Did you know that most of our immune function is clustered around our digestive system?
Turns out, the adage, you are what you eat runs a little deeper than we thought, so we thought we’d take a look at how good gut health and immunity go hand in hand, and why we should really pay quite a lot of attention to what we put in our mouth.
The immune system is our army – it protects us from harmful pathogens. It makes sense that it would be well placed in those areas that are likely to come into contact with anything that could cause us trouble. This includes our digestive system.
We have two main forms of defence in our digestive system – our mucosal barrier and the physical barrier in the form of tight junctions – we have these barriers to keep things where they are supposed to be – helpful food components can get through, but harmful particles are kept out.
Our mucosal barrier is exactly that – it is a wonderful mix of chemicals that keep pesky pathogens away from our physical barrier.
Our physical barrier is like a brick-and-mortar layer – proteins sit tightly together to form a wall.
But what is interesting is that what we eat can either help or hinder these defences.
For example, a diet low in fibre can result in the mucosal layer being eaten away. In addition, the standard western diet which consists of high trans fatty acids, processed meats, pre-packaged foods, fried foods and refined grains is well known to compromise these barriers in our gut. When this occurs, bacteria and particles can sneak through the defence and find themselves on their own sweet highway around our body. Obviously, our immune system notices them, realises they shouldn’t be there and mounts a response. The result is body wide inflammation, and as we know, most chronic disease starts with inflammation.
On the other hand, the typical Mediterranean diet which is high in fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and beans is associated with improved gut barrier function. This keeps particles where they are supposed to be.
Such beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet might be attributed to high proportion of fibres, mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols.
And as you know, here at Fivaday, we have a thing for antioxidants and polyphenols.
These compounds have been linked to:
- Reduced oxidative stress,
- Lowered inflammation,
- Improved immune function,
- Improved insulin sensitivity,
- Decreased rates of cardiovascular disease,
- Decreased rates of neurodegeneration.
It is clear that increased intake of fruit and vegetables is beneficial for health, which is why we’re all advised to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg per day, but as you can see, it’s also important to our gut health and subsequently our immune function.
You’ll also find those nifty antioxidant compounds in our Fivaday, which can provide a beneficial boost if you’re struggling to hit your target.