How the Immune System and Gut are Related
As a naturopath, I look at the body in a holistic manner and by this I mean each body system is linked to one another and there is no exception for the immune and digestive systems.
These systems work together and communicate in a highly skilled manner which makes it important to support the digestive system when the immune system needs support and vice versa.
The Immune System and Gut are intricately related
Our digestive tract is the main route of contact with the external environment, sometimes our digestive tract comes into contact with bacteria, protozoa, fungi and viruses or toxic substances, or it could be safe such as food, or commensal bacteria.
By now, it's a well known fact that majority of health practitioners agree upon: we (as humans) have more bacterial cells than human cells. Bacteria live on our skin, in our nose, mouth, and even our ears, but above all we have the majority in our gut. So it would make sense, that we would be monitoring this bacteria and keeping tabs so they don't run riot and that is the job of our immune system.
70% of our entire immune system lies within the lymphatic tissue sitting just outside the single cell layer of our intestines. This part of our immune system is known as the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and interacts strictly with gastrointestinal functions and can affect the intestinal permeability in relation to particular stimulations, or regulating the immune response towards particular pathogens, or sometimes provoking damage to the intestinal mucosa, such as in coeliac disease or food allergy.
Ways to support our immune system via our digestive tract
1. Consume the right foods - Our immune system needs antioxidants, vitamins (Vitamin A, C, E, B6, folate) and nutrients (zinc, selenium, iron) and our immune system gets nutrients via our digestive system (like every system of the body). Eating a whole food diet is going to provide the necessary nutrients for the immune system but also encourages our microbiome to work optimally.
2. Ensure our digestive function is optimal. Our digestive system has to be running optimally for maximum nutrient absorption to get enough nutrients for our immune function. This means we need to ensure our bowels move frequently, there is no digestive pain or bloating which indicates inflammation or irritation and that there is no incidences of constipation or diarrhoea.
3. Ensure the gut is not leaky. When our digestive tract is irritated or inflamed, this can lead to an increase in intestinal permeability, which allows food proteins to pass into the bloodstream causing the immune system to react to those specific protein sequences. An increase in intestinal permeability causes the immune system to flare up. If you are unsure if this relates to you, please be in touch!
4. Increase culinary herbs to give our immune system some assistance - foods such as garlic, ginger, thyme, sage, rosemary, turmeric and oregano to list a few. All of these herbs and spices are packed with nutrients but majority of them also have antimicrobial properties which can assist the immune system.
5. Avoid substances that impact the microbiome as much as possible: caffeine, alcohol, and stress.
6. Address any food intolerances or any food-associated digestive systems to prevent immune system flare ups or increased intestinal permeability.
Still struggling with your immune health or your gut health, book a consultation to have a chat and to learn how you can optimise your immune and digestive function.