How We Can Influence Our Gut Health To Improve Our Immunity
The immune system is such a vital part of our overall health – not only does it protect us from acute illness like colds and flu, a healthy immune system also prevents serious disease like cancer and autoimmune conditions. It also lessens our chances of developing food sensitivities and allergies.
While the immune system includes many different elements throughout the body, a huge part of it lies in our digestive tract or, more specifically our gut.
How can you support the health of your gut and effectively improve your overall health? Well, you can start with the bacteria that live there. The gut is home to about 3 pounds of bacteria. Depending on the balance of friendly bacteria to unfriendly bacteria, this so-called “second genome” can have some really positive, or not so positive effects.
Some of the factors that influence having too many of the bad guys include:
- A poor diet. Eating too much processed foods, food that is lacking in nutrients but high in sugar and damaged oils can make all the wrong bacteria (and yeast) flourish in the gut.
- Antibiotic use. Because antibiotics are indiscriminate (they kill all bacteria, not just the bad ones), having a history of antibiotic use is a key risk factor for an unbalanced gut.
- As is obvious if you’ve ever felt “butterflies” when you’re nervous, or had a “gut instinct”, or even noticed your bowel movements are affected when approaching a stressful deadline, the digestive tract and the brain are intimately connected. Signals are constantly being sent back and forth between the two, earning the gut the name “second brain.” It’s also been found that emotional stress actually influences the balance of bacteria in the gut.
So, with all the things that can have a negative impact on our gut health, what are we to do to have a positive impact? Cleaning up your diet to include more whole foods and less processed foods, as well as managing stress through regular exercise, meditation, and self-care are important places to start. You can also incorporate these 3 things into your routine:
- Eat fermented foods. These foods are how humans traditionally maintained a healthy gut, before the invention of probiotic capsules! Foods like raw sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha, fermented pickles, and kefir, are all delicious ways to add beneficial bacteria to your diet. These foods are becoming widely available in most grocery stores. You’ll find them in the refrigerated section, because these foods are live and raw!
- Take a probiotic supplement. A good quality probiotic is something I recommend to virtually all of my clients, and is especially important if you have any history of antibiotic use (which most of us do).
- Include prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods are common foods that contain fiber that is indigestible to humans, but instead feeds the probiotics in the gut. They are the fuel that our good bacteria use to improve our health. Some great food sources of prebiotics include: raw garlic, slightly green bananas, raw or cooked onions, raw asparagus, raw leeks, and raw chicory root.
Nourishing your gut is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. Here’s to a healthy immune system for a healthy life!
By: Ali MacBoudreau
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Ali is passionate about guiding her clients through whole foods and lifestyle changes to discover their most vibrant selves. To learn more about Ali and holistic nutrition please visit her website https://www.holisticali.com/about