What does your immune system have to do with your gut health?
The two are inextricably linked. Over 70% of our immune system resides in our gut (aka colon and/or large intestine). The gut is often the first entry point for exposure to pathogens (bad bacteria and virus’ that can cause disease); therefore your gut immune system needs to be thriving and healthy in order to avoid illness.
Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that help protect your body from infection and illness. The gut is the part of your digestive system where food is digested into nutrients that can be absorbed into the blood stream. It’s also the place where many important chemical reactions take place, including those involved in immunity.
So how do these two systems work together?
In order for the body to fight off infections and diseases effectively, it needs to be able to recognize and destroy harmful invaders while still protecting itself from its own defenses. For example, if you’re fighting off an infection like colds or flu (and who isn’t right now?) your immune system will trigger inflammation throughout your body in order to fight off the virus or bacteria that’s causing you harm. The gut is a part of the immune system that helps fight off bacteria by breaking down food into nutrients that can be absorbed by our bodies. The gut also produces its own antibodies to help us fight infections.
The gut is where most of our immune system is housed, making it very important for our overall health. A healthy gut can improve digestion, nutrient absorption, energy levels, mood and so much more. A healthy diet with lots of fiber will help keep your digestive system healthy and boost your immune system as well.
Signs that your immune system is out of balance may include: food and seasonal allergies, chronic inflammation, chronic sinusitis, colds and flus that linger for weeks and constant recurring colds and flus. You may also notice a rise of food intolerances.
The best way to balance our immune system
One of the best ways to enhance your immune system is by having a healthy and strong digestive system, and this means our gut bacteria needs to be in balance. Our western ways of eating hasn’t helped to keep our gut bacteria balanced. Most traditional cultures regularly consume fermented foods like natural yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, which feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. In the West, however, we tend to do the opposite.
What can HEAL our gut microbiome, our immune system and our overall health?
- Eat whole foods; healthy meals that include lots of fruits and vegetables and unrefined foods. Aim to remove all refined sugars and processed grains which feed the “bad” bacteria.
- Eat naturally fermented foods daily like sauerkraut, kefir, natural yoghurt and take a probiotic supplement when needed. Probiotic supplements contain high amounts of beneficial bacteria and “seed” the gut – an important part of finding balance.
Increase Sleep –
- Allow your body to shut down, reset, and recharge. A minimum of 7 hours sleep a night is best. And get to bed before well before 12am as our most beneficial hours of sleep are between 10pm and midnight.
Reduce Stress –
- Take a walk through nature, walk the dog, meditate, play your favourite sport or do low intensity exercise like pilates, yoga, tai chi or qi gong.
- Practice mindfulness techniques; here is a great article about how to: Train Your Brain to Boost Your Immune System.
When your gut is healthy, it will support your immune system so you don’t get sick as often!
“A well functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. Just as a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of the body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system,” Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD.