BiotiQuest® Gut Health & Probiotics Blog with Martha Carlin

How to naturally build immunity from food borne infections

Martha Carlin | Nov 24, 2021 | 6 minutes read

This week’s news carries another story about an E coli outbreak in the food supply chain. This outbreak is the result of contaminated baby spinach. These outbreaks are often connected to the “greens” market where these products are irrigated with recycled water that is only partially treated. But outbreaks are found across the food supply from meats to cake mixes.

Another source of acute GI distress and severe diarrhea is eating and drinking water in a foreign country. I’ve talked to countless people with IBS and other health issues, who feel they can trace the source back to severe traveler’s diarrhea from a trip abroad.

These infections can range from an irritating bout of diarrhea to very serious and life threatening. The most dangerous strain of E Coli is called O157. You can learn more about the dangers of this particular strain from Johns Hopkins here. In another study researchers showed that more than 10% of people with food poisoning went on to later develop IBS. There are many downstream health risks from IBS.

It can be quite difficult to get your gut back on track after a bout of food poisoning.


So what can you do to protect yourself from an infection?

First and foremost, even though the packaged greens say they are washed, wash them again and soak them in water with a bit of white vinegar. It’s a simple process that only takes a few minutes more. Ground meats can be particularly susceptible to E coli, Listeria and Salmonella. The only sure way to protect from pathogens in raw meat is to thoroughly cook your meat.

Avoid pre-packaged greens and salad bars where you have no idea where they are grown or how the processing works. During the growing season in your area, shop at the local farmers market and ask the farmer about his irrigation water source. In the off season, avoid these products and learn to eat more seasonally appropriate foods. Don’t leave raw meat out at room temperature while you are prepping before you are ready to cook it.

Don’t eat leftovers. Food portions at restaurants are so large, taking home leftovers has become pretty common. I remember when I was a kid my mother would never serve leftovers. She had an obsession about food borne pathogens. When I talk to people who have had food poisoning, I find some distinctions between males and females. Young men often mention that they ate some leftovers that had been in the refrigerator “for a while.” So something simple to remember about leftovers: “If you don’t eat it the next day, toss it out.”

When traveling abroad, take water treatment pills or use a portable water filter like the Sawyer mini or squeeze water filtration system with you. Avoid greens and foods that may have been washed with the local water unless you can be certain that the water sources for food prep are high quality. Eat fruits you can peel and discard the outside.

Take the right probiotic to protect your gut. Probiotic bacteria can be sentinels that protect your gut or they may do nothing at all. Our Ideal Immunity product was specifically formulated to protect against food borne pathogens. Strains in our formula were selected for their ability to inhibit growth of pathogenic bacteria like E coli, Salmonella, and Listeria.

Here is an example of the work we did with our proprietary strain Lactobacillus ruminis showing how it inhibits the growth of E coli and Listeria.

The image on the left is a plate with media that supports the growth of E coli. You can see the plate is streaked and covered with E coli. The second plate is streaked with E coli as well and then our L. ruminis is added in three spots on the plate. You can see in the image after 24 hours that the L. ruminis has inhibited the growth of the E coli. This is a standard pathogen inhibition test.

The second set of images shows a similar test with the L. ruminis against Listeria. In the second image, you can see that there is nearly 100% inhibition after 24 hours.

Pictured above, left to right:Listeria Monolytogenes,

Listeria Monolytogenesafter addingLactobacillus ruminis

Pictured above, left to right:Escherichia coli,

Escherichia coli after adding Lactobacillus ruminis

The majority of your immune system is in your gut, and it acts as the gatekeeper to kick out harmful organisms, before they harm your health.

Here are some other ways you can protect your immune system:

1. Eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables - One of the best ways to support your gut health is to start with the food you eat. By adding in more organic, anti-inflammatory foods, you can provide the bacteria in your large intestine dietary fiber, nourish your microbiome and feel your best. A few great options to keep in mind are pears, avocados, lentils, beets, chia seeds, almonds, dark chocolate, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kale, and organic whole grains.

2. Get 7-9 hours of sleep - One of the most essential components for a healthy immune system is quality sleep. It contributes to greater longevity, energy, and brain function, and reduces the risk for chronic disease and other health issues. Our gut bacteria have a circadian clock and they suffer when we don’t get enough sleep or we go to bed too late. Avoid technology 1-2 hours before bedtime to improve your sleep.

3. Enjoy moderate exercise daily - From yoga to stretching to walking, there are so many great ways to work in daily moderate movement, which not only aids digestion and improves mood, but can also reduce stress and increase energy. Bonus: as it gets warmer and lighter out with the seasonal transition to Spring, outdoor exercise becomes more accessible which can increase your vitamin D levels and your connection to nature.

4. Manage your stress - When you’re stressed, your immune system's ability to fight off harmful invaders is negatively impacted. Chronic stress, in particular when your body is in a prolonged state of fight or flight, prompts your body to release stress hormones and can lead to frequent ailments and infections or the risk for disease. Stress hormones impact the microbiome too!

5. Take a quality, targeted probiotic, like Ideal Immunity - Our unique strain was selected for these specific health promoting pathogen inhibition properties. Why not take a little extra precaution, especially if you eat at salad bars or frequently purchase pre-packaged salads and greens? Protect your health with Ideal Immunity! It targets the way the gut microbiome interacts with the immune system, and increases the production of butyrate, which has been shown to protect the gut lining!

Keep these tips handy, and above all be sure to listen to your body and honor your needs. This transition of seasons is a great time to focus on tuning in and strengthening your immune system, and the microbiome is one of the simplest, most effective places to start. Stock up on Ideal Immunity here.

With gratitude,

Martha Carlin photo Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.

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