It’s thought that over 70% of our immune system is located in our gut, so it makes sense that if improved immunity is what you are looking for – then you need to get and keep your gut in great shape. Having good gut health will help to keep your immune system healthy, but it does not happen on its own, you need to put in a little effort, just like keeping your teeth healthy means you need to regularly clean your teeth, floss and have check-ups at the dentist.
The immune system and its relationship with our gut can be very complex. Following are a couple of examples of how the immune system and gut work and function to keep your immunity in great shape;
Your gut lining is a barrier that helps to keep bacteria and viruses at bay, the gut lining is made up of many different cells and immune complexes, keeping this healthy and functioning well will ensure that your immune system can stay healthy and do its job. When your gut lining is compromised it is sometimes known as leaky gut syndrome, bacteria, viruses, food proteins, yeasts and toxins leak through the compromised barrier, causing many gut problems, this also affects your immune system. Your stomach secretes acids; these acids are capable of killing bacteria and viruses if the acid levels are good. Often when we take medicines to reduce acid, the acid levels are not good enough to do this. So, you can see how the immune system is an important link between our gut and its influence with health and disease.
Gut health affects our immunity, our mental health and our physical health. In fact, having good gut health will really improve your life on so many levels, but what can you do if your gut is not healthy?
If you want to get your gut in better shape, I would suggest that you really need to look at what you are putting in your mouth.
Follow these simple guidelines as a start.
Limit foods such as wheat and dairy to one to two serves per week, as they can be inflammatory for your gut.
Reduce your alcohol intake to one to two units per week as alcohol does contribute to poor gut health.
Reduce your sugar intake as too much sugar will impair your immunity.
Review with your doctor the need for acid-reducing medications; a gut health naturopath will be well placed to help you discover the cause of the reflux.
Only take antibiotics when you have a bacterial infection, not a virus, your doctor will be able to help you assess this.
The optimal amount of foods for good gut health is forty different foods per week; this may be difficult to manage in the beginning, but it is a worthy goal to work towards. Start by eating as many different coloured foods as you can, widening your diet, trying new foods and recipes, try a new food a week. Strategies such as buying tri-coloured quinoa instead of white quinoa are great as that is classed as three different foods, rather than one. Add fresh herbs and spices to your foods such as ginger, garlic, thyme or any type of herb that can be grown in your garden.
Learn how to cook, if you know what you are putting in your mouth because you have made it yourself, your gut will love you for it.
If your gut health is not good, seek the help of a professional to get a better understanding of exactly what is going on, so you can take steps to improve your gut health and immunity.
There are also many vitamins and minerals that can help support your immune system, including zinc, Vitamins A, D and C.
Zinc is a mineral that is very important for gut and immune health; even a mild deficiency can result in an impaired immune response. Foods that are high in zinc include; meats, fish and poultry.
Vitamin D is also thought to play a role in maintaining the immune system. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are sources of Vitamin D as are eggs; it is difficult though to get adequate Vitamin D from foods. Ensuring that you spend some time in the sun away from the hottest part of the day is an excellent way to help with your D levels, however in most cases if your D is low supplementation is required.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to maintain immune function, and prevent infectious disease, especially in children. Most orange and yellow fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin A.
Vitamin C can help improve the function of the immune system and strengthen resistance to infection. Strawberries, citrus fruits and capsicums contain Vitamin C.
Your body is smart; it’s important to give it the respect it needs, ensure that you eat food that will keep your gut healthy, so you can absorb the vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat.
There are lots of ways a well-nourished body and healthy gut can promote your immunity.