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Gut Microbiota and Immune System: How are They Connected?

Gut Microbiota and Immune System: How are They Connected?

Did you know that your gut microbiota and immune system work together to protect you from disease? It might sound strange, but the microorganisms found in your gut, such as bacteria, have an important role when it comes to strengthening your immunity.

Read on to learn more about the relationship between your gut microbiota and immune system.

What is the Gut Microbiota?

Before everything else, we first need to understand what the gut microbiota is. The gut microbiota, also called the gut flora, is comprised of all the microorganisms in your digestive tract. This includes bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and other microorganisms.

Throughout the body, you can find colonies of bacteria and other microorganisms. But the gut contains most of the bacteria found in the body, and this is where it plays a vital role when it comes to our health.

In fact, some scientists believe that the gut microbiota should be considered an organ because of its functions.

Gut Flora Definition, Function, and Why is it Important?

What Does the Gut Microbiota Do?

One of the roles of your gut flora is to help with digestion. In particular, the bacteria in your gut help break down food, and some can even synthesize important vitamins that your body needs.

Another role it has is that it protects the body from bad bacteria. Having a healthy colony of good bacteria can help fight off any harmful bacteria that we accidentally consume. Some types of bacteria even help break down toxic substances in food, so that it cannot harm our body.

However, one of the most important roles that it has is with regard to our immune system. In fact, an estimated 60-70% of our immune cells are found in our gut! This means that our gut microbiota might have a bigger role when it comes to immunity than we previously thought.

Connection: Gut microbiota and Immune System

The relationship between our gut microbiota and immune system starts early on in life. In fact, it starts as soon as a baby is born. This is because while the baby is inside the womb, their digestive system is sterile, which means there are no microorganisms present inside.

But once a baby is born, bacteria from the mother, as well as from the environment start to colonize and grow the digestive tract. This is how the gut microbiota starts to develop.

As we grow older, we get more and more exposed to different types of bacteria from our environment. Though, the biggest contributor to this is from the food that we eat. This is the reason why eating probiotic foods is good for our health.

As our gut microbiota develops, our immune system also becomes develops alongside it. In fact, some scientists have found that intestinal bacteria can send signals to immune cells to trigger an immune response.

Through this, the gut microbiota helps the immune system develop and know when to respond to foreign invaders. This means that having a healthy and well-developed gut flora can help strengthen a person’s immune system.

When something happens to the gut microbiota, such as when a person takes antibiotics, it can affect their immunity. The reason behind this is that the antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria, which means that the population of good bacteria in the gut can be affected.

Tips to Boosting Gut Health

But how do you make sure that you have a healthy population of good bacteria? Here are some tips:

  • Eat foods that are probiotic or contain healthy bacteria. This includes yogurt, pickled vegetables, and other fermented foods.
  • Eat prebiotic foods, or foods that help boost the population of good bacteria. Among these are green leafy vegetables and foods high in fiber.
  • Try to eat less red meat and fat, as these can affect the bacterial population in your gut.
  • Avoid taking antibiotics unless your doctor has prescribed them. This is because they can negatively impact your gut microbiota.

Learn more about your Digestive Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Regulation of Immunity & the Microbiome | Immunopaedia, https://www.immunopaedia.org.za/immunology/advanced/6-regulation-of-immunity-the-microbiome/, Accessed March 03, 2021

Frontiers | Aspects of Gut Microbiota and Immune System Interactions in Infectious Diseases, Immunopathology, and Cancer | Immunology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2018.01830/full, Accessed March 03, 2021

Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and inflammation, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056765/, Accessed March 03, 2021

The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet, Accessed March 03, 2021

The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/#:~:text=The%20gut%20microbiota%20that%20resides,dysregulation%2C%20leading%20to%20autoimmune%20disorders., Accessed March 03, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Mar 05
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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