Gut Health Nutrition and Immune System
First of all, let’s talk about how gut health nutrition and immune system are connected. Have you ever wondered how gut health and the immune system are connected? You may be also wondering some of the best ways to boost immunity. Almost 80% of our immune response comes from a healthy gut so keeping it in good share boosts our ability to fight infections and viruses.
Even more, this is the time of year to nurture this important system of our body to fight off those nasty germs and viruses, I wanted to talk with you a little bit more about the effects of nutrition for increased immunity.
Often, there’s a lot info about what to eat to maintain GI tract on the web and some of it does not have much science to back it up, so I want to share with some good resources based on recent science to keep your gut healthy and also a one of our family’s favorite recipes that I fix during cold and flu season to boost our immune system and promote gut health!
Also, at the end of this post, will be sharing lots more resources and recipes from some of my friends on the Recipe Redux.
Gut Microbiota and Immune System
An important part of a healthy gut is its biome. Gut microbiota and microbiome are often used interchangeably but I just wanted to share with you the slight difference. But if you use one instead of the other, we will know what you mean.
The gut microbiome mix of bacteria, yeast and other microbes that live in our gut. Each of us has our own unique blend of beneficial gut bacteria as individual as our fingerprints! Microbiota tends to be used when talking about the bacteria itself. Just like neighborhoods can be nurtured and taken care of or run down, our healthy gut bacteria can become overrun by the less healthy so it needs to be balanced to have plenty of healthy gut bacteria to help our body in a variety of ways.
Gut dysbiosis is the imbalance and lack of diversity of the types of gut microbes that live in the gut along with having the less healthy microbes that want to take overtake the good microbes. The balance of healthy bacteria has a great importance on gut health and a healthy immune System
How Can I Improve Gut Health and Immunity?
Most importantly, now that you have a better understanding of gut health & immune system relationship there are several foods to improve gut health and the immune system.
Kate Scarlata and Patsy Castos are two registered dietitians who have done a lot of research in the field of gut health and how gut health is affected by what we eat. Here is a little summary from both of their suggestions on some of the best foods for gut health.
Ways to Improve my Gut Health Nutrition and Immune System?
Here is some information on the foods to improve gut health. Since, gut health and the immune system are so interconnected, these are also some of the foods that boost your immune system too! Nutrition and our immune system go hand in hand and it is the best way to protect yourself from illness in addition to reducing stress, getting adequate sleep and working in physical activity.
Eat more whole foods & less processed foods
Some additives included in processed foods which contain emulsifiers like polysorbate 80 & carboxy methycellulose can negatively affect gut health by reducing the healthy microbes in the gut. Watch out for these additives on food labels. And focusing more of fresh foods can help improve gut health.
Get adequate fiber naturally from foods.
Also, the types of high fiber foods may vary depending on if you have certain GI conditions. Soluble fiber found in foods like oatmeal and beans is soluble in our digestive tract and forms a soothing gel which can comfort our gut.
Insoluble fiber on the other hand is not soluble in our digestive tract but it is broken down by our gut bacteria and helps provide the fuel to make them flourish. It is also the food that helps keep our bowl regular.
What foods feed good gut health? Add prebiotics and resistant starch.
Another great way to improve gut health is to add prebiotics, a type of fiber which are the preferred carbohydrate foods that are beneficial to feed healthy bacteria. These include rye, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, barley, onions, garlic and legumes. The bacteria in our gut breaks down prebiotics into butyrate which is a short chain fatty acid which helps provide fuel for gut bacteria to help them grow and flourish.
For people with IBS who do not tolerate prebiotics foods well, they may benefit from resistant starches like potatoes, corn tortillas, raw oats and green bananas instead. If you have cooked beans, rice and mashed potatoes and refrigerate the leftovers, you will see a thickness to them and this is resistant starch and it is a good fuel for your gut!
Adding live fermented foods.
With so many probiotics out there and the fact that they are not regulated may make it so they may not also be the best option to add health bacteria for our gut. However, foods containing healthy bacteria like kimchi, yogurt, lactose free yogurt and other foods can also help nurture healthy gut bacteria and are among some of the best foods for the immune system. Here is a little more on the Vine Nutrition Blog about fermented foods & their healthy, natural probiotic effects.
What foods weaken the immune system?
Not only can what we eat boost our immune system but also eating foods like excess sugar, fat and process foods may increase inflammation in our body. While eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and small amounts of healthy fats that reduce inflammation in the body, this has an important role in gut health and immunity. I have written a post about inflammation here.
Role of Polyphenols in Gut Health and Immunity
Polyphenols are a healthy food chemical called phytochemicals that help boost immunity and improve gut health. The two main types of polyphenols are flavenoids and phenolic acids. Some of the foods rich in these include grapes, green tea, apples, so and berries. You can find out more about how these foods boost gut health Nutrition and immune system along with lots of other health benefits in one of the blog post at the Vine Ripe Nutrition website: Health Benefits of Polyphenols
Vitamin D, Gut Health and the Immune System
Lots of people are looking for more information on the role of vitamins for the immune system and vitamin D has great research on its role in reducing inflammation in the gut and also helping boost the immune system. This article shares some great information on the Benefits of vitamin D on gut health and imunity.
It is difficult to get vitamin D in foods so we mostly get it from sunshine but during the winter months and working indoors many of us do not get the amount of vitamin D needed for good health. Also with certain health conditions and as we get older, we may not process vitamin D adequately. There may also be a group of us who also have a genetic variation that contribute to lower vitamin D levels in our blood.
There are many people with lower levels of vitamin D so it is a good idea to get levels tested for good health. For people who are overweight and obese, the vitamin D produced in the skin or ingested, the vitamin D is distributed in fat tissue so this may contribute to blood levels being lower.
Gut Health Nutrition and Immune System Recipe
I want to share one of the best gut health recipe to help you boost your immune system and nourish your soul! My family loves it too! This flavorful, colorful low fodmap soup recipe below is very satisfying and delicious! The tofu is rich in polyphenols and the soup is rich in fiber too to help boost gut immunity.
Tomato Pumpkin Curry Soup With Tofu
This soup contains a lot of healthy ingredients that will improve your gut health and immunity. High fiber, prebiotic/resistant starches, whole foods that are not processed, anti-inflammatory spices and topped with some yogurt with some live cultures! It may turn out to be one of the best low fodmap soup recipes that you have made! The seasonings used to make this soup are not only delicious but also are gut soothing and anti inflammatory.
Makes 4-6 servings
1 cup celery, chopped
1 small pumpkin skinned & diced
2 cups red potatoes, diced
1 cup celery small diced (you can reduce the portion or leave out if you have IBS celery is one of your trigger foods
(1/3 cup onion if desired)
(1-2 cloves garlic, minced if desired)
16 ounce can tomatoes, diced
1 box, extra firm tofu, drained and cubed into 1/2 by 1/2 inch cubes, baked (see baking directions below)
3 cup low fodmap vegetable stock (made without onion or garlic if you have IBS trigger some of your symptoms)
2 cup baby spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Curry Spice Blend (1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground cumin,1/2 teaspoon ground or grated ginger ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne & 1/2 teaspoon coriander)
Garnish for Soup
Cilantro for garnish
Plain yogurt with live cultures
Peanuts for garnish if desired
To bake tofu, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place tofu in a glass pan and toss it with oil and let it bake stirring every 5 minutes until it becomes a little crispy after 15-20 minutes. In a large stockpot over medium high heat, saute celery, onion, pumpkin and potatoes in 1 tablespoon of oil. We veggies start to get brown add garlic, salt, pepper and spices. Mix well and add tomatoes and broth.
Allow to simmer on low for at least 30-45 minutes until vegetables start to get soft. Just before serving add spinach and allow it to barely cook. When ready to serve add to the bowls. Top each bowl with the baked tofu, a large cilantro spring and a dollop of yogurt. You can also add a few roasted peanuts as a garnish also.
Take Home for Gut Health Nutrition and Immune System
In summary, I hope that you find some of these tips to improve your gut health nutrition and immune system. Having a healthy immune system helps us stay well during cold and flu season and may protect us from other viruses or lessen the seriousness of some of these. It is exciting to learn about the foods to increase immunity! In addition to a healthy gut having a role building a powerful immune system, it is also a very important component of brain health!
If you have been diagnosed by your physician to have certain GI conditions like IBS, Celiac, IBD or motility issues, it is important to find a registered dietitian that specialize in GI conditions can help you individualize your meal plan so you can improve both your gut health and immunity.
In conclusion, as a registered dietitian nutritionist in Asheville, I find it very rewarding to working with clients to help them improve their digestive wellness and learn the relationship between nutrition and immunity.
I would love to hear how you like the Tomato Pumpkin Curry Soup with Tofu! I would also love to hear the healthy things that you are doing to improve your gut health and immunity. Feel free share in the comments below!
I also provide a nutrition counseling for IBS and other GI health conditions and have expertise teaching the low fodmap diet. I created a three session nutrition package to help clients improve gut health that provides great results. Contact me for more information here!
Good Gut Health-We all want it but many of us are mystified how to get it! Now you know what to do to help get you started on gut health nutrition and immune system.
I am also excited to share with you more great tips of boosting your immune system on the posts on the link below with my friends at the Recipe Redux