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The ScoopFor a balanced immune system, look to your gut

Part three: Gut health and immune health

Did you know that nearly 70 percent of your immune health is located in your gut?

There's actually a lot of interaction between your body’s immune system and your gut microbiome. These two systems work together to help your body maintain your over­all health.

Your immune system

Your immune system consists of a group of cells and organs which play a vital role in your body—to protect it from foreign and harmful invaders.

When our body doesn’t recognize something as our own, our immune cells activate and work together to neutralize harmful substances. Harmful invaders can include germs, viruses, fungi, or other pathogens—each with unique proteins that will trigger our immune response. These harmful attackers are known as antigens.

Our immune cells also have the amazing capacity to ‘remember’ any antigens they encounter. They record its information and the way to neutralize it, so if it ever reappears, they know how to fight it more effectively.

There are two essential parts to our immune system: 

  • Innate immunity—the general immune system we’re born with.  
  • Adaptive immunity—the specialized immune system we develop as a defense response to the antigens we encounter.

How your gut microbiome affects your immune system

Our gut and our immune system support one another to promote a healthy body.

As we learned in part one of this series trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms live in the gut. So does more than 70% of our body’s immune system. The two systems evolve and grow together, and the connection between the two is a fascinating topic that researchers are still learning about.

Our immune system supports our gut microbiome by helping to fight the harmful bacteria so the good bacteria can grow. Plus studies like this one from the National Center for Biotechnology Information continually show that our gut microbiome helps support our immune system. The good bacteria in our gut ‘talk’ to our immune cells and teach them to discern dangerous pathogens from friendly ones. They also help regulate and balance our immune system so it knows when to launch a defensive response versus when to stand down. This balance is important because if your immune sys­tem is busy react­ing to healthy cells, not only is it eas­i­er for you to get sick, it’s also hard­er for your body to recover.

To put it simply, a healthy gut means a better chance of warding off germs to keep you feeling your best.

Can a healthy gut really support your immune system?

A strong immune system is your best defense against infection and illness. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. However, lifestyle factors like poor diet, stress, medications, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise can run you down and weaken your defenses.

Researchers at UCLA have found undeniable immune-health benefits from eating a fiber-rich, gut-healthy diet. Along with eating a diet to support your gut health, you can follow the good gut health tips in part one, which  include, taking a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement, getting exercise, and supporting your emotional wellness to improve your gut, while supporting your immune system too.

Tak­ing steps to strengthen your gut health is an essen­tial part of main­tain­ing your over­all health.