How your gut health is affecting your immune system

I’ve been feeling a bit off lately. It seems like it is one thing after another – always being sick. I was at my physiotherapist the other day, and she mentioned that gut health has been strongly linked to depression and a number of other things – so I did a bit of digging.

Turns out that your intestines contain more immune cells than the rest of your body, so most of your immunity can be traced back to how your gut is functioning. There is increasing evidence that how well your gut is functioning has a direct correlation not only with digestion and irritable bowel, but also with depression, obesity, allergies, asthma and coeliac disease. (Source: Science Daily)

This explained so much for me. For so long I have had pretty much zero appetite and I was in a constant state of flux with irritable bowel no matter what I ate. The next logical step was to look at ways to improve gut health.

Gut health is to do with the flora in your intestines – a mix of bacteria (good and bad), parasites and fungi. Things like antibiotics, the pill, junk food and diets high in meats can all decrease the good bacteria in your system, putting it out of whack. Eliminating or reducing these are going to help, but let’s face it, sometimes you just need to take these things.

The other option is to increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. The best way is through probiotic supplementation (obviously you should consult your doctor before taking any new supplements). Here are some of the options I have come across.

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SCOBY Kombucha Tea

This is probably my favourite option. SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Basically what happens is the SCOBY is placed into tea and sugar. The living colony that is SCOBY then ferments the tea and sugar, leaving Kombucha.

The result has incredibly high concentrations of good bacteria and goes a long way in helping re-balance your gut flora. Be careful not to take too much, especially at first. I could only manage about 1/3 to 1/2 a serving, otherwise the change can cause a build up of gas and bloating – this part is the same regardless of which type of probiotic you choose.

Kefir

Kefir “grains”, which are a type SCOBY, are added to milk in a similar process to Kombucha. Obviously the milk brings about an entirely different taste but has the same benefits. It tastes a little sour, similar to yoghurt. Kefir is a much more potent probiotic than yoghurt so only start with a little.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Basically the combination of cabbage and salt is allowed to ferment for a few days to a few months (depending on climate). The result is high is those much needed probiotics, from the fermentation process. You may be thinking “it would be so much easier to just buy this pre-made”. Unfortunately, most sauerkraut that is sold in the shops has been heat-treated, which removes all of the goodness of probiotics from it.

Probiotic supplements

The other option is probiotic supplements. I left these til last as they tend to be pretty expensive per serve and some have pretty low levels of probiotics. If you can’t stomach any of the above, then look for the supplement that has the largest number of probiotics and multiple strains. In the cultures used above, there is a large range of different types of good bacteria. In supplements, they often focus on 2-3, sometimes even 1. Keep in mind that you gut has billions of bacteria, so there will probably be a lot of zeros.

What are the ways that you like to stay healthy?

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