Supporting Your Immune System - The Connection Between Your Brain and Gut
By: Dr. Fiona Lovely, DC
Recently, a panel of AST experts joined forces to discuss the important topic of immunity. I had the pleasure of sharing the connections between the brain and the gut and below are just a few of my takeaways.
The human immune system is made up (in part) by the 4.4lbs of organisms (100 trillion of them!) which make up the human microflora, or microbiome and cells of the lining of the gut. The health and stability of the microbiome is what you are establishing and feeding when you take your daily probiotic. Think of it like a garden to be cultivated. They are bacteria, parasites, fungi, virus living within us and helping to regulate the system. They even contribute to our DNA, our genetic makeup and our ability to adapt to any environment. Poor diet, stress, chronic disease and antibiotic therapy will diminish or eliminate the bugs of our gut. You must re-seed the garden after antibiotics and it must be inoculated with a high quality probiotic supplement ongoing. I am often asked why it is important to eat organic - remember this, the pesticides, fungicides, etc that are sprayed on our produce are not fruit and vegetable selective! They will kill off your microbiome too.
The health of these systems, the microbiome, your organ reserves and health and your voluntary inputs (nutrition, stress management, exercise, etc.) make up the terrain that dictates how healthy you are. Terrain is the term used to describe the inner environment of a human being. The health of the terrain explains why some get sick and some do not.
What can you do to help the health of your gut?
Let’s look at stress. When you are experiencing stress, your defences diminish because the brain is sending resources to the stress response system. We are living through one of the most intensely stressful times in our history, so if you are feeling stress, you aren’t alone. Stress is our current way of life, it isn’t going away anytime soon, you cannot control it. But what you can control is your response to something stressful. Are there calming thoughts you can have when something stressful comes up? Can you pause to meditate or incorporate meditation into your daily routine?
Take a closer look at all of the different things that you are consuming daily. News? Negative people? Toxic relationships or stinking thinking? Are you a complainer? Do you engage in drama? All of these things encourage you to have both negative thinking and a survival response. When you are surviving, your blood flow shunts from the extremities to the core organs resulting in your immune system taking a back seat to critical functions.
Here are three things you can start doing today to help with gut health and thus, immunity too:
- Here's a quick way to check your breathing. (One hand on your chest, one on the belly and eyes closed. Take three deep breaths. Which hand moves more?). Chest breathing happens when we are sympathetic dominant or in survival mode. When you breath shallowly, your brain gets the signal that you aren’t safe, which deepens the survival mode, it can last for years! So, soften belly while you breath, exhale longer than you inhale.
- Get your gut right by eating the foods which heal rather than inflame the lining of your intestines. Identify food allergies and eliminate them from your diet. Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods, and ensure you supplement daily.
- Have a gratitude habit. Start to recognize where and what and whom you can be thankful for. Gratitude lowers inflammation, boosts immunity and makes you better looking too!
Healthy mind = healthy brain = healthy gut = healthy immunity = health.
*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Tips for Supporting Your Immune System
[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]By Kira Greasley, CHNC
In the world of health, an understanding of the association between your gut health and the immune system is being widely studied. The health of the body depends on the health of the Gastrointestinal Tract, which is a long tube made up of layers of muscle lined by cells and glands embedded in a mucous lining that begins in the mouth and ends in the anus. Basically, everything we consume passes through our body by ingestion and moves along the GI Tract or ‘gut’ through digestion and absorption. Within the gut are many different strands of bacteria, some are good, and some are bad. According to A. Venketeshwer Rao, MSc, PhD, “It’s the predominance of the beneficial bacteria referred to as the probiotic bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria, that ensure good health and prevent diseases of the gut and other organs in the body.” The importance of good gut health is being linked to more and more health issues so it's an important topic to focus your attention on, and one that you have the to power take control of.
The Inside Facts
- 100 trillion microorganisms live in your intestines! That’s more than 10x’s the number of human cells in your body.
- 70% of the immune system resides in your gut and is largely controlled by the bacteria that resides there!
- Stress and fear can have the ability to suppress your immune system.
- The constant repairing and maintaining of a healthy digestive and intestinal system is the foundation for building good health for your whole body, including the immune system.
- Your gut is connected to the brain via the Vagus nerve, and so what you eat can directly impact both how you think and feel. What happens in Vagus, definitely does not stay in Vagus on this one!
Things You Can Do To Support that “Gut Feeling”
- Kick out those refined sugars and processed foods, they have no nutritional value for all those gut bugs, and sugar suppresses your immune function and helps to feed inflammation.
- Eat plenty of organic greens, organic fruits and organic vegetables. The more colourful the food on your plate is, the more vitamins and minerals you are providing to your body.
- Get good quality protein! Protein is necessary to build and maintain all components of your immune system. Omega 3 fatty acids found in wild-caught cold water fish are important modulators of inflammation and immune responses in your immune systems.
- Stay hydrated. Adding items like organic lemons, fresh mint or organic cucumbers, can assist your body in flushing out toxins.
- Keep moving. Movement keeps your immune (lymphatic) system from getting clogged up. Think of movement as your human liquid Drano!
- Take time to chill. There are some great meditation apps out there today like Calm, Breethe, and Headspace to name a few. Taking as little as 10 minutes a day to focus on your breathing has been scientifically shown to slow down our stress response and improve system responses such as immunity.
- Be sure to get your Z’s. Your body repairs itself at night. Without proper sleep, this process gets hindered, leaving you susceptible to illnesses. Also worth mentioning is the importance of your thoughts on the sleep process. Science shows that your body ruminates while you sleep on what your last thought of the day was, so make it a positive one!
Nutrients to Support a Healthy Immune System
Even if your diet consists of healthy foods, you will likely still need to supplement. Here is a great list of basic supplements to help support your immune system.
- A full-spectrum multi-vitamin: (This is your ACES+Zinc) - these are known as your antioxidants and they have the ability to help modulate your immune functions.
- Vitamin C: Yes, it is likely found in your multivitamin, but adding a separate Vitamin C gives you that extra boost.
- Vitamin D: Helps modulate the immune response and as a bonus it also helps to improve our moods.
- Probiotics - They help keep the good bacteria in your gut strong and in charge.
- Magnesium - Helps to keep inflammation down, and is known as the anti-stress mineral.
During these difficult times, it is important to do everything possible to keep yourself healthy both physically and mentally so incorporate some of these changes today!
Follow the links to learn more about Kira Greasley, Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant and her available Nutritional Consulting Packages.
*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]