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Gut Health Series - Impact of Gut Health on the Immune System

The immune system has a vital role of protecting the body against harmful invaders. 70 to 80% of our immune cells are found in the gut. The immune cells in the gut interact with the gut microbiota. These bacteria are directly influenced by our diet and lifestyle.

The gut contains a thin wall of cells that work as a barrier between what stays within the intestines and what passes into our bloodstream. Behind this barrier are cells linked to our immune system. The function of the immune system is to strengthen the lining of the gut and maintain tolerance to the foods we consume.

The immune system cells are constantly sensing what is in our gut. These cells are also a vital part of the body’s immune response when we fall sick. Every time we eat, our gut bacteria breaks down our food and uses it to grow. Eating healthy foods encourages the growth of good gut bacteria. They produce beneficial compounds that help the body function optimally and are beneficial for the way our immune system functions.

Unhealthy foods and bad lifestyle habits can lead to an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. They can produce compounds that lead to inflammations in the body and thereby, fail to support our overall health and immunity. Stress, a highly-processed diet, lack of sleep, repeated bouts of medications and antibiotics, etc. can cause these imbalances.

If you’re looking to improve your immune system, your gut plays a very important role since the two are closely linked. Changes to one can affect the other. The foods we eat affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect our immune cells. When everything is running smoothly, the gut sends signals for the development of healthy immune function modulating immune responses. In exchange, the immune system helps to populate the microbiome with health-promoting microbes.

Eating unhealthy foods, over a period of time will lead to an increase in the unhealthy gut bacteria, lowering the presence of the healthy ones. This in turn will weaken our immune system. Poor immunity makes us easily susceptible to infections and also slows down the recovery process. A healthy diet and lifestyle can support our gut microbiota and thereby the immune system.

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