We often think of being sick as the result of running noses, nasty coughs or sore chests. But what if these were just symptoms of a depressed immune system. What if the reason we get sick - especially in the colder months - is actually because of gut health?
If we eat foods and nutrients that support our gut health, would we be less susceptible to illness this winter?
Yes. Absolutely. The notion that gut health is connected to our total health - including immunity - dates back as far as ancient Greece. Hippocrates once said “All disease begins in the gut.” He was a clever man!
In this week’s blog I’m going to explain what leaky gut is and its link to immunity. I will also give you some pointers for improving your gut health in the lead up to winter.
What is leaky gut?
Leaky gut is when half digested food particles can pass through the intestinal lumen into the bloodstream, resulting in an immune response.
80 percent of the humeral immune system is located in our guts. What this means is the single biggest demand on our immune system isn’t from environmental factors like germs or bugs. It’s actually from our food.
If we are eating a food we are intolerant to - or simply eating certain foods, particularly proteins, too much - our body tags that protein as an invader and alerts our immune system which issues a response.
This immune response in the intestinal system has a lot of collateral damage. The biggest problem is that it loosens the junctures in our gut and the villi in our small intestine. This allows the proteins to get directly into your bloodstream and you get another immune response.
What are some common indicators of leaky gut?
It’s important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to leaky gut. Having one or more of them doesn’t necessarily mean you have leaky gut. It’s always a good idea to discuss your health concerns with a trained practitioner. Nevertheless, these symptoms are common in people with leaky gut.
- You have elevated immune issues such as an autoimmune condition, asthma, hayfever or eczema. I have never seen a client with a thyroid disorder at the BePure clinic who hasn’t had an issue with the proteins in gluten.
- Gut dysbiosis or irritable bowel symptoms including bloating, constipation or diarrhoea, gas and discomfort.
- Food intolerances or sensitivities. This is usually a symptom and a cause of leaky gut. Sometimes we become sensitive to a food if we are eating a lot of it and our systems need a break.
Testing for leaky gut.
The best test for leaky gut is an IGG or IGA test. This is a blood prick test which tests your bodies immune response to 90 foods. If you’re coming up with a lot of immune reactions, you likely have leaky gut. We offer these tests through our clinic for a cost. Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Gut health and immunity.
Poor gut health means your immune system is overactive and it becomes weakened. This is problematic in the lead up to winter as there are simply a greater number of colds and flu we are exposed to. We are just much more susceptible to catching these bugs if our gut health is compromised.
What can we do?
- Eat a diet rich in probiotic foods including sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and fermented vegetables
- Drink bone broth. The gelatine in bone broth helps to line the gut to repair the damage caused by leaky gut. I am posting an extensive look into the benefits of bone broth later this week
- Take a probiotic supplement. I recommend the BePure Gut Renew Probiotic which contains a minimum of 30 billion viable bacteria per serving
- Eat a nutrient dense diet that is right for your genetics which ensures you feel full for the longest period of time. Eating in a way that promotes blood sugar balance will help relieve some of the stress your body is under, meaning it is better able to fight colds.
- Sleep. Adequate rest helps our body restore itself
Antibiotics and gut health
Antibiotics are undoubtedly necessary in some circumstances. I don’t have an issue with them when used correctly. They do however have huge implications on gut health. Doctor Natasha Campbell-McBride is a gut health specialist and founder/author of the GAPS diet. She says it can take up to four years to restore and rebuild the gut biome following a course of antibiotics.
If you do require antibiotics ensure you drink bone broth to seal your gut lining and consume a diet rich in probiotic foods including kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut.
Traditional approaches to gut health in winter.
I’ve spent a long time researching ancestral societies. Interestingly in winter months traditional communities increased their intake of probiotic rich foods such as sauerkraut and fermented vegetables significantly. My research shows that traditional communities consumed 12 serves of probiotic foods per day.
The reason for this is a lack of refrigeration and modern agriculture. In winter, less vegetables were available and they couldn’t keep autumn produce in a fridge so they preserved their summer and autumn crops with fermentation methods.
I find this so interesting. Because of following nature’s seasonal patterns, they automatically followed their own need for immunity-building tools to keep them healthy throughout winter.