The Finnicky (but Resilient) Immune System

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Author: Erin Mader

How strong is YOUR immune system? This question has probably been asked by everyone in this last year and a half. Unfortunately, so many things can bring down your defenses: stress, anxiety, poor sleep quality, not enough sleep, diet, and so much more. Maintaining a good barrier really starts at the gut level, since 80% of our immune system is located there. If you’re experiencing digestive upset (constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea) your gut may not be as healthy as you think, and potentially setting you up for viral invasion.

As Herbalist Paul Bergner says, “Leaky gut, leaky everything.” Ummm…ew…the gut is leaking? Well, actually, in a way, yes. The integrity of our gut lining can degrade, allowing larger than desired food particles to “leak out,” sending our immune system into overdrive. Those large particles are viewed as threats to the immune system, and it rallies the troops against them. This defense response sounds like a good thing, right? If it’s happening a few times per year, sure, but with leaky gut, it can be happening daily. If the immune system’s resources are being spent fighting constant threats, how can it spare enough troops for even worse threats, like a virus entering the system?

So, how you end up with leaky gut? 

Some of the main causes of leaky gut are stress, food sensitivities, and a Standard American Diet (SAD diet). These triggers can weaken the gut wall overtime, reducing your ability to fight infections and absorb nutrients from your food. Depletion of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc, etc., can compromise the immune system’s strength.  

This all sounds very dooms day but what if small changes could have a big impact on the gut? What if you could have a positive effect at the gut level within a week? Good news; you can! Our gut regenerates cells about every 3-5 days so, positive changes are possible, even in a small amount of time.

So what can you do to improve the integrity of your gut and immune system?

Earlier I mentioned some of the signs that the gut sends us when it’s not functioning at its best: gas, bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea. If these symptoms are regular occurrences, taking a deeper look at your diet could be in order. The Standard American Diet contains a lot of processed foods, very little fiber, and lots of well-known “trigger foods” such as gluten, dairy, corn, and soy. An elimination diet is a great way to gain better insight into what foods your body might be reacting to.

Managing your stress is another key component to a healthier gut because stress can negatively impact your intestinal microflora. This imbalance can cause inflammation, creating a more permeable gut lining, otherwise known as “leaky gut.” It’s hard to control life’s stressors, however, we can always control our own reactions. Journaling, meditation, deep breathing, and exercise are all great ways to lower your stress response.

Herbs and supplements are also great allies for gut and immune strength. A high-quality Multivitamin, Vitamin D, and Magnesium are great jumping off points, as well as, fresh Ginger tea, Reishi mushrooms in your broth/soups, and the always potent Garlic added to your favorite recipe. Lots of our “regular kitchen herbs” are awesome immune boosters but if you’re looking for more herbal support, look up a local herbalist in your area or stop by an apothecary for advice on how to safely make herbs a part of your daily regime.

In short, your gut health and your immune system are tied together, one relying on the other. Because your gut can regenerate cells quickly, we can increase gut function and gut wall integrity in a relatively short period of time, which in turn can give your immune system a break from fighting constant battles. Additional supplementation and herbal support can boost your defenses, creating a strong anti-invader army, ready to respond if necessary. Don’t wait, a stronger you is only days away!

Want to strengthen your immune system? Join Erin Mader to learn about the cut and immune system on December 13, 2021, from 6-8 p.m.

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