Do you feel like you’re constantly run down? Always getting a cold or feeling under the weather? It could be worth looking at your gut health, even if you don’t have any digestive symptoms.
What is the gut?
Our digestive tract, from mouth to anus, is a long tube which helps us get nutrients out of our food. The term gut health normally refers to the intestines, where most of the microbes live.
Around 70% of our immune system is in the gut, so it makes sense there is a strong connection between the microbes and the way the body defends itself from invaders.
There is a complex interplay between the beneficial microbes and pathogenic viruses and bacteria in the gut. This also takes place in other microbiomes such as the nose, mouth, genitals and skin.
The gut health – immune system connection
There are 3 main ways our gut bacteria supports your immunity.
Microbes take up space
Firstly the microbes all compete for space on the surface of the gut, and they all want the same nutrients so the good ones crowd out the bad bugs. The beneficial microbes can also make the environment hostile to pathogens by sending out substances that inhibit the growth of bad bacteria. In the vagina our bacteria lowers the pH level to make it less inviting for pathogens.
Supporting intestinal permeability
Secondly, the bugs help us reduce the chance of ‘leaky gut’ by holding the walls between the cells together tighter which can strengthen the cells in the intestines.
Educating the immune system
Thirdly the microbes in our gut can modulate the immune system by turning on or off some important messengers.
The microbes in our gut play an important role in the induction, training, and function of our immune system. We need to look after the good ones to keep a healthy balanced microbiome.
How your gut bacteria get damaged
There are lots of lifestyle and dietary changes that affect our gut bacteria. In particular, the overuse of antibiotics and other medication, reduction in fibre and fresh foods, increase in processed foods, high intake of alcohol, chronic stress, may mean we end up with a collection of bugs that lack the resilience and diversity to support the immune system.
Related post – Should I get a stool test for IBS?
This may be one of the reasons for the dramatic rise in autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, as well as general low immunity.
Look after your immune health by looking after your gut health. Think about the bugs when you eat. Feed the bugs! They like:
- Fibre – vegetables, pulses and whole grains
- Lots of vegetables and fruit – aim for 7 a day
- Exercise – regular exercise improves the beneficial bacteria
- Rest – sleep and reducing stress improves our digestion and supports a healthy digestion
To get your digestion and immunity into shape work on your diet. I can help you find a diet that works for you, your lifestyle and health goals. Contact me to get started.
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I help people with IBS, gut health and digestive issues.
I can help you to:
- understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
- eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
- develop healthy, sustainable habits for life
“Anna is amazing! I feel totally transformed"
To find more about 1:1 nutrition consultations or my group membership see my IBS Diet support page