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The Gut-Immune Link: Why Gut Health is Key to Staying Well

The Gut-Immune Link: Why Gut Health is Key to Staying Well

Often thought of for digestion and absorption, the gut works in synergy with all body systems and emerging research is continuing to shed light on the crucial connection between gut health and immunity.

Let's explore how gut health influences immunity and overall health, and how a holistic approach can help harness this connection for optimal health.

'All disease begins in the gut'

- Hippocrates (father of medicine) 

The Gut-Immune Link

There is a vital connection between digestion, gut health, and immune function. From the delicate, paper-thin gut lining to the diverse microbiome, these elements play a crucial role in shaping our body's immune defences.

Compromised digestion and gut health can lead to compromised immune function. The gut plays a crucial role in the strength and development of our immune system. In return, the immune system helps shape the diversity of our gut bacteria (microbiome). This symbiotic relationship is essential for maintaining overall health.

We often hear that the gut is home to 70-80% of our immune system, but what does this actually mean?

The Gut Lining

The lining of our digestive system is literally paper-thin. Yep, the divider between our blood, bones, and organs & the outside world paper thin! Yet with all its creases and folds, the surface area of the intestines alone are equivalent to that of a tennis court! When strong and supported, our gut lining selectively allows nutrients to be absorbed while preventing harmful substances, pathogens and toxins from entering the bloodstream.

When this lining is strong and intact, it helps prevent harmful substances like bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles from leaking into the bloodstream and causing inflammation or other health issues.

Equally, the gut lining is also crucial for proper nutrient absorption. When it's compromised, nutrients may not be absorbed efficiently, leading to deficiencies and other health problems.

In terms of immunity, a healthy gut lining is essential because it houses a significant portion of our immune system. It contains specialized immune cells that help identify and fight off pathogens, thereby supporting overall immune function.

By ensuring the strength and integrity of the gut lining through a balanced diet, proper hydration, stress management, and other lifestyle factors, we can support not only our digestive health but also our overall well-being and immune function.

Guess what!? Bone Broth is one of the most nourishing and strengthening things we can consume and coat our gut lining with!

Mucosal Barrier

Our gut lining is coated with a layer of mucus that acts as a physical barrier to prevent pathogens from entering the bloodstream. A little army of different immune cells patrol the surface of this mucosal barrier capturing pathogens before they cause harm. A compromised gut mucosa and/or lining = compromised immune defences.

Beef Liver is extraordinarily rich in Vitamin A, one of the most important nutrients for our gut mucosa. Vitamin A supports the both strength and synthesis of gut and immune cells, promotes mucus production, and helps regulate immune and inflammatory responses.

Microbiome

We’re literally more bacteria than we are human cells. The bacteria that make up our microbiome are crucial to our immune defences - as well as our mood, mental health, and so much more. Our gut microbiome acts as a gatekeeper and trainer, teaching immune cells to differentiate between our own cells and outside invaders (pathogens). Before probiotics, the foundations of digestion - eating mindfully, chewing properly, ensuring proper stomach acid and digestive enzyme function, addressing stress, getting plenty of fibre and whole, fermented foods drive the natural diversity of our gut bacteria.

When everything is running smoothly, the gut sends signals for healthy immune responses. In exchange, the immune system helps to populate the microbiome with health-promoting microbes.

When these two are in good relations, the body is equipped to respond to pathogens and to tolerate harmless bacteria, keeping immune response in check and supporting overall well-being.

Summary

Maintaining a healthy gut is paramount for bolstering our immune response and promoting overall vitality. Whether it's nourishing our gut lining with bone broth, fortifying our mucosal barrier with Vitamin A-rich foods like beef liver, or cultivating a diverse microbiome through mindful eating habits, it's these simple habits that contribute to a resilient immune system.

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Written by our in-house Naturopath, Medical Herbalist & Holistic Nutritionist Emma @nalaholistic_nz

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