrients that enhance your intestinal immune response.
Red wine, dark chocolate and cheese contain nutrients that enhance your intestinal immune response. (Shutterstock)

The international scientific community is increasingly prioritising studies of human microbiota — the billions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in our digestive systems — and the relationship between microbiota, metabolic and psychiatric disease, and good health.

On August 4, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in the United States published results of two studies of mice that examined how intestinal immune responses can be enhanced by the consumption of certain nutrients. In the first study, which focused on the effects of flavonoids — antioxidants mainly found in dark chocolate, bilberries and red wine — on intestinal microbiota, researchers found that these nutrients could “collaborate” with certain microbiota bacteria to combat influenza and other viral infections.

“We were able to identify at least one type of bacteria, Clostridium orbiscindens, that uses these dietary compounds to boost interferon, a signalling molecule that aids the immune response,” explained study author Thaddeus S Stappenbeck.

This mechanism protected mice exposed to a flu virus from pulmonary complications, even when they had the same viral load as the untreated mice in the control group. The results of the study indicate that interaction between the bacteria and the flavonoids does not target flu viruses directly, but rather stimulates a response that prevented the immune system from harming lung tissue.

A second study suggests that the bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri, which is present in microbiota, in combination with a diet rich in tryptophan could promote a more tolerant digestive system by boosting the growth of anti-inflammatory immune cells. Tryptophan, an amino acid that acts as precursor to the wellbeing hormone serotonin, is naturally present in such foods as turkey, cod, salami, parmesan, parsley, pumpkin seeds, soya, milk and cheese.

Researchers found that doubling the amount of tryptophan fed to mice boosted the growth of their immune cells by 50%, a finding that could prove useful for sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease.

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