Gut Health: The Key to a Healthy Immune System

Posted on November 11, 2019 in Balance

Is it time for a gut MOT? When you learn that 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut, you know it’s time to upgrade the attention yours gets. 

Our diet plays a hugely important role towards the health of our gut. From fibre rich plant-based foods that help keep us regular, to pro and prebiotics, a healthy digestive system can lower our risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer, and even affect our mental wellbeing. 

Our bodies play host to an astounding number of microbes, particularly in our large intestine. These microbes make up the gut microenvironment (or technically microflora), which stays relatively stable throughout adulthood, but can shift out of balance through events such as illness, taking antibiotics and, of course, ageing. The gut microflora is now being linked to mental wellbeing, including depression, autism and even immune disorders, suggesting that the gut and brain are inextricably linked. So since we know that what we eat can influence our gut microflora, eating a diet that can help to promote the growth of healthy bacteria becomes even more important. 


In this Q&A with Nutrition Consultant, Dr Rachel Allen, we explore the benefits of probiotics, prebiotics, and exactly what we can be doing to nurture out gut microflora and therefore strengthen our immune system. 

Q

What is a probiotic and do I need to take one?

A

Probiotics are supplements or foods containing microorganisms (such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria), that are known to be good for our gut. If you suffer from digestive issues, or have had to take a course of antibiotics, probiotics are useful in getting your digestive system back on track, However, since as individuals we each have a totally unique gut microflora, it is incredibly difficult to prove that probiotics are increasing the healthy microorganisms in your gut. So, if you are tempted to buy a probiotic supplement, it’s worth shopping around to find the right combination of bacteria for you. Stick with one type of probiotic one for about six weeks, and if you don’t notice any difference in your symptoms, try a different strain. 

Q

What about prebiotics?

A

While probiotics contain actual bacteria, prebiotics are a type of foods that feed the healthy bacteria in our gut, causing them to flourish, multiply, and form a healthy microflora. Increasing a wide variety of prebiotic foods can increase the number and diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic rich foods include wheat, oats, barley, leeks, onions and green vegetables, so increasing the frequency and amount of prebiotic foods will give you an extra helping hand. 

Q

How can my diet support my gut health? 

A

A plant based diet is hugely beneficial for our gut health, and including a variety of different foods including fruits and vegetables, pulses and grains will work wonders for increasing the diversity of your gut microbiota. Up your intake of the prebiotic rich foods listed above, as well as plant-based probiotics, which can be found in foods such as kombucha, miso soup, sauerkraut and kefir. 

Q

What supplements help settle a sensitive digestive system?

A

If you suffer from an upset stomach or sensitive digestive system, you could also try using fresh ginger and lemon in hot water, or sipping on peppermint teas. Both ginger and peppermint are very soothing for the stomach, and ginger may help reduce inflammation. 

Q

How do I keep my digestive system in check over the festive period?

A

Eating rich foods and drinking alcohol can take it toll on our bodies, especially our digestive systems. Try the 80/20 rule, eating everything in moderation, but allowing yourself small portions of something you really fancy every so often. There’s no need to deprive yourself of things you enjoy, but just try reducing your portion sizes, and not putting too much strain on your digestive system by going back for seconds (or thirds). Increase the amount of probiotic and prebiotic rich foods that you’re eating, and load up on the veggies.If you’re going to be drinking alcohol, choose lower strength alcoholic drinks, and spread them out throughout the evening, always on a full stomach. Finally, taking a vitamin D supplement can help to support our immune system, and since we don’t have much access to direct sunshine in the winter, it’s a great time to up your intake. 


If you’re interested in learning more about gut health, head over to her website. Shop our prebiotic rich, skin balancing cleanser, Touch Down – Take Off here. Discover some of the topical benefits of prebiotics and probiotics for skin here


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