Supporting the Immune System with Food
The bacteria in your gut have a lot of sway when it comes to your health, that's why you want to encourage a healthy balance of the ones that are there to protect you. Here are 3 ways these bacteria can support you and your immune system:
1) They fuel the cells of the mucosal lining. Many parts of the body have a mucosal linings that contain lymphoid tissue and act as a first line of defence against pathogens. Bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that encourage mucus production and stimulates repair.
2) They can signal the immune system to turn off inflammation. Certain bacteria are known to help turn off inflammation in the body and particularly the digestive tract. When inflammation is down, the adjacent cells in the gut are tight and will also prevent harmful pathogens from entering. Your intestine is designed to allow nutrients to enter while keeping microbes out. If those tight junctions are comprimised, microbes and small particles are able to pass through triggering your immune system to respond and this constant activation will weaken the immune system over time.
3) Specific bacteria are known to boost the immune system. Some healthy bacteria are known to produce molecules that attach to B-cells triggering them to divide and multiply. Your B-cells produce antibodies that fight bacteria and viruses that have entered the body.
To encourage those healthy bacteria, feed them the foods they like! Here are some probiotics that will encourage them to multiply.
Inulin- foods rich in this prebiotic include:
Pectin- foods rich in this prebiotic include:
Arabinoxylia- foods rich in this prebiotic include:
Eat resistant starch. Resistant starches one ones that you don't absorb and go straight to the colon where they are digested by bacteria that produce healthy short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. Foods rich in this starch include:
cooked and cooled potatoes and rice
unripe bananas and plantain
Prebiotic foods can cause digestive symptoms if eaten in excess, so do go slow if you're just starting to incorporate these foods in your diet. Those with IBS, SIBO and/or IBD will want to be especially cautious and perhaps work with a professional who can advise you on the best foods for you.
Some other great foods to include in your diet to support a healthy microbiome include:
Plant fibres- A great way of encouraging healthy bacteria is to eat a lot of plants. Choose nutrient-dense ones like those in the brassica family:
Polyphenols can also support a healthy gut microbiome:
red wine (reasonable amounts!)
dark chocolate (yes!)
Stay warm, stay strong and If you do get sick, check out this immune-supportive soup!