Your gut and the billions of microbes that live in the microbiome in your digestive system play important roles in both digestive health and ensuring optimal immune function.
Achieving and maintaining optimal gut health is important because, in addition to the beneficial probiotic gut bacteria (or flora) that reside in your gut that aid digestion, our intestines contain more immune cells than the rest of our body – the gut wall houses almost 70% of the cells (lymphoid tissue) that comprise our immune system. (Source)
There are two important aspects to optimal gut health – a thriving and diverse probiotic population, and providing these living organism with the food they need to flourish.
You can achieve this by predominantly eating a natural, wholesome whole food diet. This diet should include foods that contain probiotics, such as cultured dairy products and fermented foods, and various plant-based ingredients that provide ideal sources of natural fibre for gut bacteria to feed on.
Known as prebiotic material, gut bacteria feed off these forms of complex starches (specifically oligosaccharides, inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides) in the digestive system.
However, eating prebiotics does little if you lack the gut flora to digest it. There are normally billions of probiotics that reside in a healthy gut (it is estimated that there are over 50 genera of bacteria that provide over 500 different species).
Stress, toxins, pollution, antibiotic use, sugar and processed foods can destroy the beneficial bacteria that reside in our gut, which creates opportunities for bad bacteria to take over and colonise the gut.
That’s why it can become necessary to repopulate the microbiome with the right sources of beneficial bacteria to restore balance. This may require a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement, or specific strains based on your individual requirements (it is always best to consult with a qualified healthcare provider for the most beneficial approach).
Restoring this balance is important for immunity because a healthy level and diversity of probiotics directly benefits and supports the immune system.
Conversely, a properly functioning immune system helps to regulate the microbiome, ensuring that bad bacteria don’t over-run the beneficial colonies. Furthermore, we know from various studies that probiotics are involved in the production of white blood cells and cytokines, which are cell signalling molecules in the immune system that regulate our body’s immune response. (Source)