Understanding the link between gut health and immunity can help improve the body’s ability to fight infections.
Why Your Gut is Good for Your Immune System
A healthy gut will strengthen your immune system. The gut harbors a complex ecosystem of microorganisms. Roughly 70% of cells contributing to the immune system are found in the gut.
According to a study, the microbiome is in constant communication with the immune system. The gut effectively teaches the immune system how to respond to toxins and pathogens.
This means gut health affects how the immune system will respond to foreign microbes, like viruses, entering the body. An immune system is better at fighting infections if the colony of gut microbes is diverse and healthy.
An unbalanced gut is linked to many problems, such as allergies, autoimmune disease, and reduced resistance against viruses. The main reasons behind an unbalanced microbiome include:
Good bacteria need food to populate the gut. An unhealthy diet does not have the nutrients necessary to promote gut health. Also, poor nutrition can cause harmful bacteria to overgrow, leading to infections.
The gut and brain share a connection and communicate continuously. When the brain triggers a stress response, the resources needed for good gut health get diverted to other parts of the body. This causes digestive systems to slow down, increases acid build-up, and changes in gut flora.
Smoking, inactivity, and environment contribute to gut health.
Some medications, like antibiotics, kill bacteria and damage the gut. As a result, it affects the normal digestive processes and weakens the microbial colonies in the gut. Luckily, an unhealthy gut can heal. There are steps you can take to rebalance the bacteria and boost your immune system.
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How to Heal Your Gut and Boost Your Immune System
By following a healthy diet and making some lifestyle changes, you can heal your gut. A healthy gut is key to a robust immune system.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Good gut health and a strong immune system start with probiotics and prebiotics.
They work together to support and maintain the microbe colonies in the gut. Probiotics are live microorganisms, and these organisms help repopulate the gut with good bacteria, protect against harmful organisms, and regulate the immune system’s response.
Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics. These include natural yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, and kefir in your diet.
Alternatively, you can take a probiotic supplement.
Prebiotics are a type of carbohydrate (mostly fiber). Humans cannot digest this type of carbohydrate, but beneficial bacteria use it as fuel.
Most diets already include prebiotics.
The best prebiotic is fiber inulin, found in bananas, asparagus, and artichokes.
Apples, oats, garlic, and legumes, like lentils and beans, also contain prebiotics
Vitamins and Minerals to Strengthen Immunity
Vitamins and minerals play a vital role in the biological functions of the body. They are essential for a healthy immune system.
It is better to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals from food rather than supplements. Although overdosing is rare, some vitamins can be toxic if taken in excess.
Vitamin C is best-known for immune support. It is necessary for tissue repair and cell growth. It also helps with the absorption of iron and improves digestion. Most fruit and vegetables contain vitamin C, but green leafy vegetables, like spinach, are a great option to add more to your diet.
Vitamin B6 is involved in numerous biological functions. The digestive system and the immune system rely on vitamin B6 to function correctly. It helps the body transform food into energy. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, and chicken, contain vitamin B6. For plant-based options, eat more green leafy vegetables and chickpeas.
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that may prevent infection and cell damage. It may also help repair the gut lining. Eat broccoli and spinach, or snack on peanuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds to boost your immune system.
Iron supports the bacteria in the gut and helps your immune system find and kill harmful organisms. Good sources of iron include broccoli, kale, beans, poultry, and seafood.
Selenium and Zinc slow the body’s immune response to prevent overreaction and inflammation. They also act as antioxidants to repair oxidation damage. Zinc is found in oysters and beans. Nuts, mushrooms, and garlic contain selenium.
Alcohol has been linked to gut inflammation. This can result in an imbalance between good and bad bacteria and cause toxins to leak into your bloodstream.
Alcohol also changes the way gut bacteria and immune cells communicate, leaving your immune system less effective at fighting pathogens.
A study done in 2019 found increased fitness is linked to more diversity in gut bacteria. More diversity means a lowered risk of disease and better immune response.
Exercise also helps reduce stress, which negatively impacts the gut.
Get Enough Sleep
Not sleeping enough has a negative effect on your gut and immune system.
Poor sleep decreases the beneficial bacteria in your gut. It also interrupts digestion and cell repair. Getting enough restful sleep is vital to a healthy gut and a strong immune system.
It is important to be aware of the gut microbiome’s role in the immune system. Healing your gut and boosting immunity will take time. Making changes to your lifestyle can greatly improve your health and help fight disease.
Know any other ways to boost your immune system? Share them in the comment section below!