Gut health and Immunity- what is the relation?
Did you know that at least 70% of your immune system is actually located in your gut?
That’s why, if you’re concerned about boosting your immune system and staying healthy, one of the FIRST things you should do is take a close look at your gut.
If your gut is unhealthy, your immune system will be compromised.
Our gut has millions and zillions of gut bacteria. It has been estimated that the human gut houses 100 trillion microbial cells (collectively referred to as the gut microbiota), which is 10 times the number of human cells. So, we are more bacteria than we are human!!
These bacteria can be healthy and unhealthy. Gut bacteria are like tourist in the gut, they come and go. Our lifestyle habits, eating pattern all influence our gut health. Diet quality plays an important role in maintaining a healthy gut flora.
The quality of gut microbiome depends on various factors beginning from the time we are born. A new born comes in contact with these gut microbiotas in the birth canal for the first time. The kind of delivery procedure- normal or caesarean delivery also determines the gut microbiota we will have. Breastfed children will have a different gut microbiota than formula-fed children. Age, gender, diet, stress, medication, genetics all define the gut flora an individual will have.
Relationship between gut microbiota and immunity
The immune system is particularly interconnected with gut bacteria. These gut bacteria influence the immune system as 70% of the immune cells are in the gut. The gut and the immune system support one another to promote a healthy body.
For instance, the gut microbiota teaches immune cells called T-cells to distinguish between foreign bodies from our own cells. When certain pathogens that manage to attack our cells cannot be accessed by body’s antibody mechanism, T-cells mediates the situation and destroy infected cells – this process is referred to as cell-mediated immunity.
When there is harmony between gut microbiota and immune cells, they work together to promote overall health, respond effectively to pathogens and can prevent autoimmune response.
If the body is constantly exposed to poor diet and lifestyle, prolonged antibiotic course, surgeries etc. it can reduce the healthy gut flora and thereby negatively impact our immune system.
The gut mucosa and the immune system
The gut mucosa is the lining which protects the gastrointestinal system. It also helps absorb nutrients and prevent the entry of pathogens into the system. When the gut wall is irritated or inflamed, the tight junctions between its cells loosen up and we get increased permeability. This can lead to harmful bacteria invading the gastrointestinal system and can thereby cause infection and inflammation.
Some lifestyle choices that we make can help achieve healthy gut microbiota and a strong immunity like:
Breastfeeding- Children who are breast-fed tend to have less gastrointestinal infections and inflammatory disorders.
Probiotic rich food- Consuming probiotic-rich foods like fermented foods, curd etc. on regular basis can enhance healthy bacteria in the gut.
Consuming fibre rich foods- Fibre rich foods are also prebiotics which help support the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Chewing your food well- Chewing food well and eating slowly can enhance the absorption of nutrients and help you maintain gut health.
Rest well and working on stress levels- Getting enough sleep is important as gut health-sleep is also interconnected. Keeping your stress levels in check and finding ways to rejuvenate is crucial for a happy gut. It helps lower your cortisol levels and helps the gut to rewind and relax.
Avoid processed and refined foods- Consuming refined and processed foods frequently can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining.
Check on your bowel movement- If you have a regular bowel movement, it is generally an indication that you are doing good with your gut health. Normal poops can occur anywhere from three times a week to three times a day.