Did you know that healthy digestion may be the most important foundational factor in healthy immune function? Below are various ways that digestive dysfunction may negatively impact immune health, along with some ways to improve gut health.
1) Assess for upper GI dysfunction
Without adequate hydrochloric acid (HCl) and pepsin production (two essentials for ensuring proper digestion), macronutrients like protein and fat can be left partially digested or undigested. This may set the body up for food sensitivities, but also allows harmful microbes to survive and reproduce throughout the digestive tract.
2) Investigate small intestine dysfunction
When undigested macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) and microbes move into the small intestine, they have the potential to inflame and damage the lining of the intestinal wall.
Undigested proteins may be particularly problematic as they are more likely to trigger an immune response. Without a healthy intestinal lining, microbes are now able to penetrate the lining and get into the blood stream – aka “leaky gut.”
Other causes of increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) are:
- High alcohol consumption
- Chronic stress
- Antibiotic use
- Aspirin and all other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Food sensitivities
- Dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance, overgrowth, yeast, parasites, etc.)
How to encourage healthy digestion:
Healthy digestion is critical to healthy immune function, so supporting the digestive process is always key in foundational immune system support.
3) Ensure adequate stomach acid (HCl)
Oftentimes when doing gut healing, people will need to supplement with HCl to increase their stomach acid production. Without an adequate supply of HCl, food can be left partially undigested – leading to leaky gut and other health issues. HCl is also needed to maintain a healthy environment in the gut. Bacteria and pathogens THRIVE in a non-acidic environment, so it’s essential to ensure you have an acidic enough environment where the “bad guys” can’t survive and overgrow.
- Try taking a dropper full of digestive bitters or apple cider vinegar 15 minutes before your meals to stimulate your own stomach acid production
- Don’t chug water while you’re eating – in fact, take small sips and try not to drink much liquid until about an hour after your meals to allow for proper digestion
- Chew your food to allow your digestive system the chance to digest your food. Remember – your stomach doesn’t have teeth!
4) Support your liver
It’s important to make sure you’re eliminating toxins properly and setting your body up for success in doing what it already knows how to do – detoxification. We don’t need any fancy juice cleanses to do this. But you do want to make sure your gut health is in check and your detox pathways are open.
Here are some things you can do to support this:
- Daily bowel movement
- Exercise – walking, jogging, cardio, strength training, yoga
- Sweating – if you have access to a sauna, this is ideal – otherwise try to break a sweat from exercise at least a few times a week
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of filtered water with trace minerals or sea salt
- Eat a properly balanced, nutritious diet full of antioxidants
- Drink herbal tea or take an herbal supplement with liver-supportive plants such as milk thistle, dandelion root and yellow dock
This is a very complex topic and I really only touched on the basics. Having an imbalanced gut with overgrown pathogens or dysbiosis can actually deplete your body of vitamins and minerals necessary for immune health and make it to where you’re not properly absorbing the nutrients from your food. This is why I ALWAYS look at gut health first during the healing process.
Listed above are some tips you can try on your own to see if you notice an improvement in your digestion, and in turn your immune health. Oftentimes people needing extra immune support will also need to supplement with vitamins to give their health a little boost.
Contact me to see how I can help you improve your gut health and boost your immune system today!