The Matrix of Immunity and Gut Health…

Our Immune System & Our Gut

Our Gut Microbiome is a huge area of research and interest at the moment. And there is so much to say about it. I have had to keep myself in check to try and keep this short(ish) and simple. There is so much to say about it – so if you fancy a chat about gut bugs let me know and I will be happy to talk. For now, I hope you find this as interesting as I have diving into the gut health rabbit hole…

Our immune system is comprised of many parts. It is more than the genes we are born with. It is constantly responding to, learning from and adapting to our environment from the moment we are born. And it can not evolve in isolation. Much of the environmental interaction is conducted by the rich and dynamic ecosystem of microbes that live on us, in us and around us – collectively known as microbiota. We are in fact super-organisms. This quote sums it up;

“We are not individuals. We are ecosystems with microbial partners that are involved in the development (particularly in early life) and function of essentially every organ, including immunity.” Graham Rook. Emeritus Professor of Medical Microbiology, University College London.

Current estimates indicate each of us house a community of 38 trillion microbes – accounting for half of each of us by cell count. As much as we may fear germs, contrary to what our politicians might like us to believe in this current climate, the bugs comprising our microbiota are actually our biggest allies. With 70% of our immune system residing in our gut.

The microbiota found in our gut act as a communication centre between the outside world and our bodies, and brain. They are crucial for our overall health, our digestion, our immunity and our mental health – 95% of our serotonin receptors are found in our gut!. It is safe to say it is one of the most important parts of our body.

Recent studies have again shown the importance of gut health in relation to immune response. Two studies – one in Hong Kong and one in China have shown evidence that gut microbiome plays an integral role in the immune response to Covid. The health of the gut impacts the severity of COVID symptoms. It is thought that lower levels of healthy microbes makes it easier for the virus to reach the surface of the digestive tract and internal organs. These studies have lead the way for more in-depth and broader studies to be done.

So what does it mean for it to be healthy and how do we support it?

For our gut to be healthy we need our microbiota to be:

  • Diverse – the range and variety of different gut bugs is crucial. Diversity is good, fostering creativity and great performance in our bodies (and in society and the world). These bugs also teach us that collaboration is the root of resistance and resilience when it comes to our health.
  • Balanced – so not about eliminating, but creating balance through diversity. Many previously considered “bad” bacteria are now thought to play a role in our gut health. So the most important thing is balance with diversity. Ensuring the “good” ones are fed well and flourish, whilst ensuring the “bad” ones aren’t allowed to grow beyond their function.

How can we create and maintain diversity and balance. Here are a few tips. But it’s not an exhaustive list.

  1. What we eat. No surprises. Everything always comes back to proper nutrition.
    • Fibre – Our microbiota are fed by fibre. Fibre found in plant based sources – fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
    • They are adversely effected by processed foods, poor quality fats, high sugar and salt. So avoid processed foods as much as possible.
    • We should be aiming to eat 30+ different plant based sources of fibre a week. Think of eating the rainbow and then some. Variety is key for diversity. Different fibres will feed different bugs, which is why it is important to get a good variety into our diets. And as fibre is a form of carbohydrate, low carb diets, especially those low or devoid of complex carbohydrates, can reduce our microbiome. It is best to focus on wholefood, complex carbohydrates.
    • Focus on positive nutrition rather than elimination.
  1. How we eat. Not just what we are eating, but how we are eating will also impact on our gut bugs. Ensure you chewing your food properly, as digestion starts in the mouth. Taking time over your meals as much as possible. From preparation, to sitting down and being mindful of each mouthful, will all have an impact. Switching off – making sure you aren’t looking at your phone or watching television. Being distracted by a screen can reduce absorption of  nutrients by unto 60%!
  2. Manage stress. Unmanaged stress has a huge negative impact on our whole immune system. And our digestive system. When we are in a state of stress, our body is primed to deal with the immediate stress. Physiologically our bodies will behave as if we need to run away from a tiger, even if the stress is triggered by a work deadline or anything else. Which means that non-essential or less essential functions are not prioritised, this includes the digestive system. Our digestive functions will reduce and nutrients will not be absorbed.
  3. Sleep. Good sleep of 7-9hours a night will help manage stress. As well as enable us to keep our hunger hormones in check. This helps when making good food choices. If we are tired we are more likely to reach for high fat, high salt and sugary foods. Whereas getting a good nights sleep will help us choose the veg packed meals that will feed our gut microbiota. Sleep benefits every function and organ in our body, as it is when we repair and regenerate. Good sleep requires good sleep hygiene. Giving yourself time to switch off and wind down before bed, as well as avoiding having screens in the bedroom.
  4. Movement. Exercise is good for our gut bugs. It also helps to move our lymph around our body, which is another crucial part of our immune system. Find the movement that feels good to you.
  5. Enjoy fermented foods and live cultured products. Like your microbiome itself, fermented food and drinks like kimchi, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut contain natural synergy of many types of yeasts and bacteria, as a result of these microbes all living and thriving in a controlled way (unless they have been pasteurised). These aren’t strictly probiotics in the scientific sense, although they may contain probiotic bugs. Anecdotally, there are many reports of people seeing benefits from consuming fermented foods. But the clinical proof is limited with the exception of fermented dairy, which has been shown to benefit overall health. If you feel you need to take a probiotic, or live culture supplement, it is definitely worth trialling out to see if you feel benefits. I have definitely noticed feeling better taking Doterra’s PB Assist+ and also Symprove. Experiment and see if you can find something that works for you – and feel free to drop me a line if you would like some guidance.
  6. Reduce Toxins. Toxic chemicals have a negative impact on our gut bugs. This includes what we clean our houses with, what we put on our skin, and the medications we take, as well as the general environmental toxics around us. Become really aware of the chemicals you are choosing to use in your house and on your skin. Yuka is an app I like to use to help me identify what is dangerous. In terms of medications, obviously antibiotics will reduce our gut bugs, so we should only take them when necessary – fortunately most doctors will not over-prescribe them these days. A few other commonly used drugs including anti-histamines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, have been associated with changes in gut microbiome composition.

There is so much to say about our microbiome and gut health. Feel free to tap me up for more information.

Some essential oils good for digestive support 

Cardamom – as an anti-spasmodic and decongestant it is great for digestive discomfort, and indigestion, constipation and nausea including motion sickness.

Cinnamon – great for balancing blood sugar, as well as for maintaining oral health (our mouth is the first part of our digestive system), it is also anti-microbial and anti-parasitic which is good for keeping yeast and parasites under control in the gut – along with Clove.

Fennel – a calmative and a stomachic, good for digestive discomfort, flatulence and nausea.

Ginger – antiseptic, antispasmodic and stomachic – great for nausea and digestive upsets, vomiting, constipation and overall immune support. Great in a cup of warm water in the morning.

Peppermint – anti-inflammatory, carminative (reduces gas), stomachic and general tonic – great go to for stomach upset.

Sending Blessings for you and your happy bugs,


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