How gut health can help boost your immunity
Your body is a complex ecosystem made up of many different functions and processes that interact to keep us alive and healthy every single day. In other words, nothing that happens inside our bodies takes place by accident or by chance – everything happens or exists for a reason.
The gut microbiome is thought to contain trillions of microbes, all of which collectively have an influence on other bodily systems such as cardiovascular health, metabolism and even mental health. But we’re here to talk about the important communication pathway that exists between your gut microbiome and immune system.
Made up of lots of different cells and molecules all working together, your immune system is your body’s ‘policing’ method for monitoring and responding to foreign substances that are perceived as threats – such as infectious microbes and pathogens. Essentially, the healthier your immune system is, the better equipped your body will be at quickly fighting off disease and infections.
The relationship between your gut and immune system
With 70-80% of your body’s immune cells found in the gut, there’s plenty of evidence(1) to show that your gut and immune system work together closely to regulate and support each other. Specifically, while your immune system promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, a healthy gut microbiome sends signals back to your immune cells to support their development and fine-tune their immune responses. This regulatory process is scientifically known as immune homeostasis(2).
It’s not surprising, then, that by doing everything you can to keep your gut healthy, you’re also supporting your body’s protective responses against harmful pathogens – while improving your body’s tolerance to harmless substances too. That’s right, your gut also plays an important role in teaching your immune cells that not everything is bad for your body. For this reason, diet can have a positive impact on your immune defences by increasing the diversity of your gut flora(3).
How to boost immunity through gut health
Knowing that there’s a link between your diet, gut health and immunity, the question is, what can you do to help boost your immunity through the things you choose to eat (and the things you rule out)?
Western diets, which are usually characterised as high in animal protein, saturated fat, salt, sugar and low in plant fibre, are often linked to immune disorders(4) associated with the poor gut microbiota(5). At the same time, the dietary fibre found in plant-based foods has been linked to the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. In depth studies have revealed that the types of fibre found in fruits, oats and nuts can be beneficial for strengthening the immune system.
So, to contribute to healthy immune system, it’s important to ditch those highly processed fatty foods and replace them with a wholesome gut-friendly diet. On top of that, there are plenty of other things you can do to help increase the diversity of your gut microbiome – such as exercising, reducing stress and cutting out cigarettes and alcohol.
More and more research is also being done into the prebiotic qualities of honey. Prebiotics, such as oligosaccharides naturally present in honey, can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and the absorption of minerals in the gut . So, it really is possible to enjoy a few sweet treats as part of any gut-friendly diet.
Above all, while it might not be immediately apparent, it’s never been more important to appreciate that everything you choose to eat (or don’t it eat) can play a role in your body’s ability to support immunity.