As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, we can feel the approaching chill of cold and ‘flu’ season, writes Navita Doshi (qualifying as a Nutritional Therapist), and team member at Reflex Spinal Health. Naturally, our thoughts turn to finding ways to fortify our immune systems. But, hold on just a minute! Contrary to popular belief, boosting your immune system may not be the best approach. Think about it: an overly active immune system can lead to inflammation and the release of potentially harmful chemical messengers called cytokines, all aimed at battling an infection. What we truly need is to provide our bodies with the right nutrients to support our immune system when it’s called into action. This blog article is all about your gut bacteria!
The key to supporting your immune system lies in your gut. To be more precise, it’s the beneficial/good bacteria living in your gut which requires our attention. Both the good and the bad gut bacteria can communicate with our immune system because around 70% of our immune system lies within our gut.1
Simply put, your good bacteria makes a medley of substances which helps to maintain healthy immune cells and to create an environment that reduces the entry of immune stimulating substances into the blood. You guessed it…the bad bacteria do the opposite and can release chemicals which activate immune cells as wells as damage the gastrointestinal lining causing a ‘leaky gut’. When someone has a leaky gut larger particles of food can enter the blood system triggering an immune response, and this is commonly known as leaky gut syndrome.2
Several factors can affect the makeup of your gut bacteria, including genetics, gender, age, and external factors like your diet, stress levels, environmental pollutants, and antibiotics. While some factors are beyond our control, we can certainly manage what we eat. Diets high in saturated fats, refined carbs, sugar, and heavily processed foods tend to diminish the good bacteria in our gut. 2
(not the heavily processed, pre-packaged kind)
(go for organic when possible, and aim for at least 3 servings of oily fish each week)
(seasonal eating boosts the nutrient content of your food)
Admittedly, maintaining this dietary ideal every single day can be a challenge. But remember, every meal matters. Our immune cells are in a constant state of renewal, and each meal you enjoy can positively influence your good bacteria, setting the stage for a balanced immune system that’s ready to spring into action when needed—no sooner.
What’s the gut-brain axis?
Before I wrap this up, here’s an intriguing titbit: those good gut bacteria aren’t just team players in your immune system; they also influence your brain and mood. Essentially the gut-brain axis, means the two organs are linked and can communicate in both directions.4 Your gut contains an astonishing 200-600 million neurons which communicates with your brain via the vagus nerve running along your spine. It turns out that roughly 95-99% of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin is produced in your gut, and it communicates with your brain via the vagus nerve. When non beneficial bacteria gain the upper hand, they can interfere with serotonin production, potentially leading to feelings of depression and anxiety.5
How can we help at Reflex Spinal Health?
When you come in to see our amazing practitioners and you receive an adjustment, they are making sure that your spine is in alignment and not affecting/impinging the nerves within, and improving your posture. In this way your nerves are free to signal to all parts of the body which would include going from the gut to the brain and vice versa.
So, if you’re after that infectious feel-good factor, and want to stand strong against the impending cold, especially with Christmas just around the corner, ensure you’re nurturing those beneficial bacteria within and visit us at Reflex Spinal Health to keep your nerves functioning at their best.
(Check out our Reflex clinic notice board during the month of November for our top recipes to support the immune system!).
17 Church Road, Caversham, Reading, Berkshire RG4 7AA
Reflex Spinal Health are a passionate, dynamic spinal health team. We are committed to help as many in our community of Reading, Berkshire and South Oxfordshire to enjoy the vitality of great health, to reach their health goals and feel truly alive! Our chiropractors and osteopaths offer the highest standards of care in a superb environment.