Food & Nutrition Health & Wellness

Gut bacteria and its relation to the immune system

We all know the importance of eating healthy and exercising sufficiently in order to lead a healthy life. It is obvious that all of us wish or at least aspire to be at the top of our health, we feel we must stay away from any kinds of illnesses that would come in the way of good health.

But many of us often have a misconception that being healthy is difficult, or involves the consumption of expensive products or blaming genetics, which is a common excuse. However, staying healthy and keeping illnesses away is far simpler than what many of us imagine.

Did you know that having an excellent immune system is directly related to your gut health? Surprising right? What we eat and our overall gut health has a direct impact on our immune system. Let us elaborate on this a little further.

The Gut and gut bacteria and relation to the immune system

Our gut is home to hundreds of millions of bacteria. Most of these are good for you as they produce neurotransmitters called Serotonin which is the ‘Happy hormone’. It is essential to keep you in a happy and calm mood. This bacterial flora and fauna are linked to other important functions as well. These include your immunity.

Our immune system is our body’s first line of defence and works in a way that promotes healing if it senses something is not right with the body. These immune cells are lined inside your gut as well. They are just behind the barrier of cells in the gut which work to decide what needs to enter the bloodstream and what needs to remain inside the intestine to proceed towards excretion.

Food and gut health

Now when we eat good food, the bacteria in the gut produce compounds that are beneficial and good for the body. Similarly, when a poor diet is taken in, it creates a kind of imbalance in the body. This may lead to inflammation in your gut.

As mentioned earlier, the immune system will immediately get activated and begin working in a way to clear the imbalance and promote healing. These imbalances can be caused due to various reasons like stress, long-term or repeated consumption of antibiotics, or due to poor diet like highly processed foods etc.

The problem here is that the immune system had to unnecessarily work towards creating an immune response which was easily avoidable. Instead, the gut could have an abundant store of good bacteria that does their beneficial work and leave the immune system to do its daily chores. The immune system could instead save that effort and prepare itself for better fights that require a strong immune system creating a strong immune response.

Steps to be taken to create good gut health and better immunity

Each person has a personalized gut health and immune system, so there is no standard rule, but there are some very simple steps that we can take to ensure our gut remains full of its bacterial flora and fauna which in turn keeps the immune system up and running for its primary purposes.

Eat mindfully

Being aware of one’s bodily needs is very important. Bingeing on some foods regardless of hunger or eating just because you are bored, or munching on snacks while watching a movie can prove to be hazardous to health. Eat well-balanced meals that are proportionate to your bodily needs to ensure good gut health.

Consume fermented foods

Fermented foods are a great source of healthy bacteria. You can indulge in some fermented meals like dosa or idly or curd. You can also try eating kimchi or kombucha.

Include prebiotic fibre

These foods are important in the promote growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Some simple and easily available prebiotic fibre foods are fruits like apples, bananas, blueberries, kiwis, and vegetables like onions, tomatoes, garlic and artichokes. You can also try prebiotic supplements,

Try including foods like whole grains or legumes like rajma and chickpeas.

Include vegetables in a wide range of colours

Vegetables that are of various colours are not just attractive to look at, they also have many gut-friendly benefits. Various vegetables of different colours contain many essential anti-oxidants known as polyphenols, these help reduce inflammatory reactions in the gut. You can include vegetables like bell peppers, purple cabbage, yellow zucchini, asparagus and more.

Not only do these vegetables reduce the chances of inflammatory reaction in the gut, but they are also abundant in rich insoluble fibre. This is great to improve bowel movements and is also great for the bacteria in the gut.

Exercise regularly

We all know that exercises like running or walking are great for our physical as well as mental health. It is also beneficial for our gut health. As exercise improves blood circulation, which means even the gut receives better blood circulation. Also, mechanical action caused during running or walking creates an up-and-down movement in the body including the gut, which aids its movements as well. People who exercise regularly often notice improved health including better bowel movements and overall improved gut health.

Reduce consumption of processed foods, refined carbohydrates and excess sugar

Consumption of foods that are processed or refined or high in oil or sugar tends to irritate the gut lining. They often trigger an inflammatory response which in turn triggers an unnecessary immune response. But limiting consumption of such foods and sticking to simple whole foods invariably has a beneficial effect on gut health as well as the immune system.

Towards better gut health and a better immune system

The above-mentioned steps are simple and doable and can ensure better gut health and a better lifestyle. If including all the steps at a time may seem tough, one can simply take baby steps like opting for one step at a time.

Choose a meal time and try to include family members to eat together. This way, you can stay away from a screen, and eat mindfully in a happy environment which is highly beneficial for health. Try to include one portion of curd or yoghurt along with a simple salad with your meals to help your gut health. You can also look for healthy alternatives each time you feel a craving for high sugar or high salt and oily foods. You can munch on a crunchy cucumber or a carrot or even create a sprouts chat for those evening cravings to eat something sinful.

With time, you will begin to feel the benefits of improved gut health and a better immune system.

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