The first line of defence is the intestinal wall – a physical barrier that protects against foreign invading bad guys coming in. This intestinal wall is essentially made up of cells & tight junctions – just think a club entry & a security guard. This allows the entry of beneficial microbes and the protection against foreign harmful microbes. If the security guard moved away from the club entry, what would happen? Anyone would be allowed entry, good or bad. The same occurs when the tight junctions become weakened, foreign harmful microbes can pass through the intestinal wall. This condition is referred to as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. Luckily, when this occurs, alarms go off and our second line of defence comes to help stop any harmful invasions.
The second line of defence is our more complex immune response, made up of cells, tissues and organs that all work together to shut down invading harmful microbes. Our gut plays a particularly important role in this part because 70% of immune tissue lie within the gut. This tissue is called gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). The GALT is always on patrol, day & night, sifting through millions of foreign cells and discriminating between beneficial microbes and dangerous ones (toxins & pathogenic microbes). There is a very delicate balance between fighting off the bad microbes (immunity) and recognising the good ones (immune-compromised), so what happens if this balance becomes compromised? Well, if the balance leans more toward ‘immunity’ this is when conditions like food allergies and auto-immune diseases can occur. This is because our gut begins to target innocent food proteins & body tissues that it mistakes for a harmful microbe. On the other hand, if the balance leans more toward ‘immune-compromised’, our body becomes extremely vulnerable to invasion by harmful microbes as there are no good guys to protect us.
The strength of our immune system all rests on the diversity of gut bacteria living within us. So, here’s our top tips for getting your gut in tip-top shape and strengthening your immune system while you’re at it!
Diversity in your diet
Nourishing your body with the right food is the best way to ensure optimal immune function, gut health & general wellbeing.
Instead of buying one type of salad leaf, reach for a mixed-bag combination of leafy greens, carrot, cabbage etc.
Purchase some mixed nuts & seeds and pop them into a see-through container or glass jar and leave them on the kitchen counter.
‘Spice’ up your life. No, quite literally add spices to your meals, herbs too. Some great ones to start with include cayenne, chilli, basil, oregano, ginger, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, dill, and the list goes on. Create a herbs & spices basket in your pantry and reach for these each time you cook.
Eat prebiotics! Prebiotics are food for our good gut bacteria and are essential for their survival. Some include prunes, apricots, dates, watermelon, asparagus, beetroot, garlic, onions, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, legumes, chamomile tea, silken tofu, and many more!
Relax & Destress
When we are stressed, our body produces a hormone called cortisol. This crafty cortisol can decrease white blood cell count – the cells that fight infection. Feeling stressed & anxious is normal but it is important to implement ways to manage this.
Try implementing 10 minutes of yoga into your day. Yoga has been found to decrease inflammation in the body, reset & calm the gut-brain-axis AND calm the muscles & nerves along your intestine.
Schedule a time to just do nothing and lie down with no stimulation or distractions. During this time, ask yourself “how does my body feel?”, “what mood am I in?” and “what is happening in my mind?”. Write down your responses and take some time to reflect on these.
Try meditating, even just for a few minutes a day. We have trialled & tested the Bloom app guided meditations and love it. They also have ambient music which can be used to have a deeper and better-quality sleep.
Ditch the processed foods, alcohol & junk food
No one wants to hear this one, but we had to say it! Unfortunately, these foods have an extremely high inflammatory index and a very low nutritional value. This means that while also raising inflammation in your body, you are starving your good gut bacteria and impacting your body’s first and second line of defence.
Instead, try making your own sweet treats at home. This way, you know exactly what is going into it. Baked granola, homemade protein bliss balls, yoghurt & berries and sweet potato brownies are just a few ideas.
Get at least 8 hours of unbroken, quality beauty sleep
At least 8 hours of good quality, unbroken beauty sleep is needed for your body to rest, rejuvenate, and produce the cells & proteins needed for a strong immune system. Not enough sleep can damage the body’s first line of defence, the intestinal wall, and put added strain on the second line of defence, the immune system.
We recommend popping your phone away at least 30 minutes before bed, an hour is even better! If this seems like a no-go for you, invest in some blue light glasses and put these on as soon as it starts getting dark.
Complete a guided meditation before bed and turn on some ambient sounds to fall asleep to. Bloom app is our top recommendation for this.
Create a night-time routine that you can stick to and be consistent with it. Creating this ritual will signal to your body that it is time to start shutting down and will make falling asleep (and staying asleep) a whole lot easier.
Move that bod for at least 30 minutes a day
Good circulation is needed to ensure those infection-fighting white blood cells can get to where they need to go a whole lot more efficiently. Exercise also helps increased beneficial gut bacteria & butyrate, which is great for reducing inflammation in the body. So, what are you waiting for? Get that body moving!
If you’re not a lover of weighted or intense workouts, just start with a walk or run. Just get that heart rate up.
If you’re wanting to explore some at home, easy-to-follow workouts, check out the Keep It Cleaner app! They have everything from weighted workouts, HIIT, yoga flows & body weight workouts – oh, and they’re all at home friendly! A must-have during this time.
Do a gut cleanse
It goes without saying that our diet & lifestyle are what determine the health of our gut, but sometimes, we just need a little kick in the butt to get back on track and get things running smoothly!
The 20-day HappyGut cleanse helps to repair the body’s first line of defence, remove any harmful toxins & microbes already in the gut and replace them with good gut bacteria. HappyGut is here to help improve your gut health, skin health, immune function, sleep, energy, mood plus a wholeeeee lot more! What are you waiting for? Shop now.
If you find this whole ‘diversity’ thing a little overwhelming, don’t stress! Even the smallest changes can have a positive impact. In fact, you can quite literally change your gut bacteria in just one day… So take it one day at a time and gradually start to implement new things as you go.
Remember, consistency is key! Try implementing one of these tips at a time and once you have stuck to it, gradually implement a few more.