The immune system is a group of cells and molecules that protect us from disease by monitoring our body and responding to any foreign substances that are perceived as threats. Our immune systems work with our gut bacteria in a complex mutualistic relationship that helps to regulate and support each other. This relationship helps to create defenses against pathogens, as well as helps the body develop tolerance to the beneficial microbes that are good for us. This relationship is further illustrated by the fact that approximately 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. It’s no surprise then of the significant effects of gut health’s influence on the immune system.
In normal conditions, the immune system is responsible for promoting the growth of beneficial microbes, while a healthy gut produces molecular signals that support the development of immune cells’ responses. A healthy gut-immune system connection also helps the body maintain self-tolerance so that our immune system does not react harmfully towards our own bodies. An unbalanced bacterial flora in our gut, however, can shift the immune system to an increased inflammatory state, which has been shown to contribute to the development of a “leaky gut.” Research has shown that leaky gut is involved in the development of many autoimmune diseases.
Unlike healthy intestinal barrier function (which allows certain gut-derived molecules to get into the body, while keeping others out), a leaky gut enables bacteria and toxins to essentially “leak” through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. Once within the bloodstream, these toxins flow through the body, and trigger an autoimmune reaction as the body overreacts to the invaders.
Normally, each time the body is exposed to an external invader, the immune system memorizes its structure, so that it can create a future defense to that specific pathogen. However, when holes in the intestinal lining develop (as with leaky gut), the immune system begins to react to substances that it usually would not attack. For example, in the case of Celiac Disease, the immune system begins attacking enzymes that help to repair intestinal cells. Although a common problem, leaky gut is serious as it can trigger, contribute to, and worsen other chronic diseases including chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog, depression, thyroid problems, hormonal problems, skin problems, and even asthma.
So, how can you boost your immune system? Improve your gut health. Here’s a few ways…
Replace gut-damaging foods with gut-healing foods
This should be the first step you take in your gut-healing protocol. A leaky gut diet contains foods that support healing because they are easy to digest and can help repair the lining of the intestines. Some of the best foods to include would be:
- Bone broth
- Raw cultured dairy
- Coconut products
- Fermented vegetables
- Healthy fats
- Omega-3 fats
- Plant-based tonics (check out Drink Waku)
Remove certain foods and factors that damage the gut
While you’re focused on replacing gut-damaging foods with gut-healing foods, it’s essential to completely remove allergens and inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, added sugar, GMOs, and refined oils. Other toxic factors you should remove include eliminating pesticides, tap water, NSAIDS, and antibiotics.
There’s several supplements that support digestive health as well as protect the gut lining from further damage. The most beneficial ones that I’ve used include probiotics, digestive enzymes, l-glutamine, licorice root, shilajit and marshmallow root.
These are just a few steps you can start taking now to help heal your gut and subsequently boost your immune system. Remember that this a process that takes time, but one that’s rewarding (to both your physical as well as mental health) if followed through with commitment.