Importance of a healthy immune system
Having a strong and healthy immune system is like have the fittest, strongest, smartest, highly trained army always at the ready to protect your body. Your body's complex defence mechanisms help keep us healthy in three main ways by:
1. Protecting us from being overwhelmed with disease producing pathogens (eg. viruses, bacteria and toxins)
2. Removing damaged and worn out cells, and
3. Identifying and destroying abnormal or mutant cells (eg. cancer cells)
When the immune army starts to weaken and makes mistakes the likelihood of illness and disease increases; from a simple cold to a more serious health condition. Allergies are in fact a defect in the immune system causing a hypersensitivity to a certain food or allergen. Autoimmune diseases (eg. type 1 diabetes, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn's disease etc) are a malfunction of the immune system where the body starts to attack itself.
What does the gut have to do with our immune system?
The digestive system is home to 70-80% of our body’s total immune cells. Then within your gut also live one hundred trillion microorganisms; 95% of which are good guys. These gut microbes, of which there are 100’s to 1000’s of different species serve a number of beneficial roles. One of these roles is to send signals to the local immune cells and to influence immune homeostasis for the whole body. It's a complex and amazing process, which our body innately can do so well be itself IF we look after ourselves.
"All disease begin in the gut" Hippocrates
What can you do to improve your gut health?
Paleo principles focus on the health of the gut. The first step is to eliminate the foods that can cause damage to the gut and that can feed the 'bad guy' microbes (particularly refined sugar and hidden sugars in processed foods feed the bad guys). Next, Paleo is about adding in lots of the natural foods that are kinder on the digestion and provide vital nutrients to support a healthy immune system and feed the 'good guy' gut microbes. Refer to the Paleo Cheat Sheet here.
Fermented foods have been around for centuries across every culture. For example Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kefiv, Kombucha and natural traditional yogurts. Adding fermented foods SLOWLY into your regular diet is a natural way to give yourself a power boost of 'good guys. ' If you are local to Penrith or Richmond attend one of our Fermented Food Workshops.
It is important to note however, that probiotics and fermented foods are unlikely to counteract a poor diet, so it's imported to make the food changes first to help your gut wall recover enough to provide an ideal home for the good guys to flourish and act the way they are supposed to act. If you are local to Penrith join the next round of the Food for Wellness 5 Week Group Reset to set up the ground work for Healing the Gut.
Personally for me, I had never even considered that I had any gut issues. Yet making food changes has profoundly improved my overall health and built up my immune system. Read more of my story here. If you need any support with making food changes work for you and your family. Please feel free to contact me.
Warrington R, Watson W, Kim HL, Antonetti FR (2011) 'An intro to immunology and immunopathology' Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol 2011 Nov 10;7 Suppl 1:S1. doi: 10.1186/1710-1492-7-S1-S1.
Hsin-Jung Wu and Eric Wu (2012) ‘The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity’ Gut Microbes. 2012 Jan 1; 3(1): 4–14. PMCID: PMC3337124
Furness JB1, Kunze WA, Clerc N.(1999) ‘Nutrient tasting and signaling mechanisms in the gut. II. The intestine as a sensory organ: neural, endocrine, and immune responses’. Am J Physiol. 1999 Nov;277(5 Pt 1):G922-8.