Every day we’re finding out more about how the body works. A lot of old myths and faulty science has been overturned. Such as your DNA being fixed and solely responsible for the onset of disease.
We now know that our body is made up of trillions of microbes, that outweigh your DNA by a factor of 10 to one.
This information has been vigorously explored, thanks to the hugely funded NIH Human Microbiome Project (HMP). A ten-year multi-phase research project exploring the interactions between humans and the bacteria that reside in your gut (your microbiome).
In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between your immune system and your gut. Revealing the connections, how your gut microbes fight infection, and ten steps you can take to clean out your gut to boost immune health today.
Gut Bacteria (Microbes) and the Immune System Connection
A whopping 70% of your immune system resides in the gut. So it’s no surprise that the gut plays a major role in the immune system.
Other than your lungs, your gut is perpetually filled with dangerous pathogens like bacteria, protozoa, fungi, viruses, and toxins. Alongside nutritious food.
Both the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and the mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) are paramount to the immune systems functioning smoothly. Cleansing out bad bacteria, and viruses so that the good bacteria can proliferate.
There is a complex dual-action relationship between gut microbes and our immune system. That I’ll get into later in this article.
The two forms of immune activity are adaptive and innate. Innate immunity is essential as a front line response, while the secondary immune system, the adaptive immune system, takes up to 10 days to come online, so to speak.
The type of food you eat directly affects your microbiota. Plant-based foods act as prebiotics (nutrition) for your good bacteria, while processed foods can cause inflammation and wipe out the beneficial bacteria. Due to lack of nourishment.
Do All Diseases Start in the Gut?
The interaction between microbiota and immunity in health and disease is essential for wellbeing. While not all diseases start in the gut, the main illnesses plaguing our modern world – diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disease – all start in the gut.
Leaky gut (gut permeability) and gut inflammation hinder the work of your mighty microbes. Opening the door to a wide range of metabolic disorders.
A Few “Special” Gut Microbes
Although we’re yet to pinpoint the exact cause for inflammatory bowel disease, research done in the 2000s revealed an interesting fact.
Harry Sokol, a gastroenterologist at Saint Antoine Hospital in Paris, examined the DNA of the diseased intestines of a few people suffering from IBD. Instead of finding a pathogen or exact microbe that was causing the disease, he found the complete opposite. A specific bacterium, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii was suspiciously absent.
Prompting the question: could one good microbe heal the gut?
Sokol then carried out an experiment on mice. He placed the bacterium, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, into mice with intestinal inflammation and found that the microbe protected the mice from IBD.
He then mixed F. prausnitzii with human immune cells in a test tube. The result was a strong anti-inflammatory response.
Sokol isn’t the only one to identify specific microbes that are important for balancing the immune system and gut health. Other microbes that have been isolated as beneficial to the immune system include enterococcus faecium, lactobacillus plantarum, and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Learn more: 3 Key Factors for Improved Gut Health
Keystone Species in Modern Disease
A question that haunts the modern scientist is, why is the modern population so prone to inflammatory diseases and allergies, even though they are free of infectious agents?
One conclusion is that microbiome diversity is the key. This theory came about due to studies of indigenous people and how their microbiome differs from those in the industrialised world. The conclusion was that a loss of diversity leads to disease.
This loss of diversity is thought to come about due to antibiotic use, hyper sanitisation, and the standard Western diet. When compared to the ecosystem, there are what’s known as “keystone species,” that carry out a pivotal role in the functioning of that ecosystem. An example of this is: elephants who knock down trees in the African savannah. Thus providing grazing for many other species.
Perhaps important microbes or microbial communities are keystone species for our gut? Meaning that a loss of diversity could quite possibly trigger a cascade of other problems.
Dual Action, How the Gut Microbiome Prevents Infection
The gut microbial community plays a vital role in your immune system. Why doesn’t your body attack gut bacteria? Simply put, the immune system has a symbiotic relationship with the microbes in your gut.
When your gut is populated with the right kinds of bacteria, this relationship with the immune system flourishes. However, many people in the west have a lack of diversity and good bacteria in the gut. Leading to inflammation and infection.
The way it works is that the microbes can either directly prevent a pathogen and/or regulate your immune system.
Interestingly, some microbes actually secrete antibacterial substances called “bacteriocins”. Recent studies have identified 170 species of bacteria that can secrete bacteriocins.
10 Ways to Clean Out Your Gut
Science is now proving that our myriad of lifestyle illnesses can be reversed with a simple change in daily habits. Especially your eating habits.
Ditching the Western diet is the first step. Interestingly, if you like to drink alcohol, one glass of red wine has been shown to support good bacteria. While other types of alcohol will harm your gut.
Here are some easy ways to help your gut clean out:
- Water flush
- Colon cleanse
- Take a high-quality probiotic supplement
- Stop smoking
- Exercise for 30 mins a day
- Get a good nights sleep
- Drink kombucha
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Avoid antibacterial toothpaste, cleaners and mouthwash
The Bottom Line
The microbes in your gut play a major role in immunity. Your gut microbiome is continually adapting in accordance with your lifestyle. For this reason, you can significantly boost your immune system by simply taking care of your gut. Why not start with a few of the steps to clean out your gut outlined above?
Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
Many people in the west have a lack of diversity and good bacteria in the gut. Leading to inflammation and infection. #GutHealth