Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your gut? (Src)
Immune System is something that we may not realize is discussed often – society tells you to wash your hands, take your vitamins and use hand sanitizer – but one of the most important things you can do is to eat healthy foods and stay away from processed foods (with chemicals) that affect your GI Tract.
The Role of Probiotics
Ever heard of probiotics? Perhaps you have seem them on commercials (ie. yogurt), or seen them sold in store. probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria that live in your intestinal tract – they help keep your body well balanced. They also help your body fight off bacterial you ingest, and they can also help combat allergies.
According to Vitabase:
Lifestyle factors play a significant role in determining how friendly our large intestines are to hosting these important bacteria. Eating a diet high in sugar, fat and processed foods prevents them from growing and thriving. Consumption of fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with lean proteins like fish, chicken and turkey helps to create an environment that promotes the growth of probiotics.
In addition, the frequent use of antibiotics in our society can greatly disturb the probiotic flora in the gut. Although these antibiotics are intended to kill only the bad bacteria, they also affect the good ones. This is why many people experience diarrhea and yeast infections when they take antibiotics.
As the good probiotic bacteria are killed, bad (pathogenic) organisms like yeast are able to get a foot hold in the system. Frequent or long term antibiotic use can dramatically alter the gut flora and can be a significant contributing factor to other long term health problems related to immune dysfunction and intestinal conditions.
When your immune system is off balance you can see everything from allergies to poor skin health (especially in kids) – eczema, and dermatitis, too.
It’s important to keep your colon healthy – not just eating fruits and vegetables, reducing your sugar intake and avoiding processed food, you need to keep food moving. When food sits in your colon, the more bacteria forms – and the more bad bacteria forms, you run the risk of diarrhea, or constipation.
It’s important to eat foods high in fiber – Soluble and Insoluble:
- Soluble fiber can be digested by your body
- Insoluble fiber cannot be digested by your body – this type moves through your body with other foods and helps push food along
Immune Boosting Foods
Adopting a lifestyle of healthy eating is the first step in strengthening your immune system – and incorporating foods in your diet that boost immunity.
Here are several foods that work to keep the GI Tract strong and healthy, to prevent you from ill health:
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and has an ability to modulate host immune functions. Foods rich in Vitamin E include Spinach, Pumpkin, Red Peppers, Asparagus, Mangos, Swordfish + More. (Src)
Vitamin C: Vitamin C increases the production of infection fighting white blood cells and antibodies. You can find Vitamin C in Tomatoes, Greens, Kiwi Fruit, Broccoli, Peppers, Peas, Papayas + More. (Src)
Bioflavonoids: Fight environmental pollutants by protecting cells.
Carotenoids: Boosts the seeker cells and serve as a very strong antioxidant.
Zinc: Helps increase white blood cells, and white blood cells fight infection. Foods rich in zinc include Kidney Beans, Oysters, Grass Fed Beef, Spinach, Flaxseeds + more.
Garlic: Helps in the production of white blood cells
Selenium: Selenium has antioxidant properties – these properties help the body against free radicals that can do cellular damage. Foods high in selenium include Tuna, Halibut, Grass-Fed Beef, Sardines, Eggs, and Spinach.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Helps in the production of phagocytes – these are the white blood cells that fight bacteria . You can get Omega 3 Fatty Acids from Salmon (wild), Tuna, Sardines, Flaxseeds and Walnuts.
Probiotics are amazing and can do some pretty good things, but don’t rely on them to replace what your diet should be.
What Should you Do?
The type of food your body intakes, and processes can have such a huge affect on the functions of your brain. Your brain is happier when your stomach is well – your gut can influence chronic health issues like headaches, ADHD, Diabetes & more.. I had frequent headaches up until we started making dietary changes. I haven’t’ suffered from headaches now in at least 4-5 months – as much as I’d like to think stress had some part, diet may have played a part, too.
How you feel both physically and emotionally can rest on your gut – healthy food choices are essential for ensuring better chances at your health long term.
However… the average American diet is filled with sugary, processed food (most of what is advertised in grocery ads IS processed) – over time, you damage your gut, and your body becomes less functional. Bad bacteria in your gut will lead to frequent headaches, depression and even more health issues.
SO What do you Do?
It can be SO hard to know WHERE to start…and sometimes daunting trying to figure out how to make changes.
What worked for us was making small changes over time – Better Food Choices can’t always be immediate.. but your attempts to make better choices can.
In the past, we have mentioned 8 ways to find healthy, sustainable food. Only eat fresh foods, that are not packaged, and limit those you buy in a box or that are frozen ready to eat meals. Try to eat out LESS, and invest in items that will help you prepare healthier meals at home (such as an Instant Pot).
- Get out of the supermarket and shop at your Farmers Market, where you can buy more fresh produce
- Look for Organic produce (hence why a CSA or Farmers Market can be a better place) – if you can’t afford that, at least do it for the Dirty Dozen (I would also add Papaya and Corn to the list!)
- Be disciplined enough to look past the GREAT deals, and only for those that you know will benefit your family
- Read our last post on 6 ways to Avoid the Temptation of Buying Unhealthy Food
Most importantly – self educate. Some of these documentaries are a GREAT place to start: