Natural Immune System Health
Fishless Tuna Salad
The Components of a Healthy Immune System
Our immune system, our biological defenses from infectious organisms, viruses and some environmental toxins spans the whole human body. From our skin to the core marrow of our bones. Internal bodily organs dedicated to immune system function include the thymus, spleen, tonsils and the lymph system. Eating the correct prebiotic and probiotic foods will strengthen immune system health for the whole body.
The greatest activity of our immune system takes place in our intestine and colon.
Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko says -
"The human gut plays a huge role in immune function," Shulzhenko said. "This is little appreciated by people who think its only role is digestion. The combined number of genes in the microbiota genome is 150 times larger than the person in which they reside. They do help us digest food, but they do a lot more than that."
There are approximately one hundred and fifty times more microbes in our digestive tracts than there are cells in our whole bodies. Maintaining the balance between beneficial microbes and harmful microbes - collectively known as our intestinal flora, is the definitive factor for our overall well being, including mental well being.
Signs of Gut Health
Dr. Amy Myers states that our intestinal tract is one of the largest organs in our bodies by surface area. Eighty to ninety percent of our immune function occurs in the gut. Our digestive tract has ninety-five of our neurotransmitters, hence our mental state is affected immensely by the health of our digestive system.
Five signs of intestinal health are -
- Clear skin, few blemishes
- Daily bowel movements
- Mild breath
- No mucus or partially digested food in your stool (corn notwithstanding)
- General sense of mental/emotional well being
Dr. Myers states that numerous auto-immune diseases, mood disorders, depression, inflammatory disorders and even cancers many times originate in the gut.
Signs of unhealthy intestinal condition are-
- Frequent infections
- Skin disorders such as eczema or rosacea
- Mood swings or chronic depression
- Low energy
- Bloating, gas or diarrhea
- Autoimmune disorders
Sustaining a healthy digestive tract and in turn a robust immune system is simply a matter of diet. However, if you're experiencing any of the symptoms above, please see a physician first. If you're seeking an overall improved sense of well being and vigor, then I will acquaint you with the terms -
There are pro-biotic supplements available. But for this writing I will focus on natural dietary pre-biotics and pro-biotics.
What Are Pre-Biotics
Just like a gardener that prepares the soil before planting crops, someone seeking optimum intestinal flora should provide a most favorable growing condition for a wholesome intestinal microbial environment. Pre-biotics are the nutrients in our intestinal 'soil' that grows the bountiful microbe colony of defenders for our immune systems.
The biological term for the purpose that pre-biotics serve is - substrate. The substrata takes the form of indigestible dietary fiber. This dietary fiber is optimal as a pre-biotic when it contains two compounds - the soluble fibers, trans-galactooligosaccharide, and inulin. These complex carbohydrates pass undigested through the small intestine into the colon where they go through a fermentation process which produces beneficial by-products for the intestinal flora of microbes.
What differentiates common soluble fiber from pre-biotic soluble fiber, is the fermentation process which contains galactooligosaccharides and, or inulin. All fiber, be it insoluble or soluble is health inducing. However, pre-biotic soluble fibers and the fermentation process that occurs with those in the colon offers a specific immune system benefit.
Foods that contain the highest density of Pre-biotics are -
- Raw Oats
- Unrefined Whole Wheat
- Unrefined Barley
- Raw Garlic
- Raw Onion
- Raw Asparagus
- Raw Dandelion Greens
- Breast Milk
*The cooked version of the above foods offer pre-biotic benefits, but at a lesser concentration.
What is your favorite pre-biotic food?
Eating For Health is Enjoyable
What Are Pro-Biotics
Pro-Biotics are active microbial organisms that aid digestion and act as a defense barrier by lining the intestinal wall, especially the colon.
"The normal gut microflora activity is complex and can be impacted by a number of factors. The gut microflora, which includes both potentially beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria, is important in maintaining a healthy intestinal tract and helps the intestine act as an effective barrier; allowing nutrients to be absorbed, and keeping out toxins and pathogens (foreign bacteria or viruses). The gut microflora breaks down vitamins and also ferments fibers and carbohydrates that are not digested in the upper GI tract. This breakdown produces fatty acids that are important for supporting a healthy intestinal barrier (particularly in the lower GI tract) and also inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Healthy intestinal flora is also associated with intestinal (stool) regularity." - Source
Good sources of Pro-biotics -
- Sauerkraut or any fermented food source
- Kombucha tea
Specific strains of microbes to look for when considering a pro-biotic are -
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus fermentum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Bifidobacteria bifidum
- Bifidobacteria longum
Source - Dr. David Williams
Pre-biotic and pro-biotics are not a panacea to healthy diets. They offer definite long term advantages to ones overall well being. When one resolves to maintain a healthy immune system, or restore impaired gastro-intestinal defense and function, one should understand that this is not a short term, hit and miss proposition. Pre-biotics are excreted from the body daily, and it will take months to restore the healthy balance of the digestive tract microbes with pro-biotics. This is a dietary lifestyle change, not a short term 'healthy diet' choice. Personally I think the maxim that says - "balance in all things", applies here.
I think eating should satisfy three appetites -
- The appetite for a pleasurable experience.
- The appetite for nutritive nourishment of mind and body.
- The appetite for a medicinal, restorative eating experience.
With some creativity and imagination one can conjure pleasurable, nutritional and restorative recipes.