It is, however, early days for research into the health benefits of live foods, and they are by no means a magic bullet. Many researchers warn against putting too much faith in some of the wilder claims being made by advocates until further studies can be carried out.
ANTIBIOTICS, PROS AND CONS
Antibiotics are a remarkable gift and have doubtless saved many lives. The routine use of antibiotics, however, may be leading us into trouble.
The problem of drug-resistant bacteria is already one good reason for exercising moderation in the use of these medicines, with a strong case being made that it is our collective responsibility to reduce the routine use of antibiotics both in health care and farming in a collective effort to reduce the risk of superbugs.
But this isn't just a question of the common good. Studies also have linked childhood use of antibiotics by individuals with a significantly increased risk of allergic asthma later in life.
EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Of all the ways we can boost our body's immune system, eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables remains among the most important. Whether it's the vitamin C in your oranges or leafy green vegetables, or the antiseptic properties in garlic, if your child eats a broad range of plant-based foods, you likely will be giving their immune system a healthy jump start. And while health food stores may be clamoring to sell you the latest infant probiotic with wild claims for immune system improvements, the “elixir” may be a lot more accessible and closer to home than you might think.
As detailed in a recent article by Michael Pollan in the New York Times, it's been shown that a diet rich in a variety of whole grains, raw vegetables and less cooked foods (al dente pasta, for example) promotes fermentation in the lower intestine, which in turn is a key function for encouraging healthy gut microbes.
Ultimately, there is no one answer to an improved immune system. And the ideas presented here should not be considered an alternative to medical treatment. But pursuing a well-rounded lifestyle rich in exercise, sleep, good food and an enjoyment of the great outdoors seems as good a place as any to start. It also sounds like a whole lot of fun.