How Your Digestion Controls Your Immune System
You are 90% bacteria.Let that sink in for a second… Just think: for every cell in your body, you have 9 cells of bacteria living in and on your body. It can be a little creepy if you think about it too much.
Most of your bacteria is living inside your intestinal tract, otherwise known as your “gut.” The health of this organism is paramount to the health of your body. Why, you ask?
80% of your immune system spends most of its time around your gut. The health of your gut bacteria and the health of your immune system are vitally linked. When your gut bacteria is balanced, your immune system is also balanced. But when it’s out of balance, so is your immune system.
Signs that your immune system is out of balance are: food and seasonal allergies, chronic inflammation, chronic sinusitis, and colds and flus that linger for weeks.
Food sensitivities are a major sign and cause of an immune system imbalance. Food, specifically undigested protein, looks just like a virus or bacteria and our immune system creates an antibody to it. We see this in life-threatening reactions like anaphylactic shock to nuts or shellfish. We can also have a much quieter, non-life threatening reaction to a food (undigested protein), which can over-stimulate our immune system and lead to seasonal allergies, eczema, and many inflammatory conditions. These are usually referred to as food sensitivities. What I’ve seen over and over again in my practice is that once we discover the foods that you aren’t digesting properly you can gain control over allergies, eczema, and many inflammatory conditions.
Undigested protein gets into our blood stream through a “leaky gut.” This is when our intestinal tract is damaged and it allows undigested particles to be absorbed into the blood stream. These proteins can stimulate our immune system for up to 5 days. This is why it’s so difficult to figure out our food sensitivities. Even a small amount of gluten, dairy, corn, or soy (our culture’s main food triggers) each week can cause our immune system to remain over-stimulated and we will feel our symptoms continuously… even if we’ve tried our best to reduce these possible triggers.
The best way to balance our immune system is by having a healthy and strong digestive system, and this means our gut bacteria needs to be in balance. Our North American way of eating hasn’t helped to keep our gut bacteria balanced. Most traditional cultures regularly consume fermented foods like natural yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, which feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. In North America, however, we tend to do the opposite. Processed food, refined sugar, chlorine, and antibiotics are major causes of a gut bacteria imbalance.
When your gut is hosting 75% beneficial bacteria, your body (digestion, immunity, brain) is able to create balance. But when the prevalent bacteria in your gut is “bad” bacteria (bacteria that doesn’t assist us), they allow for an overgrowth of yeast, molds, and fungus – as well as many digestive symptoms, like bloating, foul-smelling gas, distention, pain, constipation, diarrhea, and a “leaky gut.”
How to Keep Your Gut Bacteria Balanced:
Eat whole, unrefined foods. Remove all refined sugars and grains which feed the “bad” bacteria.
Eat naturally fermented foods daily, and take a probiotic supplement. Probiotic supplements contain high amounts of beneficial bacteria and “seed” the gut – an important part of finding balance.