Would it surprise you if I told you that your gut is home to the largest portion of cells that make up your immune system? What if I told you that you have two brains and the second one is in your gut? Amazingly, both are true and in this article, we will discuss how a healthy gut is at the very center of a healthy immune system.
People typically think of their gut as consisting of the stomach and intestines. Actually, the “gut” includes your entire digestive system. This includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon (large intestine), rectum, and anus. The digestion process begins in your mouth when you chew food into pieces so that it is digested easily. Each part of the digestive system has its own specific function of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, keeping toxins out, and producing nutrients. Yet, they all work together as part of the digestive system or, more commonly, the gut.
Referred to by scientists as the enteric nervous system (ENS), the brain in your gut consists of two thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells. These nerve cells line your gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your rectum. Your gut’s brain is revolutionizing the medical understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health, and the way you think. Feeling like you have butterflies in your stomach may not be so far-fetched. When you feel nervous, it is very likely a signal from your second brain. The feeling does, after all, occur in your gut.
Many different kinds of bacteria in addition to some non-bacterial organisms live in your gut. Combined, they are called the gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome comes from the food you eat and anything else that gets in your mouth. Aiding in digestion, producing vitamins, and other compounds that directly affect your immune system are part of this organisms role. It is suspected to play a role in many other health functions such as metabolism, cardiac health, and mood.
To maintain a healthy immune system, detoxification, and nourishment, your gut must function flawlessly. The health of your gut literally affects your whole body. Your gut works hard and there are some things that quickly throw it off balance. A junk diet is poor in nutrients and makes all of the wrong bacteria and yeast grow which leads to a damaged system. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, yeast overgrowth, and parasite cause infections and gut imbalances. Moreover, chronic stress changes your gut’s nervous system, which in turn results in a leaky gut and alters the normal gut bacteria. Overusing medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, acid-blocking drugs, and steroids damage the gut and/or block normal digestive function.
While the exact mechanisms of the gut-brain connection are still being ironed out, you can practice what is already known to maintain a healthy immune system. Eat healthy meals including fiber-rich vegetables, get the recommended amount of sleep and exercise, avoid chronic and excessive stress, and do not drink too much alcohol to keep your gut healthy. Furthermore, take antibiotics only when necessary. They do not help a virus, cold, or the flu.
If you are experiencing problems with your gut, or immunological problems that you believe may be stemming from your gut health, contact Avicenna Integrative Medicine at (770) 977-9300. Maziar Rezvani, MD, and his staff will work with you in an energetic, cooperative, dedicated approach to wellness through mind, body, and spirit fusion. We believe the center of every medical team is you – the patient. Contact us today for a collaborative approach to your wellness goals.