But did you know that your immune system is strongly linked to good gut health?
And that maintaining a balanced digestive system can help you to enjoy healthier, more effective immunity?
Experts say that as much as 70% of our immune system is based in the gut. Which is why keeping your digestive health in check is so vital for the wellbeing of your entire body and why, when your gut is out of whack, the rest of you can soon follow.
Low immunity: more than just colds
Constant sniffles and sneezes are a tell-tale sign that your immune system has got a battle on its hands.
However, a low immune system does not only show itself in a susceptibility to the common cold.
Struggling to find the energy you need to get you through a day’s work? Exhaustion can be a common indication of a weakened immune .
Those regular infections, like the inevitable bout of sinusitis that follows a cold or the ear infection that just keeps coming back for more? They point to low immunity too.
And guess what else is a strong indication of compromised immunity? You guessed it. From constipation to chronic gas, a digestive system that will not can often be indicative of an immune system which is struggling to cope.
How your gut helps to keep your whole body healthy
Working as a whole, your immune system fights off pathogenic bacteria and viruses, those invaders that can cause any number of illnesses.
The cells that protect your body are produced by several sources, from bone marrow to lymph nodes.
They are also generated in large amounts in the gut, via tissue such as Peyer’s patches, areas of lymphoid follicles found in the small intestine.
Meanwhile, the intestinal epithelium – a thin layer of cells lining your intestines – also provides important defences against unwelcome microbes.
It is often defects in this defensive layer that lead to the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel (IBS). But this mucus-secreting membrane aids in keeping other illnesses at bay too.
Not only does the intestinal epithelium trap and interact with bad bacteria, it also secretes antimicrobial peptides and, perhaps most importantly, it makes the 999 call to monocytes, neutrophils and other cells that are employed by the body to protect you from ill health.
What are the best live bacterial supplements
Despite what many websites might suggest, it is just not possible to ‘boost’ your immunity above its natural level.
However, choosing the right bacterial strain can help to support health, helping to keep that 70% of your immune system that resides in your gastrointestinal system functioning as it should.
Which vitamins can help immunity?
Health services across Northern Europe recommend a vitamin D supplement for anybody who might not get enough sunshine in their day-to-day life.
That is most of us living in colder climes, where sunlight is in short supply between October and March, as well as anybody who works long hours inside and those who wear high factor sunscreen, among others.
Vitamin D is essential for immunity and is not easily produced by the human body. Which is why the NHS recommends that between October and early March, children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
How can I help to strengthen my immune system?
As well as choosing an immunity supporting bacterial culture and vitamin supplement, getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy balanced diet are key to keeping your immune system functioning at its best.
Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in moderate exercise and minimising your intake of alcohol are all essentials for good immunity, while preventing dehydration by drinking plenty of water is a must.
Often overlooked is the impact of stress on our immune systems.
Long term stress can significantly impair our immune response, so avoiding anxiety-inducing and taking the opportunity to unwind and recentre when times are tough is essential.
Cedernaes J, et al. Determinants of shortened, disrupted, and mistimed sleep and associated metabolic health consequences in healthy humans. Diabetes. 2015;64:1073. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25805757/
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