By Gastroenterologist Dr. Liz Cruz
Many people have asked me about the relationship between the gut and our immune system. To be clear, our gut plays a very significant role in our immune system. There are a large amount of immune cells in our intestine. In fact, 70-80% of the immune system resides in our gut. That is huge!! Think about it…the gut is the first set of organs to be exposed to anything from the world outside of our bodies, for example bacteria, viruses, fungus, toxic substances, food (healthy and unhealthy). For simplicity sake, let’s call these items the good guys and the bad guys.
The good guys are good wholesome, healthy food and healthy bacteria (like probiotics). The bad guys are unhealthy food and disease causing bacteria. What does this mean? Our gut has to be on constant alert to fight off the bad guys. Unfortunately, our gut usually gets exposed to more bad guys than good. It is my opinion that most of disease stems from what our intestine has been exposed to, which causes our immune system to go off the deep end, in turn causing us to be sick. This can mean anything from getting the common cold many times throughout the year, to having disease states such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.
I believe that a lot of disease is inflammation-based and inflammation is caused by the reaction of the immune cells in our gut working hard to fight off the bad guys. In order to be well, you have to have more good guys in your gut than bad guys. You have trillions of bacteria in your gut and they all serve a special purpose. But if you have more bad guys than good guys it makes it difficult for your immune system and digestive system to function properly. Without a healthy digestive system it makes it difficult to fully benefit from the food you’re eating, in addition to completely eliminating toxins properly. Good bacteria plays a very important role in both immune function and digestive function.
I realize I have oversimplified this and tried to make it as “unscientific” as I possibly can, but I did that for a reason. You have to come to the realization that every single thing you put into your mouth affects your intestine and causes it to be happy and healthy or irritated and inflamed.
You can make major changes in your gut just by eating healthier, for example eating more greens and taking probiotics on a regular basis. I truly believe that anyone over the age of 40 should be on a healthy probiotic every day. This will definitely make the immune system in the gut happy. As we age our immune system function declines and any help we can give it the better.
When looking for a good probiotic you want to be sure it has several strands of bacteria and a lot of each. Also make sure it needs to be refrigerated and it doesn’t have any fillers. You can find those listed under the “other ingredients” on the label.
Just know the more healthy bacteria you have in the gut the healthier you are going to be all around because your immune system is what keeps you well and it has everything to do with your gut!
If you want to learn more about how to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, check out these related articles:
ABOUT DR. LIZ CRUZ:
Dr. Liz Cruz is a gastroenterologist, an author, and (most importantly) a parent of 4 children. She is the creator of Everyday Enzymes ™, as well as a variety of other wellness products designed to promote all-natural, holistic wellness. Cruz’s products have received critical acclaim and are widely praised for effectively reducing the need for prescription medicine. Cruz is a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine
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