How does the digestive system prevent infection? Why gut health is important

Heather Campbell
 min read

How does the digestive system prevent infection? It’s not something that is often contemplated, yet is should be.

How does the digestive system prevent infection? Why gut health is importantAs early as classical antiquity, the Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of medicine, claimed that all diseases begin in the intestines.

The digestive system is vital in preventing infection. The colon is home to our microbiomes, and unhealthy eating and antibiotics are a threat to microbiomes, leading to a weakened immune system. Most diseases start from an unhealthy gut and so do some mental issues.

Thanks to a lot of research, we now know that there is definitely a grain of truth in this. Healthy digestion is the source of your health.

If your digestion is in balance, you will draw energy, strength, and vitality from it. That way, you are comfortable in your skin and functioning well.

But is your digestion out of balance? Then diseases can develop.

Below you will discover more interesting info about the connection between your digestion, your resistance, and diseases. Read on for a healthy, overall outlook.

How does the digestive system prevent infection? Introduction

It is always essential to take good care of your digestion. In fact, your digestion plays a vital role in supporting the immune system.

By taking good care of your digestion, you help strengthen your resistance. And good resistance, in turn, makes you less likely to get sick.

At the same time, you can’t completely prevent getting sick. Anyone can get sick.

However, you can give your immune system a helping hand. And it doesn’t have to be complicated at all. To begin with, we recommend eating healthy and varied foods.

You need to evolve from filling to feeding. One particular nutrient (fiber) plays a crucial role in this story… And we should eat a lot more of it!

The workings of digestion summarized

Of course, we all know that we should take good care of ourselves by eating healthy.

Vitamins, minerals, and a varied, healthy diet are of great importance. But how exactly do digestion and your immune system work?

With any luck, everything you eat will be neatly digested by your digestive system, and the nutrients will be absorbed.

Tip: For a more detailed version of the pathway our food takes through our bodies, read our other post How does the digestive system work step by step? Pathway of food explained

These substances serve as building material, fuel, reserve substance, or a protective substance for your body.

Fuel provides you with energy and building material, for example, ensures that cells are repaired. So you are built from the nutrients you have eaten. And so we are, in fact, what we eat!

But your digestion goes far beyond that.

In fact, our intestines are home to a trillion population of microbes, mainly bacteria. All of these microbes together are called our “microbiomes”.

Everyone has a unique microbiome, just as we all have our own fingerprint.

One of the properties of your microbiome is to support the immune system. So the microbiome is crucial for good health!

Microbiome and the immune system: A golden combination

Your microbiome and immune system together form a well-oiled machine, a dream team.

They work together a lot, and that’s a good thing.

About 70% of your immune system is located in your colon, and this is also where most of your microbiome resides. The microbiome, among other things, helps in the growth and division of immune cells.

Thus, your microbiome helps you have a large and strong army ready to fight off pathogens. So your microbiome supports your immune system in fighting off a virus or other disease agent.

When your microbiome is balanced, it can help strengthen the immune system and thus contribute to the body’s entire health.

A sound immune system can make you less likely to get sick, make your symptoms milder, and help you get better faster.

So it is essential to take good care of your defenses.

It is not possible to suddenly boost your immune system. However, you can work on building and strengthening your immune system. Consider this a medium- and long-term task.

Fuel for the gut: High-fiber diet

No one can function without fuel. Neither can your gut bacteria, which live off the food that comes through our intestines. Thus, our diet affects which and how many bacteria live in our gut.

Eating healthily provides your gut bacteria with the correct fuel and feeds the ”good” bacteria that keep our microbiome in balance.

The favorite food of the good bacteria is fiber! A high-fiber diet contributes to a balanced microbiome.

But where exactly can we find these fibers?

Well, fiber is only found in plant products. For example, consider whole grain cereals, vegetables and fruits without agricultural chemicals, nuts, potatoes, and legumes.

In addition to fiber, these products contain many other vitamins and minerals that also make your immune system stronger (such as vitamin C, vitamin A, or iron).

It is not recommended that you take additional supplements unless you have been advised otherwise for medical reasons.

Microbiome

Besides fiber-rich and healthy food, other factors can strengthen your microbiome (and, therefore, your defenses).

Consider your genes, age, environment (whether you live in the city or in the country, for example), and any medication you take.

The gut is the starting point of many diseases

A quarter of all Americans have gastrointestinal or liver problems.

The severity of those symptoms varies from person to person. This can range from pretty benign conditions such as hemorrhoids or stomach flu to chronic inflammatory bowel disease and cancer in one of the digestive organs.

We had no idea that gut bacteria could completely turn our health upside down until recently. However, we now know that many diseases are related to the microbiome.

Research shows that the condition of the microbiome has been deteriorating in large groups of people over the past few decades.

It is expected that this will only get worse in the future. An unhealthy diet is the leading cause of this, and antibiotics can also worsen the microbiome.

Diseases related to the microbiome

Several diseases are now linked to the microbiome.

This includes intestinal diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity!

In other words, are you plus-size and struggling with obesity? Then think hard about your eating habits and eating patterns! Your intestinal system may be part of the cause of your weight problems.

Immune system disorders such as (food) allergy, asthma, eczema, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases may also be related to the microbiome.

And there also seems to be a relationship with the microbiome in cardiovascular disease.

If the communication between the gut and the brain is not working correctly, it can cause symptoms.

It is estimated that more than 5% of Americans suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

In these individuals, the intestines or the brain give off too strong or wrong signals, causing the nerves to become overstimulated. This causes abdominal pain, cramps, flatulence, or bloating.

Related postDelayed gastric emptying: What causes gastroparesis + Treatment tips

The brain is also affected by the intestinal system

Mental health issues can wreak havoc on the communication between the brain and the gut.

Stress and depression, for example, disrupt the contact between our brain and our gut, making certain stimuli less well filtered.

For example, depression can lead to digestive issues; the other way around is also possible (meaning dysbiosis affects our mood and mental health).

There is also initial evidence of a relationship with the gut for brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease. Research into this relationship is still in its infancy.

How does the digestive system prevent infection? Conclusion

Often called our second brain, the gut and, therefore, the digestive system as a whole are key in having strong immunity.

Microbiomes reside in our colon, and if their balance is disturbed by unhealthy food and even antibiotics, then we are allowing a weakened immunity to form, making us more susceptible to illness.

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More