Most of us are aware that the bacteria in our gut are important for digestion of nutrients but did you know that the gut makes up 80% of immune system?
Not only does it provide a physical barrier to the daily onslaught of pathogens (AKA nasty bugs) it’s exposed to, it also plays a pivotal role in orchestrating whole body immune responses. Science is uncovering that the huge number of bacteria in our gut, otherwise known as our microflora, play a vital role in specific immune responses by communicating with the rest of our immune system and then ‘listening’ to the response . It seems that the type and balance of our gut bacteria not only regulate our local intestinal immune system but also have a profound influence on our systemic (whole body) immune system and plays a crucial role in shaping our susceptibility to bugs – incredible huh?!
Research has already uncovered a link between our gut microflora and autoimmune diseases such as coeliac and crohn’s disease and now the list is growing with disruption of gut bacteria being associated with obesity, depression, allergies and asthma.
So how can we look after our gastrointestinal driven immune system? It remains to be seen if a multi-strain probiotic could play a role in improving our immune function, but it is a rapidly evolving area of research. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in the future we had enough knowledge of our own individual microbiome (make up of bacteria) that we could take specifically tailored probiotics to achieve optimum function of our own gut microflora?
But until we know more about our individual microbiome make up and understand in more depth this intricate dance between our thousands of gut bacteria and our immune system it makes good sense to take general steps to look after the friendly bacteria residing in our gut…..
• Include lots of non-digestible carbohydrates (i.e. wholegrains) in your diet which have been shown to improve the diversity of gut bacteria
• Try to manage your stress levels….high stress levels are linked to decreased diversity of bacteria
• High fibre, plant based foods will increase the productions of anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids by gut bacteria
• Add to your diet products containing prebiotics such as inulin and FOS which can help the friendly bacteria flourish
• Include a daily multi strain probiotic to your diet