With the current state of the world, the topic of immunity has become widely popular. We’ve all become so motivated to keep our immunity in check within the recent year, but some important topics tend to be skipped over when addressing a strong immune system. We know to take our vitamin C, eat our antioxidants and wash our hands, but has anyone ever told you to take care of your gut health? More than 70% of your immune system resides in the gut! During times of stress like this passed year, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re putting into your body to ensure you’re giving your immune system the best fighting chance. The food you eat translates to the health of your gut and your immune system.
How gut health plays a key role in maintaining a strong and healthy immune system
Our immune system is there to identify the body’s enemies such as bacteria and viruses, and destroy them. There are two main doorways for these invaders to enter our body; our digestion and our lungs.
The digestive tract is the first line of defense to invaders. Your gut microbiome carries trillions of bacteria, good and bad. Probiotics being the beneficial bacteria, and pathogens being the bad bacteria. Probiotics allow you to digest your food and absorb important nutrients, as well as have many healing properties for different digestive imbalances.
These probiotic bacteria help your immune system by supporting it with the necessary nutrients. Having a good balance of these bacteria in your gut is essential to maintain a strong and healthy immune system.
However, if an imbalance occurs, and the bad bacteria outnumbers the good bacteria, your immune system will be impacted negatively.
An imbalance of good bacteria in your microbiome is called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis puts immense stress on your immune system causing inflammation and vulnerability to infections.
How dysbiosis impacts your immune system:
Bad bacteria produce many harmful toxins that attack your gut lining. Your gut lining is a protective layer that determines what is allowed in. Bad bacteria and toxins attack this protective lining, causing holes to escape into your blood stream, which threatens your immune system. Once your protective gut lining is damaged more threats will continue to leak through into the blood stream. This ongoing battle for your immune system can lead to chronic and autoimmune conditions.
Having a clear understanding of what has a negative impact on your gut and digestive system will help you to better understand how you can rebalance your gut microbiome.
- Antibiotics — Antibiotics destroy all the bacteria in the body including the good and bad. Unfortunately, our body faces many threats and toxins on a daily basis, therefore it’s more likely for your gut to grow more harmful bacteria than good after taking antibiotics, thus creating an imbalanced environment in your gut.
- Stress and anxiety — Stress and anxiety puts immense strain on your gut that results in dysbiosis.
- Processed foods — Processed foods contain many damaged fats and sugars that promote overgrowth of bad bacteria and do not satisfy the probiotics, thus creating an imbalance in the gut.
- Lack of sleep —Not only does a lack of sleep contribute to dysbiosis, but also severely impacts your immune system and overall wellbeing.
- Pesticides/GMOs — Pesticides and GMOs kill the beneficial probiotic bacteria and create an environment where pathogens thrive.
- Overconsumption of sugar — A diet high in sugar promotes overproduction of bad bacteria. Bad bacteria such as Candida feeds on sugar, allowing them to thrive and create an imbalance in the gut.
- Overconsumption of foods your body is sensitive to — Eating foods that your body is sensitive to causes your immune system to activate and go into overdrive. If you’re consistently eating foods your body cannot tolerate, your immune system will continue to work itself. This can lead to leaky gut, autoimmune, and chronic disorders and inflammation. If you have an abundance of sensitivities/intolerances it may be a sign you already have leaky gut and should seek aid from a Holistic Nutritionist.
It’s important that we feed our bodies with the necessary nutrients to allow our digestion to thrive. Our gut needs foods that provide the essential nutrients that promote the production and growth of good probiotics and provide an environment that does not allow pathogens to thrive.
Foods that help maintain a balanced gut
- Lemon — Lemon helps keep your body in an alkaline state. When you’re in an alkaline state, pathogens and bad bacteria cannot thrive.
- Dark leafy greens — Dark leafy greens keeps your body in an alkaline state and provides nutrients that feeds the good probiotics in your gut, as well as contains fibre that is necessary to eliminate harmful toxins from the body.
- Flax seeds and chia seeds — Flax seeds and chia seeds are a great source of fibre. They help bind to eliminate toxins from the body and is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation in the body,
- Kefir — Kefir is a type of fermented yogurt that is filled with probiotics that are beneficial for maintaining a good balance of good bacteria in the gut.
- Olive oil — Olive oil reduces inflammation and can reduce negative bacterial overgrowth that could lead to Candida and leaky gut.
- Sauerkraut — Sauerkraut is another fermented food that contains probiotics beneficial for maintaining good balance of good bacteria in the gut.
- Raw garlic — Raw garlic is a known prebiotic that feeds the probiotics in your gut. It also contains properties that kills off bad bacteria overgrowth.
Steps to take to keep a healthy and happy gut
The key to keeping a healthy gut, is maintaining good balance of your gut microbiome. Here are 5 steps to take to keep your gut balanced:
- Take probiotics — You want your gut microbiome to contain an abundance of beneficial probiotics. Probiotics help to digest your food, they improve absorption of various nutrients, they relieve constipation and promote healing and repair of the digestive tract.
- Take prebiotics to nourish probiotics — Prebiotics are beneficial nutrients that feed your probiotics to allow them to provide the necessary actions to keep your gut microbiome balanced, and your immune system strong.
- Avoid foods you are sensitive to — Eating foods that your body is sensitive to causes your immune system to activate and go into overdrive. If you’re consistently eating foods your body cannot tolerate your immune system will continue to work itself.
- Eat a balanced diet — Eat a balanced diet that consists of fibre, fat and protein, and less of processed foods and pesticides.
- Drink lots of water — Water is necessary for a happy and healthy digestive tract. It keeps you in an alkaline and hydrated state that allows for good bacteria to thrive.
During times of stress like this passed year, it’s important that we are paying attention to the foods we are putting into our body and the actions we are taking to ensure our immune system is given the best fighting chance. Paying attention to how our digestion is feeling is a crucial habit to instill due to how greatly it impacts our immune system. Taking care of your gut health is an act of self-care that keeps you safe and healthy!