How Do We Maintain A Healthy Immune System Post Covid?
Today on the Harmony with Food show I talked about what factors impact your microbiome, and how your microbiome affects your immune system and other parts of your body.
Your Microbiome is Formed at Birth
The interaction between the gut and the microbiome begins at birth. As babies exit the birth canal, they consume their mother's fluid, which is filled with bacteria that forms the basis of the child's bacterial flora for life. If a child is born via cesarean section, they skip this vital step. So while the immune system is fully developed at birth, it isn't matured.
Once you're exposed to bacteria, both beneficial and harmful, your immune response starts to develop and mature. It can take up to two years for a baby's immune system to fully mature.
What else can affect your microbiome?
Psychological or emotional stress, anxiety, lack of exercise, too much exercise, lack of sleep, exposure to pollution, toxins, chronic inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, poor diet, processed food, too much sugar, or not absorbing the nutrients and vitamins and minerals you should be absorbing can play a role in your microbiome.
How does the microbiome affect your immune system?
Your gut plays a huge role in your immune system. In fact, 70-80% of your immune system is in the gut. It is influenced and taught by the microbiome. It has been estimated that the human gut houses a hundred trillion microbial cells, which is 10 times the number of human cells.
The gut sends signals for the development of healthy immune responses. In exchange, your immune system helps populate your microbiome with health-promoting microbes, which provide protection from invaders and pathogenic organisms by competing for nutrients and attachment sites at the mucus membranes in the gut. These bacteria are also essential for digesting and absorbing nutrients from your food that are critical for your immune system to function properly.
The more you have of the different beneficial bacteria and less you have of the harmful ones, the healthier your gut is going to be, and the more robust your immune system will be.
Your intestinal lining is delicate and can become compromised, which is what's called intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. You can think of your gut as cheesecloth - it allows for some things to pass through it, but other, larger particles should not be able to. When the intestinal lining is compromised, things leave the digestive tract and go into the bloodstream.
Your body recognizes these foreign objects as an invader and creates an immune response to them, and that's where we can begin seeing things like autoimmune disease, inflammation, and digestive problems start to happen.
What else can the microbiome influence?
We will always have some bad bacteria in our guts, but the key is to keep it properly balanced with the good bacteria. When we have too much bad bacteria, it can cause signs of arthritis, inflammation, fatigue, and digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, headaches, acne, and weight loss resistance.
Your gut health also impacts your brain health. They always say "fix the brain, fix the gut." So, if you've been having symptoms like anxiety or depression, it's been shown that improving your gut health can help with this.
How can you re-balance the microbiome?
I like to start off with the Gut Zoomer test. This test digs deeper than what your conventional medicine doctor will test and lets me look at how much of each strain of bacteria you have in your gut. Once I get your results, I'll create a plan to kill some of the bad bacteria, then we'll move on to increasing the good bacteria through food, supplements, and probiotics.