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Shop healthy. Avoid diseases.

Melanie G. Murphy Richter, MS, RDN
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and MS in Longevity, Director of Communications at Prolon and advisor at Tera. I often write about my expertise here on the Tera blog!

Improving Your Gut Health Is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Immunity

Our microbiome is populated by trillions (yes, trillions!) of microbiota (or microbiomes), including a great many different species of living bacteria, fungi, and viruses. When in balance, all of these organisms serve specific and necessary roles in keeping our bodies functioning properly.

These living microbiota in our gut play two critical roles in regulating and supporting our immune system: 

  1. Some live on the protective barrier of our gut and serve to protect against foreign and potentially harmful microorganisms from entering our system. 
  2. They also help to shape our “adaptive” immune cell function. Adaptive immunity is the “memory” of our immune system. When we get sick, our adaptive immune system will remember how we fought the illness before, so that we can fight it more quickly next time. It does this by regulating the delicate balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory responses in our system.

Now that you know all of this, you might be asking yourself “why,” then do we still get sick? In fact, why are there some people who seem to always be sick?

The reason for this is simple: for as intricate a system as our gut is, it is also only one cell-layer wall thick. That’s incredibly thin. This means that our gut is easily penetrable. If our gut is not made up of the proper array of microbiota and/or is inflamed due to diet or stress, for instance, we are more likely to get sick. 

So how do we keep our gut healthy and strong?

  • The most obvious factor is diet. A diet high in processed foods and refined sugar severely limits the diversity of our gut microbiome. These nutrients also contribute to inflammation in our body which makes it much harder for our immune system to function properly. We need to fuel our bodies with a wide range of fruits and vegetables (preferably from all different colors and families). The fiber in fresh produce acts as a “prebiotic” (or food) for our microbiota. When our gut gets the right nutrients, it remains in balance. 
  • Stress also plays a huge factor in the make-up of our gut. When we are stressed, certain microbiota flourish and others die. This type of imbalance makes us more susceptible to illness. (Remember, we need a diverse range of bacteria/fungi/viruses in our system – and they must be appropriately balanced). So managing our stress (surprise: the brain-gut axis is well at play here) is critical in keeping us healthy.
  • Getting enough sleep is also a big component in supporting our immune system. Our bodies repair as we sleep. This is the time that we clean out dead or malfunctioning cells that might be contributing to inflammation, for instance. If we don’t get the right amount of sleep or quality sleep, we are denying our bodies this critical time to repair. Make sure you give yourself 2-3 hours between your last meal and when you actually go to bed. This will make sure your body is fully digested before you sleep. This will make your sleep time more effective.
  • Equally as important is our daily movement and exercise. There has been a lot of research showing a strong correlation between the make-up of our gut with the frequency of exercise. So quite simply: get moving and make sure it’s part of your daily life! 

If you’ve made it this far in this blog, you are winning! 

Here’s a quick recap: 

Our gut and our brain are interconnected. When one is not well, the other one is likely to suffer too. Our immune system is directly impacted by our gut health, so if our gut isn’t working, then our immune system suffers. So by getting your brain and gut healthy, your immune system will benefit too! 

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