The link between a healthy gut and a healthy immune system
4 Min Read
Trillions of micro-organisms live inside your body – many of them in your gut. Before you recoil at this, remember that without them, you probably would not be alive.
Few people know that there is very strong link between gut health and how well your immune system works. In fact, about 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut. 1
A well-balanced microbiota, as the colonies of bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa, in your gut are known, play a major role in keeping your immune system fighting fit and able to drive off harmful bacteria and viruses. 2
And contrary to what you might think when you watch advertisements for germ-cleaning products on television, some of these micro-organisms are actually there to protect you against the effects of harmful micro-organisms.
So, not all micro-organisms are bad, but some of them can be harmful, and when your body is invaded by some of these, you become infected, and can become very ill. These are pathogens that cause diseases, such as measles, flu, chicken pox, and digestive problems, such as food poisoning or diarrhoea. 3
Let's take a look at the things that can hamper your immune system.
A poor diet
A diet lacking in fibre and some essential nutrients can stop your immune system from functioning at its best and you could be plagued by constant infections. 4 A poor diet can also upset the balance of the microbiota. Getting this balance right is one of the most important ways of boosting your immune system. 6
An unhealthy lifestyle
A lack of exercise, smoking, poor diet choices, excessive drinking are lifestyle choices that could stop the immune system from performing at its best.7
Why you need to boost your immune system
It is worth finding ways to boost your immune system in any way you can. Otherwise, you could be plagued by constant infections, and your recovery process will also be slow.
One of the most important things you can do to boost your immune system is to help balance the microbiota in your intestines. A stable microbiota helps with digestion, production of nutrients, detoxification, protection against germs and general regulation of the immune system. Another very important function of the immune system is to know not to put up a fight against healthy parts of the human body or against harmless substances. 2
Here are some things you can do to boost your immune system:
Eat a healthy diet
Eat a diet high in fibre and avoid excessive fatty foods and takeaways. Rather opt for fresh fruit and vegetables, if at all possible.6
Use antibiotics only when really necessary and remember to take a probiotic as well.
Only take antibiotics when it is absolutely necessary, as prescribed by your healthcare provider – antibiotics can wreak havoc on the good bacteria in your gut, as it cannot distinguish between helpful organisms and pathogens. Take a probiotic that will help to restore the balance in your gut. This will not only promote gut health but will also make your immune system fighting fit. 6
Choose a healthy lifestyle
Excessive drinking, a lack of exercise, constant high stress levels, smoking and a lack of sleep will all contribute to disrupting your intestinal balance, and limiting your immune system's ability to function properly. 7
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- Ciccolini, K. (2018) If Your Gut Could Talk: 10 Things You Should Know, Healthline [quoted 25.05.2021] https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/things-your-gut-wants-you-to-know
- Robertson, R. (2017) Why the Gut Microbiome is Crucial for Your Health, Healthline [quoted 25 November 2022] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health
- Santos-Longhurst, Adrienne. (2019) What you need to know about Pathogens and the Spread of Disease, Healthline. [quoted 25 November 2022] https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pathogen
- Hasan, Nadia (2022) 6 Signs that you have a weakened immune system, Penn Medicine [quoted 25 November 2022] https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/march/weakened-immune-system
- Cohen, Sandy. If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut (2021), UCLA Health [quoted 28 November 2022] https://connect.uclahealth.org/2021/03/19/want-to-boost-immunity-look-to-the-gut/.
- How to boost your immune system, Harvard Health (2021) [quoted 28 November 2022] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
- Coyle, D (2017) 8 Surprising Things That Harm Your Gut Bacteria , Healthline [quoted 12.12 2022] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-things-that-harm-gut-bacteria