How Does Your Gut Affect Immune Health?
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, believed that food and digestion were central to health – and he was right.
Since discovering the gut’s microbiome in the late 90s, scientists are buzzing about this ecosystem and its fundamental role in immune health and inflammatory diseases.
Knowing some of the basics can make a significant impact on the way you can approach and improve your health.
If you experience any of these WARNING SIGNS:
- Plaguing fatigue
- Foggy brain
- Swinging moods and other mood issues
- Embarrassing bloating, gas, excess flatulence
- Upset stomach and/or nausea
- Occasional heartburn
- Irregular bowel movements
- Troublesome headaches
- Unsightly skin problems
- Imbalanced hormones
- Sore joints and other joint problems
- Irritating respiratory difficulties (sniffles, mucus)
- Out-of-control cravings or appetite troubles
- Sensitivities to foods
- Frustrating allergies
That may mean your gut and immunity are struggling and need help before permanent damage occurs.
What is the microbiome?
“Micro” means small, and “biome” means habitat of living things.
The microbiome is a community of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and fungi.
Consisting of about 10,000 microbial species, including more than 1,000 species of bacteria live on your body. i
They live on the skin, in the vagina, placenta, mouth, and most live in the gut.
The microbiome has about 3.3 million genes, 100 trillion cells, and weighs about 5 lbs.ii
Compared to the 22,000 genes that humans have and about one-tenth of the number of cells in the human body.
That means this tiny world is highly complex, varied, and specialized.
It evolved together over millions of years alongside humans and animals.
We live in harmony with this microbiome – it helps us, and we provide it with a nurturing home.
What does the microbiome do?
Each microbe supports a specific function, and scientists are still learning about them.iii
We know they conduct important metabolic functions in dealing with factors outside your body, such as food, sunlight, and toxins.iv
The microbiome is involved in breaking down your food and absorbing its nutrients and minerals. v
It helps fight invaders and infections, protects the gut lining, and regulate immune functions. vi
It helps make the building blocks your cells need, such as vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), and some brain messenger neurotransmitters. vii
It also plays a role in producing energy, normalizes fat metabolism and weight, and balances blood pressure, sugar levels, blood clotting, moods, and behavior. viii
That means your gut bacteria are like all the factory workers supporting every part of your health!
How can the microbiome affect health?
This micro world of organisms is composed of both the good and bad.
Poor diet, smoking, stress, alcohol, pollutants, pesticides, heavy metals, and more destroy the good bacteria leaving the bad ones to grow out-of-control.
When this happens, it’s called dysbiosis, and that’s when things get rough.
If it continues, dysbiosis leads to chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases including:
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) ix x xi
- Obesity xii xiii
- Diabetes xiv
- Dementia xv
- Depression xvi
- Autism xvii
- Alzheimer’s xviii
- Rheumatoid Arthritis xix
- Cancer xx xxi
- Kidney Disease xxii xxiii
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease) xxiv xxv xxvi
- Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome xxvii
- Asthma xxviii xxix
- Urinary Stone Disease (USD) xxx
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome xxxi
- Metabolic Syndrome and related diseases xxxii xxxiii
- Allergies xxxiv
- And more
But you can help REVERSE dysbiosis and bring things back into a healthy BALANCE.
3 ways to boost your microbiome’s good stuff
Bacteria are living organisms, so by feeding the good ones, you help promote a healthy gut population and immunity.
- Nutrient-rich foods.
Getting back to healthy basics with your diet is essential for a healthy microbiome and immune functions.
Cut down on or eliminate fried and fast foods, packaged, processed, and refined foods loaded with additives, preservatives, and sugars.
Besides destroying your good bacteria, your body barely recognizes these foods.
And it has to work extra hard to convert it into useable energy.
These foods are nutrient-poor, which means your microbiome isn’t getting the nutrition it requires to make the building blocks necessary to support cellular metabolism.
And your gut starts sending you the WARNING SIGNS you saw above.
When shopping, stick to your grocery store’s outer areas.
That’s where fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, wild-caught fish, poultry, full-fat yogurt, kefir, and eggs are kept.
Choose organic whenever possible because animal products are high in omega-6s due to feeding the animals corn and cheap ingredients that negatively affect their microbiomes.
Probiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut.
So the more you feed the good, the more they grow, and the bad bacteria starve. xxxv
Probiotics – [full-fat] yogurt, kefir, aged cheeses (cheddar, gouda, mozzarella), buttermilk, dill pickles, kimchi, kombucha, miso, natto (a food made from fermented soybeans), sauerkraut, tempeh, olives xxxvi
Prebiotics feed the probiotics, which promotes happier good bacteria.
- Prebiotics – garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, apples, cocoa, flaxseeds, jicama root, wheat bran, and seaweed xxxvii
Polyphenols and Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that combat free radical damage and help your gut to balance immune health.
- Polyphenols – cloves and other seasonings, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, berries, non-berry fruits, colorful vegetables, beans, nuts, and soy.xxxviii
- Flavonoids – tea, citrus fruit, citrus fruit juices (not from concentrate, no sugar added), berries, red wine, apples, and legumes. xxxix
By nourishing a healthy microbiome, you protect your body from cellular damage, lower inflammation, and risk for chronic conditions and diseases.
Research shows that adding supplements with probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants can help address dysbiosis. xl
- Avoid antibiotics whenever you can – ask your doctor about alternatives.
Antibiotics kill infections, but they also destroy the good bacteria leading to WARNING SIGNALS, free radical damage, and poor immune functions.
- Lower stress.
Stress has become a way of life during these busy times, and that’s a problem.
Stress is your body’s evolutionary response to danger.
Your body concentrates its energy on saving your life and shuts down digestion, your ability to fight infections, and slows healing. xlv
Stress and negative emotions send out system-wide inflammatory markers. xlvi
Chronic stress makes your immunity go berserk and attack your healthy cells, tissues, and organs. xlvii
Exercise is a great stress- reliever along with meditation and taking a pleasant walk.
Getting back to nature and balance with healthier foods, supplements, exercise, and having fun can help improve your immunity and overall quality of life.