Supporting Immune Health Starts in the Gut

A delicious, healthy, immune boosting Greek Salad at Milos in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Charly Caldwell II

Your immune system is your body’s natural defense system - keeping it as strong as possible should be a primary goal.

More people than ever are beginning to realize the importance of improving their health.

The 3 keys to a balanced immune system and better overall health are optimizing your diet, movement and sleep, and reducing stress.

When it comes to diet, an antioxidant-rich, whole foods diet best supports the body’s ability to repair itself and ensure optimal gut health.

Over 70% of the body’s immune cells are in the gut walls, which explains why good gut health is key to robust immunity.

We have immune cells located in the lining of our digestive tract called GALT – gut
associated lymphatic tissue.

GALT is often referred to as ‘the immune system’s brain’.

GALT is the largest area of lymphatic tissue (immune tissue) in our body, and helps control our immune response throughout the entire body, producing many of our immune cells.

As 90% of pathogens enter the body via the gastrointestinal tract, it makes sense that most our immune system is located there.

Supporting immune health requires that we look after the health of this immune barrier, and therefore antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, dark chocolate, artichoke, green tea, prunes, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, super food Acai products and oily fish are all beneficial.

Other immune boosting nutrients:

  • Vitamin A provides a strong immune boost, particularly against viruses.
    It helps strengthen mucous membranes (found in the nose, mouth, ears and respiratory tract) where nasty bugs often lurk. You can get more vitamin A through carrots, sweet potato, dried apricots, mango and kale.
  • Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has been shown to inhibit respiratory inflammation.
  • Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained in the diet. Your cells are made up of fats and play an important role in immune regulation and inflammation and can keep the mucous membranes well lubricated. You can get EFAs from oily fish, soaked chia seeds, nuts, flaxseed and eggs.

Movement and Sleep

We know that movement can increase the circulation of white blood cells which can be mobilized to kill pathogens.

Exercise also has a positive effect on both mental health and sleep – the latter of which is an often-overlooked key to enhancing immunity.

Research has shown that optimal sleep and a balanced circadian system improve the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and killer cells, optimizing the body’s ability to fight off infections.

Finally, when we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced so that we are more susceptible to infections.

The stress hormone cortisol can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system, and impact our melatonin levels, further impacting our sleep cycle.

Prioritizing rest, connecting to nature, meditation, listening to relaxing music and human connection can all work to reset our adrenal system.

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