5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Through Your Gut

Did you know that near­ly 70 per­cent of your immune sys­tem is housed in your gut? While fre­quent hand wash­ing and social dis­tanc­ing are cru­cial in pre­vent­ing the spread of ill­ness­es, being mind­ful of the food and bev­er­ages you con­sume can also help sup­port your immune sys­tem and keep you well. Tak­ing steps to ensure your diges­tive sys­tem is func­tion­ing prop­er­ly is an essen­tial part of main­tain­ing your over­all health.

When food is bro­ken down dur­ing diges­tion, your gut works to absorb nutri­ents that are used to sup­port a vari­ety of bod­i­ly func­tions and elim­i­nate waste from your body. Healthy bac­te­ria found in your gut is also used to stim­u­late the devel­op­ment of T‑cells, which are respon­si­ble for dis­tin­guish­ing your body’s cells and tis­sue from poten­tial­ly harm­ful things in your body. When there is an imbal­ance in your gut, such as an over­growth of bad” bac­te­ria, it can con­fuse your immune sys­tem caus­ing it to start attack­ing your own cells. If your immune sys­tem is busy react­ing to healthy cells, not only is it eas­i­er for you to get sick, it’s also hard­er for your body to recover.

This is why main­tain­ing the bal­ance and health of your diges­tive sys­tem is impor­tant to pro­tect your immune sys­tem. Gas­troen­terol­o­gist, Vishal Desai, MD, shares five ways you can boost your immu­ni­ty and pre­vent ill­ness with healthy habits.

Watch what you eat 

The foods and bev­er­ages you con­sume affect how your diges­tive sys­tem oper­ates and can dis­rupt the bal­ance of the good and bad bac­te­ria found in your gut. When­ev­er pos­si­ble, avoid processed foods. They con­tain addi­tives such as arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, salt and sat­u­rat­ed fats that can lead to diges­tive issues.

Try adding fiber-rich foods to your diet such as fruits, grains, nuts and veg­eta­bles. Fiber helps to reg­u­late your diges­tive tract, pro­mote reg­u­lar bow­el move­ments and sup­port the good bac­te­ria in your gut.

Foods that con­tain pro­bi­otics can also give your diges­tive health a boost. Pro­bi­otics are healthy bac­te­ria that work to break down fiber in your body, reduc­ing indi­ges­tion symp­toms includ­ing gas and bloat­ing. Pro­bi­otics are found in fer­ment­ed foods such as sauer­kraut and miso as well as yogurts con­tain­ing live and active cultures.

Drink plen­ty of fluids

Inad­e­quate flu­id intake can cause con­sti­pa­tion, so it’s impor­tant to drink plen­ty of flu­ids. Aside from water, non-caf­feinat­ed bev­er­ages like herbal teas or sparkling water, or fruits and veg­eta­bles that con­tain high amounts of water such as mel­ons, peach­es, toma­toes, cucum­bers or zuc­chi­ni can help keep you hydrat­ed. Try to avoid sodas and sweetened/​flavored waters as these can lead to dehydration.

Lim­it alco­hol and caffeine 

Alco­hol can dis­rupt the bal­ance of good and bad bac­te­ria in your gut. Alco­hol may also increase acid pro­duc­tion in your stom­ach, lead­ing to heart­burn and acid reflux. Caf­feine can also dis­rupt the bal­ance of good and bad bac­te­ria in the gut, how­ev­er, if tak­en in mod­er­a­tion (only 1 – 2 cups per), there is no harm. 

Find ways to relax

Stress can impact your whole body, includ­ing your diges­tive and immune sys­tems. When you expe­ri­ence stress, the blood and ener­gy nor­mal­ly used by your diges­tive sys­tem are instead re-direct­ed to oth­er areas of your body. This can cause a vari­ety of diges­tive con­di­tions and symp­toms such as irri­ta­ble bow­el syn­drome, ulcers or changes in your bow­el habits. Stress man­age­ment tech­niques like deep breath­ing exer­cis­es and med­i­ta­tion can help reduce stress and pre­vent diges­tive issues.

Stay active

Phys­i­cal activ­i­ty helps to move food through your diges­tive sys­tem. Tak­ing a walk after meals or engag­ing in 30 min­utes of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty a few days a week, can pro­mote reg­u­lar bow­el move­ments and reduce inflam­ma­tion in your body.

While many things in life may seem out of our con­trol, there are steps you can take to main­tain strong diges­tive health and sup­port your immune sys­tem. For more infor­ma­tion on diges­tive issues and your health, sched­ule an appoint­ment with a gas­troen­terol­o­gist online or by call­ing 630−717−2600.

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