When we think of supporting immune health during the winter months, many of us picture rugging up in our winter woolies, brewing up a honey lemon tea and adding a few extra vitamin-C rich fruits and veg to the daily diet. But, have you also thought of supporting your gut health?
If your answer is no, then join us as we explore the science behind the gut-immune connection and provide some practical tips to add to your winter immune health preparation routine.
The gut and immune systems are closer than you think!
Almost 70% of the immune system is located in and around the gut and is therefore influenced by the health of the gut and the microbes that live within it (also known as the gut microbiome).
This close relationship between the gut, gut microbiome and immune system (or gut-immune axis) can be viewed as ‘symbiotic’, meaning interactions between each system offer shared benefits. In other words, a healthy gut can support a healthy immune system and a healthy immune system can support a healthy gut.
The reverse can also occur. For instance, when our gut health is compromised through poor lifestyle and dietary choices, we may experience a change in immune system function. Additionally, when we have a compromised immune system, changes to our microbial balance can occur.
Bacteria: The good, the bad and the… immune system
When it comes to immune health, bacteria are typically the type of bug that you would think best to avoid. After all, bacteria are the reason many of us wash our hands, cook our food and sanitise our homes. However, thanks to the recent explosion in microbiome research, we now understand that not all bugs are bad after all, and better yet, the good ones can play a key role in supporting our immune health.
The role of ‘good’ bacteria
Health-supporting bacteria are known by many names, including ‘good’, ‘beneficial’ or ‘probiotic’ bacteria. These bacteria naturally occur within our guts as part of our gut microbiome and can also be found in certain foods and supplements.
Probiotic bacteria have been shown to support our health in the following ways:
- Digestion of foods
- Production of nutrients
- Crowding out ‘bad’ bacteria/pathogens
- Maintaining the health of the gut wall
A combination of these actions has been shown to support the health of multiple body systems, including immune system function. For instance, specific probiotic strains have demonstrated the ability to reduce the occurrence of symptoms of mild upper respiratory tract infections.
Putting it all together
In summary, the gut, microbiome and immune system form a close partnership when it comes to the regulation of immune health. When supporting your immune health this winter, try starting with your some gut health 101 by implementing some of the following tips:
- Eating a nutrient-rich diet, including a variety of fruit and vegetables
- Avoid heavily processed and high sugar foods
- Include some fermented foods in your daily diet
- Consider taking a probiotic supplement
Wondering which probiotic is suitable for immune health? Look for a probiotic supplement that is specifically indicated for immune health or speak to your healthcare practitioner for more personalised advice.
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