The Secret to a Healthy Immune System
Did you know scientists estimate that the body of a 70kg male hosts around 38 trillion bacteria? Before you start bathing in hand sanitizer, remember that most of these bacteria are vital to our health. Bacteria are an important part of our immune system; given the surface area of our intestines alone, they are our largest defence against foreign invaders. In fact, we simply would not survive without these little friends.
While we have bacteria all over the inside and outside of our bodies, our digestive tract - from mouth to intestines - contains the most, serving us in three substantial ways:
- The sheer number of bacteria living in our gut take up so much space along the walls of our digestive tract that new, invasive bacteria cannot find any real estate to start colonizing. (Sounds a bit like the housing market in Hong Kong!)
- With so many bacteria already living off our food (Yes, you share every meal with those little mates!), there is heavy competition for nutrition. Our resident bacteria can consume all the food, leaving potentially harmful, invading bacteria unable to survive.
- Our friendly bacteria make their own version of antimicrobials called bacteriocins, which inhibits the growth and spread of invading bacteria.
Unfortunately, we often harm our helpful bacteria without realizing it, damaging our delicate microbiome through habits and actions like careless eating and antibiotic overuse. So how do we support our healthy gut bacteria to perform optimally and keep the invaders at bay?
- Eat a wide variety of fibre-rich vegetables and fruits like bok choi, kale, artichokes, broccoli, durian, apples, pears, and raspberries. When the fibre in these foods ferment during digestion, our bacteria consume the healthy nutrients.
- Eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, yoghurt, and kombucha. These types of foods help populate the gut with immune-friendly bacteria.
- Eat antibiotic-free meats. Many farms rely on antibiotics to keep their livestock from falling sick. However, the antibiotics stay in the animal’s body and we end up consuming them. It is important to check the labels on" with "supermarket meats or ask your local butcher which farm the meat comes from.
- Avoid antibiotics, if possible. Always double check with your doctor that your prescriptions are the least aggressive antibiotic appropriate for your condition. Broad spectrum antibiotics are not always necessary and can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and problems in your gut health.
- Implement probiotic supplements, if needed. If you have taken antibiotics or have been eating a less-than-ideal diet, try a probiotic supplement to kickstart healthy bacterial regrowth. Check the label for Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Lactococcus.
- Avoid sugar. Think of all the invader bacteria as sugar addicts. Sugar helps bad bacteria thrive and spread throughout our body, causing damage to our overall immune system.
- Get checked for subluxations by a chiropractor. Receiving regular chiropractic adjustments can increase parasympathetic tone in the nervous system, which optimises healthy gut functions and supports better gut communication.
Why is this especially important now? Our current global emphasis on sanitisation may change the composition of our bodies’ unique support systems. The noticeable difference in hand sanitizer we use today from a year ago means a lot of bacteria, both helpful and harmful, are being eliminated. We want to keep our natural defences strong and plentiful, rather than inadvertently killing them off. To ensure a healthy immune system, we must support our gut and its small, but strong, defenders against external health threats.
Not sure of the fibre content in your favourite foods? Look up the nutritional values below: