How To Heal Your Gut and Strengthen Your Immune System
There are many ways to support your immune health. IV Therapy, getting enough rest/exercise, keeping stress levels down, and eating a healthy diet are just a few. These methods definitely help to ward of illness, and they should be implemented at all times. One of the underlying reasons that many of these these methods work is that these activities/treatments help to support your digestive health. In fact, the most important way to support/strengethen your immune system is to heal your gut!
Below we are going to explain the powerful connection between your gut and your immune system. Specifically, we will discuss how you can support your gut health or “microbiome” to give your immune system the added boost that it needs right now.
What is the Microbiome?
Your microbiome consists of microbes in your digestive tract that are both helpful and potentially harmful. Most of these microbes benefit your body and immune system. In a healthy gut, good and bad microbes coexist without problems. However, if there is a disturbance in that balance—brought on by infectious illnesses, certain diets, or the prolonged use of antibiotics or other bacteria-destroying medications—dysbiosis occurs (a microbial imbalance), stopping these normal interactions. As a result, the immune system is compormised, and the body may become more susceptible to disease.
How Does Your Gut Health Affect Your Immune System?
Increasing research continues to find that your immune system and your gut are more intricately connected than previously thought. Below is a list of just some of the ways your gut health affects your immune system (1, 2):
- First line of defense: The large intestine (colon) has a large resident population of microbiota, consisting of at least 1012 organisms per gram of luminal contents. These organisms, together with the antigenic load provided by the diet and the constant threat of potential pathogens, means the intestinal immune system encounters more antigen than any other part of the body.
- Forming a barrier: The epithelial cells that line your intestines are linked to form a barrier that blocks harmful pathogens from entering the rest of your body and causing damage.
- Trapping bacteria: The cells that line your digestive tract are coated with mucins and glycoproteins that trap harmful bacteria so they can be neutralized and excreted.
- Alarm System: Your intestinal cells act as sensors – sounding an alarm and recruiting immune cells to destroy foreign invaders.
- Connecting to your immune system: Your immune system and the millions of beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut are able to communicate crucial information to keep you healthy.
- Producing metabolic compounds: The “good” bacteria that reside in your gut produce short-chain fatty acids and a number of other compounds that boost immunity, reduce inflammation, and play important roles in other metabolic functions.
- Pushing out “bad” bacteria: The more beneficial bacteria your gut has, the less room is available for harmful bacteria.
Thus, a balanced gut provides a barrier and also works interconnectedly with your immune system to protect your health. Let’s look at what an unhealthy imbalanced gut can affect your immune health.
How a Gut Imbalance Can Affect Your Immune Health
When in homeostasis (balance), a healthy number of beneficial microorganisms identify and remove pathogenic bacteria in your gut before they even have a chance to replicate. This ecosystem is incredibly delicate. If an imbalance occurs, it can throw your immune system into disarray.
As we learned above, this imbalance in the microbiome is known as gastrointestinal dysbiosis. When pathogenic bacteria invade and repopulate, they can crowd out the beneficial bacteria in your gut. This imbalance disrupts the communication between your gut and immune system. In some cases, it can even cause your immune system to attack your body’s own cells in an autoimmune response.
Leaky Gut and Your Immune System
Let’s discuss the barrier of epithelial cells that we mentioned above. When your gut is balanced, a barrier is formed in the cells that line our intestines. The space between these cells is sealed by what are called “tight junctions” (TJ), which regulate the permeability of the intestinal barrier (4). This barrier has tiny gaps that allow nutrients to be absorbed into the body, while also trapping harmful bacteria so that they can be neutralized and excreted from the body.
However, these tight junctions can become compromised. When this happens, the tiny “gaps” that allow nutrients to pass through to be absorbed into the body can become larger and larger. This allows tiny particles never meant to enter your bloodstream to begin squeezing their way through. This compromise in the integrity of your intestinal lining is known as “increased intestinal permeability,” or “leaky gut syndrome” and it can have serious implications for your immune system.
How to Heal Your Gut and Give Your Immune System a Boost
Ok, so we’ve learned that having more “good” bacteria in the gut keeps the “bad” bacteria out, and also secures the integrity of the lining of your intestinal tract. So, you’re probably wondering how to keep this balance. There are many ways to begin healing your gut. The following are my top three ways to heal your gut and protect your immune system at home:
1. Take a Probiotic:
Taking a daily probiotic is my number one tip for mintaining a balanced ecosystem in your gut. Probiotics work by increasing the good bacteria in your gut. Remember: the more beneficial bacteria in your gut, the less room there is for the bad bacteria.
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2. Eat a Healthy/Low-Inflammatory Diet:
Find out which foods you are sensitive to, and try to build your meals around the following:
FRESH, ORGANIC, FRUITS & VEGETABLES
All Vegetables (except night-shades*) fresh, frozen, or freshly juiced, especially cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, collards, radishes, watercress.
Preferably whole and fresh or un-sweetened frozen Fruit. Preferably low-glycemic, such as blueberries, apple, plum, apricot, etc.
Organic/Pastured/Grass-Fed: Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose), lamb, rabbit, bison, venison.
Wild caught: coldwater fish (sardines, salmon, halibut, etc.)* All legumes (if tolerated), dried peas, beans, lentils
Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, butters (ghee, pumpkin, squash seed), salad dressings (made from allowed ingredients, preserva-tive/additive free).
Nuts: (raw nuts if tolerated and practitioner approved), nut butters (not more than 2 tbsp unsweetened almond butter per day.
3. Reduce Your Toxic Burden:
We are all exposed to a decent amount of toxins on a daily basis. Environmental toxins like mold and heavy metals are in our homes and in our tap water. Pesticides/insecticides are in the foods we eat. Toxins are in the cleaning products we use to clean our house, and even in the ones we use to clean our bodies. When our bodies become overburdened with these toxins, they accumulate in our body and affect our microbiome’s ability to filter them out. Limiting exposure to these toxins is the best way to reduce your toxic burden. However, removing these toxins is pivotal to achieving and maintaining optimal health.
Check out the following Tringali Vibrant Health blogs that focus on reducing your toxic burden.
Do You Need to Heal Your Gut?
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may indeed be suffering from a gut imbalance/dysbiosis that could affect your immune health:
- bad breath (halitosis)
- upset stomach
- difficulty urinating
- vaginal or rectal itching
- chest pain
- rash or redness
- having trouble thinking or concentrating
Your gut health is the first line of defense against bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. It keeps our minds working well, our waistlines thin, and our immune system working optimally. Trust your gut, and trust in the VIBRANT health it can bring to your body.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 561-283-1166.
Elizabeth Tringali, PA-C
Kunal Gandhi, M.D.