The Gut-Brain Connection by Dr. Matt Hamilton
For a long time, scientists have had a gut feeling that there was a link between the gut and our immune system health. (hahaha, yes I made a pun). The interplay between the two systems is slowly being unraveled. New research finds that the gut-brain interaction might also play a role in immunity.
It may surprise you that 70 percent of your immune system lives in your GUT and that the gut bacteria (“microbiome” we’ll talk about this more in another blog) help your immune system’s T-cells develop – helping them differentiate between what is a foreign substance and the body’s own tissues. This is an extremely critical process that will define what it will respond to and its effectiveness hangs, in part, on the health of your gut.
The gut is often the first entry point for exposure to pathogens and bad bacteria and viruses, so this becomes the front line of defense against the outside world.
If we have an existing gut problem (overgrowth of bad bacteria – dysbiosis, SIBO, etc) it can lead to the body’s defense system weakened and confused and it can begin to attack your own cells, the hallmark of autoimmune diseases.
SO WHAT IS YOUR GUT!
Your digestive system is made of cells, proteins, and organs which work together to break down food, absorb nutrients, make neurotransmitters as well as hormones AND defend the body against HARMFUL bacteria and toxins.
What we know is that your gut mucosa connects with the largest population of immune cells in the body. They are known as GI immune cells, which extend from the lymphoid branch. Their role is to secrete lymphocyte cells which attack harmful invaders.
Apart from containing specialized immune cells, the particular strains of friendly gut flora that reside within your GUT are also VITAL for overall immunity. These friendlies act as SOLDIERS for the immune system, and are dependable allies for immune cells; helping them to enhance their “natural killer” effectiveness and boosting their overall defense of the intestinal walls to prevent pathogens and infections being absorbed.
This is one critical reason why maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut is so important. Without them, your immune system cannot do its job effectively, and in essence, it is defenseless.
It’s only more recently that research is beginning to uncover the vital importance of the link between diet, gut bacteria and the immune system. Scientific evidence now shows that the types of food that you eat will directly determine the levels of certain bacteria in your gut.
The diet and foods you choose will either support and strengthen your immune system or deplete its forces leaving you defenseless. Modern research shows a healthy immune system is the result of a healthy diet that supports healthy gut function; one that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods and one that helps restore and repopulated the gut microbiome.
NEXT UP! I point the spotlight at some foods and recipes that heal the gut and strengthen your defenses this cold and flu season.