The Gut-Immune System Connection
Did you know, the strength of your immune system, the balance of your microbiome and health of your gut are all deeply interconnected?
There’s a strong connection between your gut and your immune system. In fact, over 70 - 80 percent of your body’s immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract!
You've most likely heard of probiotics, the "good bacteria" many people take as supplements. Yet every person has a whole ecosystem of microbes in their gut. Known as the microbiome, it’s composed of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and bacteriophages. The microbiome is a fascinating place. Sometimes called "the last undiscovered human organ," scientists are still actively uncovering the many ways in which the microbiome affects health, from your skin to your mental wellness, and of course - your immune system!
How Your Microbiome Benefits Your Immune System
- Good gut microbes create an anti-infectious barrier. They inhibit harmful bacteria from sticking to the gut wall — helping them pass out of the body.
- Your gut microbes synthesize vitamins your body can use, including B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, K, folic acid, and biotin
- Gut microbes can break down the cell walls of harmful gut organisms, and break down other substances, like xenobiotics, sterols (for example cholesterol), and more.
- Gut microbes interact with one another through cell-to-cell signaling. It’s well known that probiotic strains produce antimicrobial molecules in the gut.
- Colonization by bad bacteria in the gut can lead to issues like small intestinanal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, and even more serious terminal illnesses.
What Causes Your Gut To Become Unbalanced?
When you’re healthy, there’s a balance between the good and bad microbes in your gut. When something upsets this balance, this can lower your immunity and make you vulnerable. Here are some potential causes of gut imbalance:
It almost goes without saying that a diet heavy on junk food and light on nutrition leads to an unhealthy gut. Poor diet decreases the diversity of your microbiome, and eating processed foods can contribute to leaky gut — where a weakened intestinal barrier allows disease-causing microbes to enter the gut and nutrients to be lost.
Antibiotics are used when you have an infection that needs intervention. However, they wipe out the good bacteria in your gut along with the bad. Without beneficial bacteria to offset them, harmful microbes can take over, leaving you vulnerable to illness.
Pushing Yourself Too Hard
The hectic pace of the world can lead to stress, too much fast food, and insufficient. When we’re focused on the hustle and bustle of daily life, self-care isn’t always a priority. These choices catch up with us, leading to an unbalanced gut.
Overindulgence in Alcohol
Chronic drinking causes unwelcome changes in gut bacteria and increases the risk of leaky gut. Alcohol may also throw off immune function in the gut and trigger an inflammatory response in the small and large intestines.
6 Ways to Boost Immune Health in the Gut
How can you support a balanced gut and a strong immune system? Start with your plate!
Making gut-friendly changes to your diet can promote gut and immune system health, which is what we have aimed to help you kickstart through our 5-day Thrive Immunity program. Here are a few proven ideas.
1. Follow a Whole Food Diet
A healthy diet strengthens the immune system by supporting gut balance. Many vegetables and fruits contain prebiotic fiber prebiotic fiber that feeds and nurtures good gut bacteria.
2. Eat Probiotic Foods
Make probiotic foods, including fermented varieties like kimchee and sauerkraut, a regular part of your diet. Some of the best food sources of prebiotics include alliums like onions, leeks, and garlic, as well as artichokes and asparagus.
3. Eliminate or Reduce Sugar
Too much sugar can throw your gut off balance. A diet high in sugar lowers the variety of gut bacteria you have, with a lack of gut flora diversity increasing your risk of illness.
4. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress takes its toll on many parts of the body, and the gut is no exception. Stress and other environmental factors not only create high levels of cortisol but also can change the way the gut and brain communicate with each other. This change in communication can lower immune system function.
Like excessive sugar consumption, high stress may also lead to gut imbalance and leaky gut. Both of these gut issues affect immunity — yet another reason to incorporate a calming practice like yoga or meditation into your routine!
5. Identify Food Intolerances
If you find yourself with an upset stomach after eating certain foods, you could have a food intolerance. Sensitivity to gluten, lectins, or certain foods can throw the gut off balance, causing nausea, bloat, or gassiness.
If you continue to eat foods your gut can’t tolerate, it can cause inflammation and damage intestinal cells that keep harmful microbes out of the gut. This may lower your intestinal immunity.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Your intestinal microbiota are sensitive to disruption to your sleep-wake cycle — also called circadian rhythms. Not getting enough rest can damage cells in the intestines, affect your gut’s immune response, and increase your risk of getting leaky gut.
Lack of sleep also lowers the diversity of gut bacteria. As mentioned, this causes gut imbalance and lowers immunity that can result in a slow metabolism and weight gain.
Poor diet, antibiotic use, stress, lack of sleep, and drinking too much alcohol all throw off the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, affecting immune function.
Our Thrive Immunity program aims to support a balanced gut and a strong immune system through our meal plan which is whole-foods based - it includes plenty of healthy, colourful fruits and vegetables as well as probiotic and prebiotic foods.
Through our program we also ask you to eliminate sugar and identify potential, and encourage some supplementation to assist.