When you think about your immune system, the last thing you probably think of is your gut. But actually, 70% of your immune system is in your gut. What you eat plays a pretty big role in modulating the immune system. Having a gut with plenty of healthy and diverse bacteria provides essential health benefits, especially for your immune system.
What is the Immune System Gut Connection?
A healthy gut microbiome plays an important role in regulating the immune system. Your gut houses trillions of bacteria. The bacteria in your gut, also known as your gut microbiota, is closely linked to immunity.
The immune cells in the gut interact with the bacteria. The diversity of the gut may influence the strength of the immune system. As the gut houses 70% of antibody-producing cells, your gut health is a big part of your body’s defense system.
Research shows that changes to gut microbial communities can interfere with the immune system and lead to autoimmune disorders. The immune cells in your gut are always on the lookout in your gut to make sure everything is in working order. If you get sick, these cells are part of your body’s immune response.
Probiotics and the Gut
Your gut bacteria break down your food and use it to grow. A healthy gut consists of a diverse range of bacteria. When you have unhealthy levels of gut bacteria, it can throw your immune system off balance. Probiotics may help turn on the immune system and prevent illness.
Probiotics are living organisms found in fermented foods, yogurt, and some dietary supplements. Some research shows that certain probiotic bacteria offer more specific health benefits. For instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus is a “friendly” strain of bacteria used to make cheese and yogurt. It can help prevent intestinal infections.
4 Top Gut-Friendly Foods to Boost the Immune System
Your gut is responsible for more than processing food. A well-balanced gut will support you through life. By eating gut-friendly foods, you can encourage a healthy gut and microbiome. While everyone is unique, here are some general tips to support a happy gut.
Fermented foods are foods or drinks that have gone through the fermentation process. Fermentation promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in a controlled environment. These types of foods are rich in probiotics. One study found that fermented foods increase microbiome diversity while reducing inflammatory proteins. Fermented foods to add to your diet include:
A high-fiber diet helps maintain regular bowel movements and keep your gut ticking over. A small study found that a two-week increase in fiber can massively change a person’s microbiome. Fiber plays a big role in digestive health. Try adding more of these foods to your diet for a fiber kick:
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feed all that “friendly” bacteria in the gut. They include a range of nutrients that help your gut to thrive. Prebiotics are very different from probiotics. Probiotics are live organisms. Whereas prebiotics feed the bacteria. Here are some prebiotic foods to try:
Live yogurt can contain lots of healthy bacteria to support your gut. Watch out for the sugar content though, as some brands sneak in a hefty amount of sugar to sweeten the flavor. Instead, opt for sugar-free yogurt with lots of bacteria. You can add fruit at home if you need some extra sweetness.
The Link Between Gut Health and Immune System
As you look at the list of foods that support a healthy gut, you will notice that it includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating a diverse diet with plenty of legumes, fruits, and vegetables is good for gut health. Reducing highly-processed foods and those rich in sugar and fat can lead to a healthier gut. Try to include probiotics and prebiotics to keep your microbiome healthy and diverse.
The immune system is not one thing. It’s a complex combination of cells, organs, and chemicals that work daily to protect you and keep you safe. By encouraging a healthy gut, you can support your immune system from the inside out.
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