Did you know that over half to upwards of three quarters of the body's entire immune system finds its home in your intestines!? It's true. Not only is our colon (aka: "gut"; intestinal tract) critical for digestion, it is essential for immunity too! 😷🤒
Initially researchers thought that the presence of both the high concentration of the body's immune system and the overabundance of bacteria and other microorganisms in the intestines was an indication of antagonistic forces needed to keep the body in check. In recent decades however, the discovery has been made that this, in fact, is not the case, but rather the presence of both is actually due to a symbiosis of sorts. In fact, the hyper-colonization of micro-organisms, in your large intestine (colon) especially, is part of what helps keep your immune system functioning at peak level -- or at least it does if you treat it well. You see, the bacteria in your colon help break down nutrients, build nutrients out of plant "chemicals", fight off invading pathogens, and many other things!
"So, how can I take good care of my intestinal tract," you may be wondering. I'm glad you asked! In delving into the subject you may find yourself overwhelmed by words, phrases or acronyms like: "intestinal flora", PRO-biotics, PRE-biotics, polysaccharides, seroconversion, and LAB (Lactobacillus sp.), among other things. The truth of the matter is it really doesn't have to get that complicated for the general population, unless of course you want it to be.
All you REALLY need to know is that your body, and your intestinal "microbiome" thrives best on fresh, raw fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and vegetables as the core of a healthy diet. Why? FIBER (aka: prebiotics and "roughage"), along with the accompanying wealth of live enzymes, phytochemicals and nutrients. Did you know that there have been studies done comparing the overall health of countries where fiber-rich diets are the core of a people's "nutritional economy" versus populations where fiber is almost wholly replaced by fiberless eating. The inherent lack of fiber (and associated phytochemicals, enzymes and nutrients) found in the latter type of a people group's nutritional economy correlates directly with unhealthy microorganisms dominating the intestinal system, and as a result an increase in many of the diseases of our 21st century!
"But I don't like vegetables," you may be saying to yourself. Did you know that by introducing new foods to your diet, little by little over the course of a few weeks or months, your dietary preferences can readily change? It's true! How so? Your body will learn to associate the tastes of healthy, fresh, new foods with the input of nutrients, phytochemicals, and live enzymes it desperately needs. Sometimes it is merely a matter of trying different methods of preparing these foods in ways that appeal to you. The EXCELLENT news is that the internet is currently riddled with trillions, maybe gazillions of recipes in the fiber-rich category that are good for you!
We like to keep things as simple as possible -- we believe creation was intended to be that way. So here's a brief synopsis of what you need to know to keep your colon healthy (it's associated microbiome), and therein your overall immunity.
MY HEALTHY GUT LIST 🌱🍊🌶️🌽🍠🍌🍈🌿
1) EAT LOTS OF FIBER RICH FOODS
Many experts agree that upwards of 80% of your diet should contain some form of fiber.
2) VARY YOUR FIBER INTAKE
Eating Kraft mac-n-cheese at ever meal with a glass full of Metamucil to wash it down is not the same thing as a healthy serving of broccoli, carrots, olives and multi-grain crackers with a little added dressing. Aim for a "rainbow" of fiber-rich colors throughout the week.
3) INCLUDE QUALITY PROBIOTICS WHEN NECESSARY, OR EVEN REGULARLY
Watch out for over-the-counter brands here as many of the probiotic bacteria are dead-on-the-shelf before you ever buy them. Instead opt for refrigerated versions with a decent variety of bacterium, always checking the expiration date and pitching them when time runs out. Or better yet, opt to make your own kimchi, sauerkraut, or coconut yogurt 😋. (P.S. You can test the viability of any probiotic by emptying a few capsules worth as the starter culture for a batch of homemade organic yogurt; if your liquid doesn't congeal, it's likely because the bacteria are already dead.)
4) AVOID "DEAD" FOODS AND CHEMICALS Anything you put in (or even on) your body can impact the health of your intestinal microbiome, and therein your immunity. Dead foods include virtually anything that is not in it's "whole food" form, meaning it has been divided, stripped of nutrients or fiber, had a wealth of chemicals or preservatives added to keep it "fresh", or cooked to death in any variety of ways. If it comes in a tell-tale crinkle bag, has a huge list of unpronounceable ingredients, is likely doused with chemicals during it's growth or manufacture, or is even simply laden with refined sugar, salt or fat, try to get it out of your diet as fast as you can -- or at least only consume such things as a rare treat. And after a round of medications (for example, antibiotics), or a nibble on a bag of junkfood, it is wise to give your body a healthy dose of probiotics again.
We all want to be healthy, and if you follow the above guidelines (doctor permitting, of course), even if you're doing little else, you will be off to a pretty good start. Remember though, if your diet is chemically laden, ripe with artificial ingredients, low in fresh, nutrient dense, whole-food forms of fiber (or any fiber), or you are on a wealth of medications and have a job in a chemicals factory, popping a few probiotic pills and adding a couple tablespoons of flaxmeal to a sugary bowl of corn puffs every day may be somewhat like aiming a garden hose at a raging house fire. This truly is an area that needs our best commitment. Your gut requires the best it can get, including proper nutrition, exercise (oxygen and vital blood flow), cleansing (via water and roughage) and rest (adequate sleep and fasting).
If you're not sure where to start, but would like more information or recipes, we'd be happy to share some of our favorites!
NOTICE: Please remember that we are not here to diagnose, cure, or prescribe for any illness or disease. Any recommendations provided herein are intended for educational purposes only. If you are in need of medical care, please contact your primary care provider.
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Jerri W., LMT, CWC
Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Wellness Coach with over 25+ years of experience in pain management, relaxation techniques and lifestyle education.
Heather R., LMT, CWC
Certified Wellness Coach and Licensed Massage Therapist with a passion for helping others achieve optimal wellness through healthier living.
NOTICE: The information provided herein is meant for educational purposes only. We accept no liability for your use of the information provided. As always, use your best judgment and if in doubt, please consult your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your particular situation.