Wondering how to keep your loved ones well this winter or during this real see-you-next-Tuesday of a virus? Remedy Nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill says the first place to start is your gut. While most people are aware of the importance of good gut health for digestion, many forget about its STAR role in boosting our overall immune health. Now is the time to get your guts in check to help you and your loved one recover and bounce back quickly when illness strikes.
Nerd Alert: The simple fact is a huge portion of our immune systems are actually in our gastrointestinal tract (aka the gut) which is why the gut microbiota that resides our gastrointestinal tract provides essential health benefits to our immune system.
It’s in here that our gut microbiome, home to trillions of bacteria, plays a vital role in housing at least 70% of our immune system, digesting the food we eat and helping to absorb and synthesise nutrients. By improving our gut health, this will improve our immunity and all the other flow-on effects from absorbing nutrients better like improved mood, metabolism and brain health.
What happens when your guts aren’t up to scratch? An imbalance in any bad bacteria in your gut will essentially confuse your immune system and leave you more exposed to colds and flu’s when they arrive. In essence, what you eat, drink and do now will help you and your family’s immune response later.
Happy guts are in reach with these four nutritionist-approved hacks for good gut health and improved immunity:
Aim for plant diversity in your diet: Try to increase the variety and number of plants in your diet each week or each fortnight even if just by one. Building a diet rich in plant foods and diverse in its sources can lead to greater diversity in the gut microbiome, which is critical to the strength of your immune system. In nutrition, we always say – EVERYTHING begins in the gut, so we need to give it the most love we can through our food. Whether it’s each week buying one extra plant-based ingredient, even a new herb is great, or each fortnight, make it your mission to create as much variety in your diet through plants as you can.
Embrace fermented foods and drinks for good bacteria: Nourish your gut but eating and drinking fermented products packed with probiotics such as miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi or coconut water kefir. If you’re craving something fizzy, my fermented go-to is Remedy Kombucha Ginger Lemon as ginger has amazing anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties that can help fight infections. It’s also jam-packed with tea polyphenols, organic acids and live cultures from the slow fermentation process. If you’re looking for something warm, stock up on miso soup as it’s a great one to sip on between meals.
Avoid sugar: Sadly, it’s time to self-distance yourself with sweet stuff as it’s the worst thing you can feed your microbiome. The more sugar you eat; unfortunately, the worse off your immune system will be as it suppresses the immune function. While ditching your sugar-loaded dessert or 3pm snack attack may be tricky, there are lots of great healthy and cheap alternatives that are also immune-boosting! Such as a frozen banana blended to make ice cream as it’s loaded with prebiotics.
Ditch the booze: Alcohol can weaken your immune system in a variety of way because it causes an inflammatory response in your gut and imbalance in your gut bacteria. This imbalance in bad bacteria can make you more susceptible to colds, flu and viruses by having a low immune system with a disrupted gut barrier. It’s important to note that not only does alcohol impair your immune system, excessive drinking can also affect your respiratory system. If you’re craving something else with dinner, get creative with a non-alcoholic mocktail or enjoy a fermented fizzy.