Did you know that you can support your immune system with your gut?
Maintaining an optimally functioning immune system is currently of great importance for many people. Everyone always talks about strengthening the immune system, but what exactly is the immune system?
What is the immune system?
The immune system is a defense system that includes many biological structures and processes within an organism and protects against disease. To function properly, an immune system must recognize a variety of pathogens and distinguish them from the organism's own healthy tissue. If an infection does occur, the immune system not only strengthens its defenses, but also helps the body recover by leaving a permanent reminder of the pathogen.
Over time, this constant reminder and identification of pathogens provides greater protection and leads to fewer infections (1). However, sometimes it fails: A pathogen successfully penetrates and makes us sick.
“The states of health or disease are the expressions of the success or failure experienced by the organism in its efforts to respond adaptively to environmental challenges .” – Rene Dubos, 1965
What does the gut have to do with the immune system?
When most people think of the immune system, their first thought is usually swollen lymph nodes. Now, however, the focus is on us Gastrointestinal system which we now know plays an important role in immunity. Although our gastrointestinal tract is located deep within the body, it is a potential entry point for pathogens (2). Our colon is home to the largest collection of microorganisms that live in and on us, aka the Gut microbiome . Most of our bacteria are known to help us digest food. However, they also play an important role for us immune system (2).
Intestinal bacteria: A protective army against pathogens
Our gut bacteria can interact with potential pathogens and create a barrier through a process called colonization resistance (3,4,5,6). This prevents harmful bacteria from settling in the intestines. This thin barrier keeps the bacteria safe in their preferred environment - the gut - and prevents them from exploring other areas, such as our bloodstream. When the intestinal lining is damaged, our bacteria can escape and end up in places where they don't belong, such as other organs. Because they accumulate in these areas, the toxins and metabolites they secrete can lead to inflammatory reactions that damage tissue. This is one of the many reasons why a healthy intestinal mucosa is so important.
Some of our resident bacteria are able to to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) , such as butyrate, propionate and acetate (7). These substances have been proven to help the intestinal cells build an immune defense against invading pathogens and prevent inflammation in the intestine (8). They can also boost systemic or whole-body immunity during an immune response by improving intestinal barrier function and recruiting immune cells to fight invading pathogens (9). Overall, SCFAs are believed to be of great benefit to our immune system due to their ability to reduce inflammation and improve our immunity.
How does an unbalanced gut affect immunity?
An imbalance in intestinal bacteria can result in poor immunity. This is because not all intestinal bacteria are able to produce the valuable SCFAs mentioned above, which help the body fight off pathogens. To function well, our intestinal microbiome needs balance and harmony.
How do I strengthen my immune system?
We can help our bacteria produce butyrate, propionate and acetate by consuming a selection of appropriate prebiotics (7), that is, foods that promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria . For example, if we enrich the gut microbiome with a range of prebiotics such as Fiber and resistant starch We support the beneficial bacteria in producing helpful substances, which in turn improve our immunity.
Improve your health with myBioma microbiome analysis
Especially in times like these, it is extremely important to put health first. With the myBioma microbiome analysis , you get a status quo report of your intestinal health and can specifically optimize it with appropriate suggestions for improvement. We know that changing your diet and lifestyle can sometimes be a challenge, but our blog and social media channels will keep you updated with delicious and easy ones microbiome-friendly recipes provided.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical information or instructions. The recipes are intended for inspiration and are not intended as therapeutic measures. If you have any health problems, we recommend that you contact a doctor or other expert immediately.
- Simon AK, Hollander GA, McMichael A.Evolution of the immune system in humans from infancy to old age. Proc. R. Soc. B, 282 (2015). Doi: 20143085
- Belkaid Y, Hand TW.Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and Inflammation. Cell. 157:121-141 (2014).
- Lawley TD, Walker AW. Intestinal colonization resistance. Immunology 138:1-11 (2013).. Doi: 13:790-801
- Kamada N, Seo S, Chen GY. Nunez G. Role of the gut microbiota in immunity and inflammatory diseases. Nat Rev Immune (2013). Doi: 13:321-335
- Buffie CG, Pamer EG. Microbiota-mediated colonization resistance against intestinal pathogens. Nat Rev Immune (2013). Doi: 13:790-801
- Sassone Corsi, Martina & Raffatellu, Manuela. No Vacancy: How Beneficial Microbes Cooperate with Immunity To Provide Colonization Resistance to Pathogens. Journal of immunology, (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), 194 (2015). Doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1403169.
- Rios-Covian D, Ruas-Madiedo P, Margolles A, Gueimonde M, de los Reyes-Gavilan CG, Salazar N. Intestinal short chain fatty acids and their link with diet and human health. Frontiers in microbiology, 7:185 (2016).
- Corrêa-Oliveira R, Fachi JL, Vieira A, Sato FT, Vinolo MAR. Regulation of immune cell function by short-chain fatty acids. Clin Transl Immunologyl. 5:e73 (2016).
- Kim CH, Park J, Kim M. Gut microbiota-derived short-chain fatty acids, T cells, and Inflammation Immune Network 14(6), 277-288 (2014).