The need to strengthen our immune system has been widely discussed over the last year-and-a-half. People are upping their intake of vitamin C-rich food items, digging into traditional herbs and home remedies to fight a host of illnesses, including Covid-19. However, what one may not know is that gut health forms the core of our immunity.
Our gut, health experts say, is our second brain, for anything we eat has a direct impact on most aspects of our health, right from hormone levels to reproductive health and even heart health. It is, then, imperative that we maintain a strong gut.
“Gut health is important as our gut contains immune cells and healthy bacteria that kill infectious viruses, bacteria and fungi. A healthy gut also connects with the brain through hormones and nerves in order to maintain overall health and well-being,” explains Manisha Chopra, a nutritionist and fitness expert.
So, how exactly does good gut health assure immunity? “Our gut microbes produce compounds that tell immune cells to destroy harmful viruses in the brain and nervous system. There are trillions of microbes living in and on us, collectively known as the human microbiome, which activates the immune system to fight viruses and keep our immune system strong. So, it’s important to keep good bacteria in balance in our gut, so that we can fight viruses like Covid-19” says Ruchhi Parmar, a dietitian.
Furthermore, gut bacteria are known to balance the immune response against pathogens. “It makes sure the immune response is effective, but not so vigorous that it may lead to collateral damage of the host. Bacteria present in the gut can stimulate an effective immune response against viruses that are not only are responsible for infecting the gut, such as rotavirus and norovirus, but also the ones affecting the lungs, like flu. The gut microbes initiate specialised immune cells to synthesise potent antiviral proteins that will eliminate viral infections,” observes Dr Rohini Patil, a nutritionist.
To improve one’s gut health, experts recommend regular consumption of probiotics. “Fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, miso, kefir etc. are good for gut health, as they are great dietary sources of probiotics. High-fiber foods such as peas, oats, legumes and asparagus, as well as collagen-boosting foods such as salmon and bone broth are also good for gut health, as are mushrooms, garlic and onion,” says Chopra.
A good night’s sleep, a stress-free environment and hydration are also key to good gut health. “Drinking plenty of water has proved beneficial on mucosal lining of the intestines as well as in the balance of good bacteria in the gut,” says Parmar, who recommends lemon water or any kind of detox water as a morning ritual.
“Opt for coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, over other vegetable oils. Most vegetable oils have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. A little omega-6 is good, but too much can cause oxidative stress. Also, exercise or meditate thrice a week to keep your gut healthy,” she adds.
Author tweets @srinidhi_gk