Strong immunity depends on the Gut

(Photo by Vo Thuy Tien) 

In this post you’ll learn about:

  • The vital connection between gut health and your ability to fight infection
  • What to buy in the produce aisle to support your gut-immune health
  • Concrete and easy steps to build an immune system that protects you against infection all year around.

Get this: somewhere between 70 and 80% of all your immune cells live inside of your gut. That’s a huge majority!

It makes sense if you think about it - every day you eat food that's been out in the world and may contain a harmful pathogen, and your body needs to protect itself against anything harmful. 

But a strong immune system in your gut is more than just your immune cells - it’s the entire ecosystem of the gut itself.

First, the more good bacteria you have in your gut, the less likely bad bacteria and viruses can find a place to take root and cause problems.

They compete with bad bacteria and reduce their numbers, making it less likely for them to cause problems in the first place.

If you have a diet high in whole fruits and vegetables, you’re helping create the conditions for good bacteria to thrive. 

These good bacteria also reside in and strengthen the lining of your gut. After digesting plant fibers, they produce Short-Chain Fatty Acids and other nutrients that are the primary source of energy and nutrition for your intestinal tissues.

That makes your intestinal lining a strong first line of defense against harmful bacteria that can enter the body through food consumption. Your immune cells can then mop up any pathogenic bacteria that somehow make it through.

In the case of an unhealthy gut, there are fewer good bacteria nourishing the intestinal tissues and more pathogenic bacteria in the ecosystem of the gut.

The immune system has to work overtime to fight them back and prevent them from escaping into the liver, and into your body. That puts your immune system under a lot of stress and increases the likelihood of bad bacteria slipping past its defenses and making you sick.

This is why it’s crucially important to start paying attention to gut health in order to protect against all types of infections. 

The good news: we have power over our gut health. Choosing what we eat can have a serious impact on our ability to recover from viruses like COVID-19, bacterial infections or the common cold.

While supplements can provide a boost in immunity if the body is missing specific vitamins and minerals (everyone should supplement with Vitamin D and B12 - included in biotikur balance all-in-one prebiotic), research shows that creating healthy immunity in our gut is much simpler than that. Eating a variety of whole plant foods (and probiotic foods!) is the clearest path toward a healthy immune system.

This study of over a thousand pregnant women shows that just two weeks of reduced fruit and vegetable intake causes the immune system to significantly weaken.

Fruits and vegetables contain prebiotic fibers: fibers which cannot be digested by your body, but feed the bacteria in your gut that fight off disease.  

While eating fruits and vegetables is generally a good rule, not everything you buy in the produce aisle has the same effect on your immune system. 

Vegetables like carrots and spinach may improve your immunity to some extent, but cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli are the most important foods we can eat to improve our the function of our gut-mediated immunity.

Main takeaways:

  • Gut health is good health: the immune system and the gut are inextricably linked
  • To improve immunity, buy more produce, especially cruciferous vegetables!
  • Avoid sugars and processed food while seeking out healthy probiotic foods and prebiotic fibers found in plants.