Gut health article for improving Immunity

the core of your immunity


The immune system is a complex system containing molecules to protect the body against infection (Better Health Channel, n.d.). The body’s immune system includes the thymus, the bone marrow, the white blood cells, the lymphatic system, the spleen, and more. The digestive system also plays a role as it contains a mucous lining filled with antibodies to fight against microbes or toxins. Antibodies fight infection by recognizing foreign molecules called antigens and then marking them for destruction for other cells to attack and kill.


According to Duly Health and Care (n.d.), the gut houses a whopping 70% of the immune system.

The gut contains a complex system called the microbiome, or gut microbiota. The microbiome is a community of trillions of microscopic organisms, often including bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that live within the gastrointestinal tract (Segre, n.d.). The main types of organisms in the gut microbiome are Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes (Khan & Wang, 2020). The microbiota in the gut has both beneficial and harmful components. The balance of these polar opposites depends on various factors, including genetics, physical environment, medication, and diet. In an individual with a healthy and balanced microbiome, when pathogens enter the body — potentially through consumption of contaminated food and drinking water — the immune system is activated as the body breaks down potential toxins (Harvard School of Public Health, n.d.). A symbiotic relationship exists in the gut microbiota as the bacteria have a great place to survive. At the same time, the host receives many health benefits when the gut bacteria are in balance.


 The gut is a primary site for immune system activity; therefore, researchers believe the healthy bacteria in the microbiome help prevent harmful bacterial overgrowth (Harvard School of Public Health, n.d.).

Beneficial microorganisms compete with the harmful pathogenic bacteria for nutrients and attachment locations in the gut, therefore preventing their growth and development in the body. Additionally, having a diversity of microbes in the gut is essential for health as having low bacterial diversity has been repeatedly seen in individuals with obesity, diabetes, eczema, Celiac’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, compared to healthy controls (Valdes, Walter, Segal, Spector, 2018). While researchers know that a healthy and balanced diet positively impacts the gut microbiota, specific dietary patterns have been found to have adverse effects such as consumption of sugar alternative/artificial sweeteners, food additives (for example, emulsifiers), restrictive dieting, and more.


Fortunately, the gut microbiome can be modulated through increased consumption of prebiotics, probiotics, and dietary fiber, as well as supplements (Valdes et al., 2018).

Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts often found in yogurts or supplements, while prebiotics are dietary fiber sources that feed probiotics and help them thrive in the gut’s microbiome. On top of that, consumption of a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and limited processed foods supports a healthy gut microbiota as well (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.).


The immune system is the body’s way of protecting itself from outside harms such as germs or bacteria, parasites, or dangerous cells, such as cancer (John Hopkins Medicine, n.d.).

The immune response relies heavily on a balanced gut microbiome, especially when the body is stressed or at higher infection risk (Institute for Functional Medicine, n.d.). The healthy gut produces cytokines to govern essential cell operations such as cell death, cell growth, transport of molecules, and the inflammatory response that acts against pathogens. Conversely, according to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) (n.d.), with an imbalanced gut bacterial composition comes impaired regulation of cytokine production and function. Altered regulation of the gut microbiome can lead to decreased immune system functioning. Specifically, lactic acid bacteria and Bifidobacteria are vital players in the anti-inflammatory, immune response, and cytokine processing (Singh et al., 2017).


In addition, research has shown the gut microbiota’s relationship with autoimmunity and the development of autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is a disease state in which the immune system attacks pathogenic and harmful bacteria in the body and begins to attack healthy cells and tissues by mistake (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & National Institutes of Health, 2021). Dysbiosis, or imbalance, of the gastrointestinal tract microbiome, has been linked to the prevalence of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease (Khan & Wang, 2020). However, the mechanism for this relationship is not well known by researchers.


Overall, research shows a relationship between a healthy and balanced gut microbiome and a more robust immune system response.

This relationship exists regardless of whether it responds to contaminated food and water or infectious pathogens. Amongst medications, genetics, environmental factors, and more, diet plays a significant role in the composition of the gut microbiome and can aid in the development of a healthier immune system. Therefore, it is increasingly vital to consume a balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, probiotics and probiotics, and adequate dietary fiber, to support a healthy balanced gut microbiome to aid in a strengthened immune system.


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