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Gut health and the immune system

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Gut health plays a role in everything from how well you sleep to your mood and even your stress levels , but what about the health of your immune system and whether or not you’ll get a cold? Here’s what you need to know.

The gut microbiome

There’s 1.5kg of gut bacteria living in your digestive system, and they’re employed to do much more than simply digest the food you eat. Your gut can (and does) even send messages to your brain . In fact, more than 90 per cent of serotonin, a chemical that influences mood , is manufactured in your gut, not your brain.

So – what about your immune system? Can your gut health affect that? And as a result, your risk of getting a cold? 

While nothing can completely prevent the spread of cold-causing viruses , for the sake of your health and well-being during sniffle season, it is worth keeping your gut health in good shape. Here’s why. 

How does gut health affect the immune system?

Research has demonstrated that gut health and immunity are certainly linked, so that an imbalance of ‘good’ microbes compared to ‘bad’ ones in the gut can impact the health of the immune system.

It’s thought gut-microbiome disruptions promote a pro-inflammatory state  – and the more inflammation there is, the more likely you are to develop symptoms if you’re exposed to a cold causing virus.

 

What are the benefits of good gut health?

4 ways to support your gut health

The good news isthere are some simple yet effective things you can do to restore , support and maintain your gut health.

1. Pack your plate with prebiotics

These are fibres that pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested to stimulate the growth and activity of good gut bacteria. Vegetables like garlic, onions, leeks, fennel and snow peas, as well as legumes, pistachio nuts, oats, grapefruit and wheat bread are all naturally high in prebiotic fibres .

2. Do some exercise

Research suggests that when you’re physically active on a regular basis, the volume of healthy bacteria that live in your gut increases and at the same time, levels of unhealthy types fall .

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Having just two or three nights of poor sleep in a row is enough to trigger a process that upsets the ratio of healthy-to-unhealthy bacteria living in your gut .

4. Choose your drinks wisely

A 2016 study found that while soft drinks lower the diversity of good bacteria that live in your gut regardless of whether they’re sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Feel like you could benefit from a more structured plan of attack to improve your gut health? Sign up to do our ‘7 days to a healthier gut’ action plan or our ‘4 weeks to better gut health’ action plan.