Your Gut, Your Immune System: How a Healthy Gut Fights Infection

That old adage “you are what you eat” continues to ring true, especially when it comes to gut bacteria. We all should know that what we eat affects weight and energy levels. But you might not know the extent to which diet affects the immune system. (or maybe you do)

It’s a lot! More than 70 percent of the immune system is located in the gut. Immune cells in the gut interact with the gut microbiome, the diverse array of bacteria and fungi that live in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are completely influenced by an individual’s diet and lifestyle.

The foods consumed affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect immune cells. Those gut bugs are healthiest and support strong immunity when their hosts (that’s us) consume plant foods that are high in fiber. No surprise here.

What’s present in the gut determines what education immune cells get. The more diverse the diet, the better the education. American diets are high in animal proteins, sugar, processed foods and saturated fat, which results in less diverse gut bacteria and promotes inflammation and chronic disorders.

A fiber-rich diet supports the microbiome and reduces inflammatory responses. Those complex carbohydrates and indigestible fiber are what gut bacteria subsist on. Also, being overweight or obese negatively affects the immune system directly.

New research has discovered how a healthy gut fights infection. What they found out was that gut bacteria are stronger together when it comes to preventing infectious diseases. The more microbes (gut bacteria types) the more different nutrients they’re likely to eat, increasing the chances of nutrient overlap with the pathogen (these cause disease and are the bad guys).

When there’s a diverse community of gut bacteria competing with a pathogen for nutrients, the pathogens may not have enough fuel to colonize (grow & multiply) and invade (infect) the body. This is because the nutrients available to the pathogen are limited, thereby blocking the invasion.

As more information is being discovered about intestinal gut bacteria, interest in microbiome-treatment is growing. Someday, doctors could potentially use that information to figure out what species patients need to prevent or fight an infection. For now, the study is a reminder to recommend a diet high in fiber to promote gut health and minimize unnecessary antibiotic use.

Prebiotics are fibers the body can’t digest but serves as food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut, helping them to thrive and multiply. Some of the best sources include chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, leeks and asparagus. But there are a lot of vegetables and fruit that are high in fiber. If you’re not getting enough prebiotics in your diet, you can also take a prebiotic supplement. Probiotics, live microorganisms that can change the composition of the microflora in the gut, can also be found in quite a few yogurts and dietary supplements. With supplements, most good ones require refrigeration.

Clearly the best option is to eat a diet high in fiber as there are other benefits that come with that—vitamins & minerals, polyphenols (antioxidants), and phytochemicals (disease inhibitors).

Enrich your day with a plate of veggies and fruit and tell yourself something you appreciate about yourself. Keep rising, reaching, and becoming!

Forever Your Champion,

Samantha

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