During this current health crisis we all want to make sure we are as healthy as possible, and that our immune system is as strong as it can be.
70-80% of your immune system resides in the gut lining. A poor functioning gut can to lead to a suboptimal immune system, meaning you will be more susceptible to getting a cold or the flu, and these infections may be more severe for you than for someone with a strong immune system.
Approximately 100 trillion bacteria are associated with our gastrointestinal tract. This rich gut microbial ecosystem is referred to as the microbiota or the microbiome. The microbiome has numerous functions like digesting foods, fighting off infections and maintaining a healthy weight.
The gut bacteria play a role in fighting viruses and bacteria by directly interacting with the pathogens and indirectly by influencing the part of the immune system that resides in the gut lining. The more abundant and diverse the microbiota is the stronger the immune system.
How do you achieve an abundant and diverse microbiome aka a strong immune system?
Feeding the gut bacteria a diverse diet, rich in foods containing prebiotics will achieve an abundant and diverse microbiome. Prebiotics are a food that the gut bacteria feed on enabling them to grow and multiply
Prebiotics are found in these foods:
- Onion, leek and garlic
- Jerusalem artichoke
- The skin of apples (pectin)
- Chicory root
- Red and black rice
What about probiotics?
Probiotics can be very useful, especially in addressing specific conditions and some can also help to increase the diversity of the microbiome. However, prebiotics are actually the go to when trying to enhance overall diversity of your gut microbiome. Saccharomyces boulardii, one of the most researched probiotics available, can be useful in boosting the immune system if you need the extra help and can also survive the stomach acid making it a superior probiotic.
What reduces the good bacteria and decreases the diversity?
Modern living is not kind to our gut environment because we are living in a world where processed foods are part of our diet and stress is very common. Below is a list of the worst offenders:
- processed foods
- GMO produce
- Pesticides (non-organic produce)
- Medications especially antibiotics
It's worth mentioning that antibiotics have a noticeable, lasting effect on the composition of the microbiome, and should only be used when absolutely necessary. If you have to take antobiotics make sure you rebuild you microbiome using pre and probiotics.
Most of us are putting our gut microbiome at risk every day, but we can mitigate this by regularly feeding the good bacteria in the gut with prebiotics. It takes a lot of the above foods to achieve the required effect and these foods should be consumed on a daily basis, which most people are unable to do.
Therefore, including a daily prebiotic supplement is the best way to ensure your good bacteria are looked after, so they can look after your immune system.
Are there any side effects?
There are many varieties of prebiotics on the market and some are more gentle than others. The prebiotics I recommend are unlikely to cause symptoms such as bloating and gas. Make sure the prebiotics are FODMAP safe and have the FODMAP tick. I always recommend starting on a low dose and increase gradually, as with all fibre, your gut needs time to adjust. It's also advisable to increase water intake when you increase the intake of fibre.
Prebiotics have many other benefits to your health such as helping weight loss, decreasing inflammation and possibly help regulate hormones.
FEED contains FODMAP friendly prebiotics in clinically trialled dosages as well as probiotics to enrich your microbiome and enhance your overall health.
The Impact of the Gut Microbiota on Human Health: An Integrative View
Interactions between the microbiota and the immune system.
Control of pathogens and pathobionts by the gut microbiota.
Commensal bacteria (normal microflora), mucosal immunity and chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and inflammation
Tissue distribution of lymphocytes and plasma cells and the role of the gut.
Immune adaptations that maintain homeostasis with the intestinal microbiota.