Our gut flora is the game changer in managing our immunity. The human gastrointestinal tract house constitutes about seventy percent of the immune system. Yes, your immune system – the complex system within our bodies that protects us and keeps us healthy.
Our immune system offers different levels of defense against foreign invaders. Besides the anatomical barriers – such as the skin – and mucous membranes – like tears, sweat, and salivation – our immune system is broken into two distinct courses or progressions. First, we have the innate, or non-specific, part of the immune system in which our bodies elicit a broad, general response to foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. When you cut your leg or burn your hand, the pain, redness, and inflammation are all part of the innate immune system. Second, we have the humoral, or adaptive and specific, immune system in which our bodies learn and improve on repeated exposure. Remember back when you were young and your mom sent you to chicken pox parties? This is so you would get chicken pox and your body would learn how to fight it off, so then when you become older your body can combat chicken pox and shingles effectively.
Our intestinal flora informs and influences our immune system. Researchers are still ironing out the exact mechanisms. However, we do know that our gut affects the mucosal part of our immune system, communicates with our immune system, and even affects growth of certain organs needed for proper immune function.
Our gut flora is compromised of foreign microbes living in a symbiotic relationship with us, the host. Our relationship with our gut flora is complex and constantly changing. The hope is that with the ideal conditions we can all live in harmony. When our gut flora is functioning optimally and breaking down the food we eat, one of the side benefits we obtain is the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs do many great things, including increase mitochondrial function and insulin sensitivity. However, that ideal condition doesn’t always happen. When the gut flora becomes disrupted or wiped out, through such things as antibiotic use and chronic stress, pathogenic bacteria have the opportunity to settle. This can lead to a cascade of catastrophic events such as intestinal hyper-permeability, to systemic inflammation, to insulin insensitivity.
Our gut flora is like the gatekeeper, it is the security at a concert or club, it is the troll at the bridge, or the father of a teenage girl. Our gut flora cannot allow any garbage to penetrate the boundaries. When it does come across garbage this is when the flora signals the immune system to take action. This is basically the alarm sounding, telling the body that there is an intruder. If our immune system is working overtime to capture bad guys and put out fires, then we are left with an immune system that is not functioning at its optimum.
4 Ways to Enhance Your Immune System:
- Clean up your diet. You have to clean up your diet in order to know what affects you. I’ve been grain-free, dairy-free, and processed-sugar-free for two plus years. Others I know are grain-free, but will consume full fat, unpasteurized dairy, as it does not affect them.
- Take fish oil. This is so beneficial for systemic inflammation. I’m a huge advocate of the liquid fish oil by Original Nutritionals.
- Get on a good probiotic every now and then. Probiotics are live microbial food supplements that improve the host’s intestinal microbial balance. You don’t have to take a probiotic every day of your life, but definitely take it during stressful times, after antibiotics, and if you’re feeling under the weather.
- Get enough sleep. Allow your body to shut down, reset, and recharge. Five hours of sleep a night is not enough. I advise seven hours minimum with dark shades, no artificial lighting, and no potential interruptions.
Now, start by giving your immune system a fighting chance!
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