It all starts with your gut

What is one thing you could do that would make a huge difference in your immune resilience this season? If you said reducing stress, you would be right. I’m looking for another answer, though…because usually the main reason we feel stressed-out is because of things we can’t control.

Let’s face it, some days the idea of reducing stress can seem out of reach. So, let’s look for an immune system game-changer that is easy to get started on today.

How about something that can start strengthening your immune system as soon as your next meal…the answer is improving your gut health.

Times have been challenging lately. Did the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown spur you to exercise more, eat super-healthy foods and go to bed on time? If so, great! Or did it make you want to eat fattening comfort foods, drink more alcohol, snack all day and stay up late watching movies?

If you over-indulged during lockdown, it’s not too late to make changes. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t have to be an entire life overhaul….

It all starts with your gut.

If you google “gut health and immune system” you will find links to all kinds of surprising reasons why focusing on this area will improve your health. (If you’re into reading research studies, there is an interesting one at the end of this article.)

If that’s not compelling enough, try typing in “gut health and sleep” into your search engine. It turns out there is even a connection to better sleep and improved gut health.

Gut health is linked to sleep, lack of sleep increases stress, stress reduces resistance to catching the flu and other infections…. Round and round it goes.

You can do something proactive today for your overall immune health. Improve the health of your gut microbiome!

You are probably aware by now that we carry around trillions of microscopic organisms inside our gut. Some are harmful, but most are beneficial to us humans. (This is also called the gut flora, which sounds a little more appetizing!) The beneficial bacteria need to eat to stay alive, just like us. And guess what they like to eat? Many will feed on fiber from vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Any probiotic food or supplement you take will need to be fed in order to survive in your gut. This is where you may have heard the term “prebiotic” used. If you eat a wide variety of foods containing plenty of different types of fiber, these are good sources of prebiotics.

Besides fiber, there is another category of food that the good gut bacteria love to chow down on, called polyphenols. Polyphenols are large molecules that are too big to digest fully, so they remain as delicious leftovers for gut bacteria to break down and use.

Where can you find polyphenols? Well, they help make the plant colorful, so look for vibrantly colored vegetables and fruits. Many delicious foods are high in polyphenols—cocoa, green tea, coffee, berries, grapes, nuts, beans and cooking spices.

So, try adding an extra treat for your microbiome at your next meal. Even one extra veg or fruit serving will make a positive difference in your gut health and your immune health!

Chaari, A., Bendriss, G., Zakaria, D., & McVeigh, C. (2020). Importance of Dietary Changes During the Coronavirus Pandemic: How to Upgrade Your Immune Response. Frontiers in public health, 8, 476.