The gut is a powerful organ, that’s why maintaining optimal gut health is so important for our health.

We have over 3 million microbiotic genes living in our gut. That’s more than all the human genes in our entire bodies. In Rob Knights ‘How our microbes make us who we are’ Ted Talk, he discussed, how it’s possible to match someone’s palm of their hand to a computer mouse, that they use regularly, with up to 95% accuracy.

The medical world is slowly starting to accept that the gut, is in fact one of the most important organs in the journey to preventing illnesses (rather than treating them with medication).

We should look at our gut as a huge defence system, that’s why it’s incredibly important to keep it in top notch health, year round.

How is it linked to immunity?

Our gut is directly linked to the adaptive immune system. This is the second side to our immune system that responds over time to certain stressful events.

It has been proven over recent years, that the gastrointestinal tract has a direct link and interaction with the immune system and microorganisms. According to studies by June. L Round and  Sarkis K Mazmaniam it was discovered, that when pathogens attack our system, it causes  an immediate immune response and potentially, tissue damage. The symbiotic bacteria in our gut, is then stimulated to work. Just like our white blood cells, fighting off disease. The gut microbiomes can actually prevent inflammatory disease from taking hold.

Keris Marsden put it simple in her Fitter Food podcast (Episode 80) recently. When we get a cold or virus, our body ‘takes note’ and learns how to respond to it. This prepares and defends the body against different strains of bacteria, and it knows what to do with it next time.

The Gut protects Us

In another study into immune health and the gut results were clearly showing that gut microbiomes actually have ‘protective, metabolic, trophic and immunological functions’. This means, that it’s proven, our immunity is directly affected by the gut.

What the study also uncovered, was that if any tiny dysfunction in the gut bacteria occurred, then it was possible for autoimmunity to occur. It was also an open opportunity for heightened inflammation. Not good either way eh?

What can we do to protect our gut bacteria and boost immunity?

There are so many little changes you could be making to your diet and lifestyle to boost your gut health (and in turn, directly boost your immunity).

You can control what you can eat, you can’t control the environment. As Rob Knight discussed in his book ‘Follow your gut’.

That’s why it’s important to eat foods that will nourish not only our bodies, but our gut microbiomes, on a regular basis. To make sure you stay in optimal health all year round, it would be worth introducing these into your diet:

Probiotics

Building up your gut strength and immunity is important especially when we come up to the winter months.

  • They’re a powerful component that already exists in your gut. Their role is to protect you from any nasty bugs you may come across in your day to day life. They’re live cultures, generally made up of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.
  • You can take probiotics orally as a supplement and through food. When they come as a supplement they can contain anything from 3 billion- 20 billion cultures. The higher the better!
  • Its recommend starting on a course of probiotics a month before you travel, or after you have had antibiotics or been ill.

Tip! Keep your probiotics in the fridge to keep them alive and fresh!

You can turbo charge your probiotic intake and feel like a superhero every day, by upping your probiotics through food.

Here’s a list of probiotic foods, that are worth stocking up on, to help keep your immunity (and gut bacteria) at a healthy level:

  1. Kefir
  2. Greek Yogurt (in small amounts if you’re lactose free)
  3. Sauerkraut, and other pickled vegetables (avoid kimchi if you suffer with any IBS)
  4. Sourdough bread is delicious and tolerable for non-celiacs
  5. Miso soup, just be careful of any added gluten
  6. Tempeh is fermented soy, it’s also delicious pan fried
  7. Kombucha – the fermented, gut friendly tea that’s popular in Southeast Asia

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are the elements of food that our bodies struggle to digest, they’re also known as fermentable fibre. They are distributed to our good bacteria (aka probiotic bacterias) in the gut.This helps your probiotic bacteria feed and flourish and keeps your tummy protected. You can introduce prebiotics through your diet, by cooking with a diverse range of prebiotic foods.

Here’s a list of what you should be eating to keep your gut microbiomes, stocked up on prebiotics.

  • Bananas are delicious mashed with yoghurt
  • Cooked, refrigerated and then reheated new potatoes are a great way to get resistant starch
  • Tomatoes, they’re also full of disease preventing
  • Garlic & Onion, use as a base for any stew
  • Raw Oats (try adding to smoothies!)
  • Bone Broth-try this easy recipe
  • Apples – make sure you eat the skin
  • Wholegrains like bran and barley
  • Almonds, a topper for any salad

Now you know what to eat, here are a few tips to improve your overall gut health and immunity.

#1 Sort out your diet once and for all

Now you know what to eat, it’s important to really examine what you’re putting in your body. You need to look out for hidden ingredients that are damaging to gut bacteria. The main enemy are sweeteners. Check protein bars, ‘health bars’ and protein powders for added sucralose and saccharin. It could be the difference between a poor gut, and a great one. Also look at reducing refined sugars.

#2 Supplement your diet with turmeric

Anti-inflammatory turmeric should be used as part of your daily diet. It’s beneficial for the digestion system as a whole and tastes delicious. Try it added to almond milk with a touch of honey for a filling, immune boosting.

#3 Get to bed early!

A decent night’s sleep is just for looking good, you know. Make sure you try to allow yourself at least 7 hours of sleep a night. 4-5 hours a night is nowhere near enough to renew your cells and get enough rest to function fully. Allow yourself time to wind down each evening. Have a warm shower or bath, keep blue light ( mobile phone and laptops) to a minimum and keep your room dark and cool.

Now next time you feel yourself getting a cold, struggling with stomach problems or struggling with inflammatory problems then take a look at what you’re putting in your body, and change it!

You can read more about the benefits of Kefir to boost gut health here.

Article by Emily Dallara – emilyrosedallara.com

Food & Health Copywriter/Content Marketer/Blogger/Volcano Climber