It might not look it, in fact it definitely doesn’t look it, but your gut is a total genius (see what we did there?). Its home to a whopping 70% of your immune system – helping to fend off the ‘baddies’ that are there to do your body harm. Even if a pesky enemy does slip through the net, your gut can deploy an army of white blood cells as a second level of defense. Good bacteria can help keep your gut’s immune system stay fighting fit and ready to protect your body.
Gut bacteria are immune system educators
Your immune system has a big part to play in overall health, and gut bacteria are on hand to teach the immune system which microbes are good and bad. Education of the immune system takes early learning to a whole new level – it starts in the womb, before you are even born. The immune system needs to know when something is okay or when they should react to protect you. Exposure to many different types of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms is key to making sure the good bacteria can teach the gut’s immune system that not everything is bad! Interestingly, there are some indicators that babies born by cesarean section, rather than the through a vaginal welcome to the world have a higher risk of developing certain conditions like asthma, risk of obesity and type 1 diabetes, as they are exposed to less bacteria during birth. Having pets as a child also helps here (apparently letting our dogs give us a big wet lick is a good thing?!). The good news is no matter how you came to be here – it can only take a matter of days to start to improve gut health.
Benefits of a healthy gut and immune system
With a healthy gut you are more likely to maintain a strong immune system which can fight those nasty invaders trying, as they will, to make you sick. A weaker immune system means there is a greater chance of catching an infection like pneumonia, bronchitis and skin infections to name but a few. If the immune system in the gut hasn’t been taught all the lessons and doesn’t know when to switch off there is a chance it can lead to inflammation and this has been linked to depression and even Alzheimer’s Disease. Your immune system and gut bacteria are, like you, unique and will respond differently to others. Sometimes the gut’s immune system will attack itself when gluten is eaten. That’s because for some people gluten is an irritant that adversely affects the immune system – this is called Celiac Disease . Eating a gut friendly diet to maintain a diverse gut flora (remember that’s the fancy word for bacteria) can help boost your immune system.