Gut health: the key to a strong immune system

Gut health: the key to a strong immune system

What is gut health?

The term gut health refers to the overall well-being of your digestive system, particularly the gastrointestinal tract, including your stomach and intestines. Within your gut are bacteria and other microbes that help you digest food. These microorganisms are collectively known as the microbiome.

Good gut health occurs when you have a proper balance between helpful and potentially harmful bacteria and yeast in your digestive system.

Why is gut health so important?

Your gut breaks down the foods you eat and absorbs the nutrients your body needs to feel its best. The healthier your gut is and the more diverse food you eat, the better you will be able to absorb nutrients and keep out potential toxins. 

How does gut health affect your overall health?

Having good gut health and how you feel throughout the day go hand-in-hand. When your gut is out of sorts, it doesn't just affect digestion but can also impact your energy levels, sleep, mood, and, most importantly, your immune system.

It's common knowledge that your immune system is your body's defense against illness and disease. But did you know that approximately 70% of your immune system lives in your gut? So, maintaining good gut health also means that you have good immune health.

This is why it's important to maintain a proper balance of this delicate "ecosystem."

How does your microbiome affect your immune system?

Immune cells in the gut interact with your microbiome. By communicating with immune cells, the gut microbiome can control how your body responds to infection.

Your diet and lifestyle directly influence how well immune cells and microbiome interact.

A diet high in animal proteins, sugar, processed foods, and saturated fat results in less-diverse gut bacteria. In comparison, a fiber-rich diet creates more diversity and composition of bacteria.

According to UCLA Health, gut bacteria are the healthiest and support strong immunity when their hosts (that's us) consume plant foods that are high in fiber.

Signs of an unhealthy gut

There are plenty of obvious signs that you are suffering from poor gut health. The most common include digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and indigestion.

However, other symptoms of an unhealthy gut that are not necessarily associated with digestion may include:

Poor sleep: An imbalance in gut bacteria may be linked to sleep disturbances.

Skin irritation: Skin conditions like psoriasis may be related to types of bacteria present in the gut.

Inflammation: Studies show that there may be a connection between an unhealthy gut and inflammation, which can lead to health problems.

How to maintain a healthy gut

Improve your diet: Your diet is the leading cause of bacterial imbalances in the gut. Reduce or eliminate processed foods with unnatural ingredients and foods high in sugar and fat.

Eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein can help maintain a healthy gut. Foods high in fiber are especially beneficial to maintaining proper gut health.

Get good sleep: Evidence shows that your gut microbiome and sleep are interconnected. Microbe depletion is associated with a lack of serotonin in the gut, which can affect sleep/wake cycles.

Eat slowly: Digestion starts when you put food in your mouth. Properly chewing your food gives food a larger surface area, so when it does meet the digestive enzymes further down, it can get broken down a lot easier.

Get moving: Move as much as you can throughout the day. Even short walks can improve digestion and help you feel less bloated.

Manage stress: Research suggests anxiety is affected by the gut and vice versa. Finding ways to manage your stress levels could help reduce uncomfortable digestive symptoms.

Take a probiotic or prebiotic: Enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotic supplements can help repair gut health.

Foods that can support a healthy gut

Yogurt: When choosing a yogurt, it is important to look for ones that say "live active cultures." This is the healthy bacteria that helps prevent intestinal infections.

Kombucha tea: Fermented tea that can have a tangy and vinegar-like taste to it. It becomes naturally carbonated as it ferments and is full of live, active cultures. Look for varieties without a lot of added sugar.

Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage has been around for centuries. The fermenting stage ensures that the sauerkraut is full of live, active cultures beneficial to the gut. Other fermented foods like kimchi and pickles are beneficial too.

Mangos: A study by Oklahoma State University has shown that incorporating a mango a day into your diet can improve your gut health.

Coconut Oil: Contains fatty acids that kill harmful yeast and bacteria while restoring your stomach's acidity levels.

Salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory that can help heal gut inflammation. For maximum benefits, opt for wild-caught instead of farm-raised.

Garlic: A prebiotic, meaning it feeds and fuels the good bacteria already in your gut.

Bone Broth: A stock made from the bones and marrow of a chicken or cow and then slowly cooked for 24-to-72 hours. The slow cooking process causes the broth's minerals and amino acids to populate, making it a nutrient-rich food.

Remember, your gut health is crucial to your overall health. By making a few simple food and lifestyle changes, you can experience noticeable results in a short time.

Sources.

This article was written by the GOLO team with facts supported by the following sources:

Parkview Health

UCLAhealth.org

NIH: Impact of the Microbiome on the Immune System

Healthline

Forbes.com

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