In terms of positive health, the majority of people focus on key organs — their heart, kidneys, brain, and liver. Although it’s vital that you focus on these essential organs, there’s an important part of your body that often gets forgotten — the gut.
It’s no secret that our immune system protects us from disease and other serious complications, however, many do not realise the connection between gut health and immune function. Each organ stands alone, providing its own unique functions, but everything is connected.
When one system is imbalanced, that’s when issues arise. What’s all the fuss about gut health? How does it influence your overall wellbeing and ability to fight infections and the development of disease?
Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Gut
You know when people say, go with your gut? This highly influential experience does more than support your emotional intelligence and level of intuition. When it all boils down, your gut and your immune system are connected. In fact, a whopping 70 to 80 percent of your immune system is located within your gut.
Your gut is essentially your digestive tract, mainly focusing on your stomach and intestines. In many cases, your gut is the first area exposed to pathogens and potentially harmful bacteria. Composed of tissues, organs, cells, and proteins, this is a complex system that requires your attention.
As mentioned, your gut is connected to the largest immune cell population within your body. They essentially secrete cells that attack foreign, potentially harmful invaders. As incredible T- and B-cells are released, more commonly known as white blood cells, they readily defend your digestive tract.
Although this is key, one of the most critical components of your gut is balanced bacteria. When you think of bacteria, you probably associate the word with an infection — when in reality, bacteria can be highly beneficial. There’s both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria, both which flourish inside your gut.
When an imbalance occurs, this is when immune function begins to worsen. Without healthy gut ‘flora’ or bacteria, your immune system would essentially be defenceless. The good news is, you can influence the number of healthy or ‘good’ bacteria in your gut, mainly based on your diet.
Change Your Diet, Improve Your Health
We all know that there’s a clear connection between diet and health. The food you choose to consume on a regular basis directly influence your wellbeing. Research has shown that there’s a direct link between the foods you eat and the levels of specific bacteria within your gut.
So, what are optimal choices? What do you need?
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Often advertised in yogurt, probiotics are a healthy type of bacteria. With approximately 100 trillion bacteria in your gut, you need to focus on a positive ratio between good and bad. Some of the most probiotics include bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, boosting intestinal health.
Focus on foods that have been fermented, such as pickles, sauerkraut, miso, and yogurt. In order to encourage probiotics to grow and thrive, you also need prebiotics — a specialised form of plant-fibre that triggers the growth of favourable bacteria. These are found naturally in garlic, bananas, honey, onions, artichokes, and leeks.
Speaking of fibre, this planter material is essential for optimal health. On average, it’s believed that most Australians consume around 20 grams of fibre a day — mostly coming from bread. Although this is better than some national statistics, it’s recommended that you eat 25 to 30 grams daily.
Focus on eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This type of diet will not only reduce your risk of potentially fatal diseases, such as cancer, but yield a wide range of beneficial vitamins and minerals. The next time you’re thinking of ways to boost your health — ditch the fast food and reach for foods that support gut health.