Have you ever been sick with the cold or flu----you find yourself holed up in your bedroom, completely out of commission. You’re unable to take care of the kids, get work done, or do anything else. Then, suddenly you start to feel better. Your vision clears, you feel well-rested, your immune system has done its job.
But how? What is the foundation of our immune system that enables it to fight off sickness. And how can we strengthen these foundations to boost our immune systems and make them more effective? Many studies have been performed about the connection between the gut and the immune system. They have discovered that the two aren’t just related--they go hand in hand.
To understand why the gut is connected to the immune system and how it is so foundational, we need to understand what the gut is exactly and what happens there.
The Gut and Its Functions
The gut is made up of a set of microorganisms--bacteria, viruses and fungi--that naturally live inside our digestive tract. These are non-pathogenic, meaning that they do not attack the body or trigger an immune response (unless the immune system is overactive). Rather, they actually promote the health of your immune system.t"The intestinal microbiota is made up of billions of microorganisms and bacteria which are important in the regulation of intestinal health, in immunity, and in the absorption of certain nutrients," says Professor Jean-Christophe Saurin, chief of the hepato-gastroenterology department at the CHU de Lyon.
The gut is mainly localized in the small intestine and the colon and is made up of intestinal flora, which are in perpetual movement. Every moment, bacteria die and are born. This process depends on our diet. In order to grow out intestinal flora and strengthen our immune system, we must consume food that is conducive to the flora.
The intestinal flora limits the growth of pathogenic (harmful) species and has both an anti-infectious and antitoxic role, as it is involved in the development of the immune system. It also:
- Acts as a barrier against pathogenic bacteria and is, therefore, an integral part of the intestinal immune system
- Is essential for digestion, in particular of fiber: "The more the intestinal microbiota is made up of various microorganisms, the better the intestinal health," indicates Professor Jean-Christophe Saurin.
- Ensures the fermentation of substrates and non-digestible food residues
- Facilitates the assimilation of nutrients thanks to a set of enzymes the body lacks
- Helps synthesize certain vitamins (B2, B5, B8, B9, and K)
- Provides hydrolysis of starch, cellulose, and polysaccharides (carbohydrates made up of a large number of simple sugars), regulates the absorption of fatty acids, and therefore contributes to weight maintenance
- Promotes intestinal transit and accelerates cell renewal
- Is involved in the digestion of food with an Alkalizing role
- Breaks down cholesterol and some of the bile salts
- Produces short-chain fatty acids, which are protectors of the intestinal mucosa
- Metabolizes certain drug molecules (antidepressants, antibiotics) or natural molecules such as soy phytoestrogens and make the latter usable
- And many more roles (19,000) according to MetaHIT studies
In a healthy adult, the endogenous flora consists mainly of fermentation flora and bacteroids. The balance between these two florae is called symbiosis. In the cases that an imbalance occurs, it is called dysbiosis.
The gut is influenced by different factors:
- The foods we eat: Too meaty and it causes the flora to rot. Meanwhile, foods that are too sweet or rich in fiber cause the flora to ferment.
- Gastric acidity: Production deficit or inhibition by anti-acid treatments or alkalizing drinks during the meal
- Interactions between bacteria: Some species of gut bacteria inhibit or facilitate the development of other species
- Antibiotics: Certain medications can alter the makeup of your intestinal flora and limit its diversity
- Stress: Too much stress can prove disastrous for our guts--limiting the scope and effectiveness of its bacteria.
- Reduction of beneficial bacteria, known as bifidobacterium or lactobacillus, are often reduced when our in the diet lacks lacto-fermented products, like yogurt, or consists mostly of highly processed food.
Why Are Gut Bacteria Essential for a Healthy Immune System?
Do you know how much of all immune function occurs in your gut? In fact, it’s almost 80%!t!
The intestinal ecosystem is at the heart of your body’s defense system. The immune system acts like a border, protecting your body from invasive pathogens.. If it detects anything wrong, it reacts in a way that promotes healing and drives out the invaders.
The intestine is not just an organ dedicated to moving your food along. Indeed, the intestinal ecosystem is made up of three elements which work in harmony to protect your body from pathogens. These elements are: The intestinal mucosa: This is the membrane that lines the entire wall of the digestive tract. It represents a huge surface area for exchanges between the outside and the inside of the body (about 300 m2, which is the equivalent of a tennis court). The mucous membrane prevents unwanted microorganisms from entering the body but will allow nutrients and micronutrients to pass through. It plays the role of "filter."
- The intestinal immune system: Defends the body against aggressors and converts food into a form your body can process. Around 60% of our immune cells are concentrated in the intestine.
- The intestinal microbiota: The intestinal microbiota (and it’s some 10,000 billion bacteria) helps protect us against pathogens through the barrier effect. By adhering to the intestinal mucosa, the bacteria of the flora prevent pathogenic microorganisms from taking over the intestine.
How Do the Gut and Immune System Work Together?
Now that we know how the gut works on its own, let’s talk about how the gut and immune system work together.
Keeping your immune system at its best is a great way to stay healthy, especially during this time of pandemic health crisis. Your immune system is always at work fighting off pathogens.
You might be wondering: then why am I not always sick? This is because the immune system works preventatively. Most of the time, it fights off the pathogens before they manage to infect you and make you sick. If the immune system is unable to do so, it launches an immune response to fight off the illness and help you heal. These cells are an integral part of the process.
Your gut is lined with a thin wall of cells that acts as a partition, which determines what should stay in your gut and what can continue into your blood. Behind this partition are the cells attached to your immune system, which act as a border patrol for what’s passing through your intestine.
Certain situations, such as poorly managed stress, an unbalanced diet, or taking antibiotics, can lead to an imbalance of the microbiota called "dysbiosis." This can disrupt the balance of the intestinal ecosystem, therefore weakening the immune system.
Fortunately, certain good bacteria are able to enhance the activity of the intestinal microbiota. These ‘good germs’ are called probiotics.
How to Replenish Good Bacteria: Probiotics, Foods to Eat
What should you eat to restore your flora and boost your immune system? Food plays a significant role in the intestinal flora, and certain ones can help you grow it back after it is deplenished. . So the next time you have a tummy ache, or if you simply want to make a healthy change, set down the potato chips and swap them for the following foods:
- Yogurt contains lactic ferments and natural probiotics, especiallyActivia © or other yogurts with active Bifidus. Fermented milk such as kefir or Ribot milk
- Legumes, which are sources of fiber (split peas, red beans, flageolet beans, lentils, white beans, etc.)
- Whole grains, also rich in fiber (whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye, wild rice, bulgur, quinoa)
- Fermented cabbage or sauerkraut, which boosts bacteria beneficial to the intestines and are rich in calcium, vitamin C, phosphorus, and potassium
- Honey, which is an antibacterial and natural antioxidant and stimulates the growth of good bacteria
- Kombucha, a carbonated drink made by fermenting yeasts and bacteria grown in green or black tea
- Plants whose bulbs are eaten such as garlic, onion, shallot, or leek, all of which are prebiotics that serve as food for bacteria and promote their development
- Probiotics (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria), or yeasts (Saccharomyces) in food supplements, which make it possible to restore the intestinal flora and repopulate it with "good" bacteria. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Recent studies in understanding how the immune system works at the level of the intestinal mucosa have led to the development of the concept of “immuno-nutrition,” which corresponds to the physiological interaction of the host with the intestinal microflora, which plays a big role in the maturation of the immune system, and in which foods or nutritional factors, such as prebiotic oligosaccharides (OS), play an important role. Several studies discuss how the immune system maturation occurs in the first hours of a newborn's life.
Understanding the microbiota structure and its role in the host’s health and in disease prevention, is absolutely necessary to make informed lifestyle choices. Remember, as a working woman and full time mom, it can be tempting to go for a quick fix when you’re feeling unwell. But think long-term. Promoting healthy habits (for yourself and your family), will make you healthier overall. You’ll get sick less and be more productive and better able to take on challenges. Plus, by sharing your knowledge with you kids, you can help them adopt good habits so that they can grow healthy and strong. How Can I Strengthen My Immune System?
For an immune system boost that’s fast and effective, try our organic immune booster. It’s an all-natural immune supplement made with edible essential oils. You can learn how to use the supplement, browse our entire collection, and contact us with any additional questions. Try Teramune, make your health a priority.--