Here’s an intriguing statistic – 70% of the immune system is in the gut. The microbiota of our gut can have a remarkable effect on our entire physiology, influencing everything from our resilience to viruses to our tastes and cravings. So why is digestion important to our health? Essentially, a healthy digestive tract is central to fighting off disease and maintaining overall well-being.
Naturally, a balanced and nutritious diet is key to maintaining a healthy digestive tract. This involves fundamental rules that any nutritionist or health professional is familiar with; consuming fresh foods that are high in fibre, low in fat, with a moderate intake of animal proteins and minimal processed foods or toxins. Equally, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and ensuring proper hydration is essential to maintaining gut microbiota.
There are also physiological approaches to supporting good digestion. Sufficient sleep and practising slow, mindful eating also supports proper gut function. Moods and emotions also have an impact on gut health; for instance, stress can cause hormonal changes that compromise the gut microbiome. Interestingly, there are dietary supplements that can support both the dietary and physiological factors that influence our immune health – namely, medicinal mushrooms. Here, we give an overview.
The Brain/Gut Axis and its Effect on Immunity
The principal reason why digestion is important to immunity is that a healthy digestive tract will more efficiently absorb nutrients. Essentially, this is a cycle; by eating nutritious, high fibre foods, you can maintain a healthy gut that more efficiently absorbs the nutrients within these healthy foods. Equally, there are also some supplements that can support this process, such as prebiotics.
However, it’s not just what passes through the gut that impacts the microbiota; holistic factors also influence this system. Our emotions and digestive system are closely connected – this is because emotions have a substantial impact on hormonal changes. This is referred to as the brain/gut axis, where the hormones released in our bodies affect organ function.