It’s no secret that maintaining gut health is key to overall good health. But what many people don’t know is the close connection between gut and immune function. Scientists are now beginning to unravel the intricate web of interactions between the two systems, and the results are fascinating. Here we take a look at some of the latest research on gut-immune connections and explore how keeping your gut health is essential for maintaining a strong immune system.
When most people ask how to strengthen immunity, the last thing they think of is their gut. In reality, this is a very vital part of the picture. The gut and microbiota are so important to immune function.
The role of the gut and the gut bacteria is a huge area of research at the moment. It is a focus that I work on a lot and in my clinic. I have a very keen interest in it because of the links between the gut and bacteria between every other parts of the body. This include the mind, the lungs, the skin, the hormones, and of course the huge role that it plays in immune function.
Why is the gut so important in immunity? One of the earliest points of contact with the potential pathogen, be it viral or bacterial, is our mucosal barrier. This is the layer of mucus that covers the inside of our mouths and our stomachs, as well as our reproductive system and respiratory tract.
It provides us with a barrier between the pathogens of the outside world and the immune cells that are found in the cellular lining of these organs. The mucosal lining is our very first line of defense against invasion from outside pathogens. This is followed by the epithelial barrier which lies underneath the mucus.
This is composed of cells that should be firmly held together by structures that we call tight junctions. Almost three-quarters of our immune system lives between the mucosal barrier and the epithelial cells.
A robust mucosal layer and the integrity of the epithelial barriers is a cornerstone of a healthy immune system. These barriers can be compromised because of things like drinking alcohol, taking drugs that fight pain (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs), eating foods we are intolerant to, being stressed out, working out too hard, breathing in polluted air, and having too many bacteria in our guts that break down mucus.
Once impaired, a mucosal barrier becomes permeable to microbes, which can then interact with the epithelial barrier. Consequently, this will cause the immune system to attack. If there is chronic inflammation already present, then there is also an increased risk of infection.
Then, of course, there are the bacteria. The microbiota (microbial flora) are vital in the upkeep and quality of these mucosal and epithelial barriers. We can consider them the maintenance managers. They produce what's called short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. These support the underlying epithelial barrier and reduce inflammation.
Research indicates that poor health of the microbiome and the mucosa might increase risk of infections, including COVID-19.
Now, how can you support to the microbiome and give them a happy home? Feed them. You feed them with an increased intake of prebiotic fiber and polyphenols, which are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
Then, when therapeutic support for the intestinal barriers required an increased intake of probiotic bacteria alongside, prebiotics can be used. There are specific strains of probiotic bacteria that have been shown to improve gut integrity. These are part of the lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium family.
A well-functioning gut is essential for good health, and there are a number of nutrients that can support gut integrity. Vitamin A, for example, is important for the maintenance of the mucosal barrier, while vitamin D supports the immune system and helps to protect against intestinal inflammation. zinc is also critical for gut health, as it plays a role in the repair of damaged cells and the synthesis of new DNA. As such, eating foods that are rich in these nutrients can help to support gut integrity and promote overall health.
Gut health is often overlooked when it comes to immune system health, but it’s one of the most important factors. Luckily, there are many ways to strengthen gut health and boost immunity. Consider scheduling a discovery call with us so we can help you create an individualized plan that targets your specific needs. Together, we can make sure your gut—and your immune system—is in tip-top shape!
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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional