The Important Link Between Immunity & Digestion

What do food intolerances, allergies, asthma, coeliac disease, cancer, IBS, hayfever, behavioural issues, and many other increasingly similar conditions all have in common?
They are all symptoms of immune system dysfunction. Not many people realise this but approximately 70% of our immune system lives in the gut, which is why probiotics — ‘good’ bacteria — has become such an important word these days, and need to be replaced after taking a course of antibiotics.

 Link Between Immunity & Digestion

Many people develop food intolerances or are diagnosed with coeliac disease after suffering from viruses or similar immune dysfunction. This is because the good flora in the gut, which is so important for healthy digestion, has often been affected by the illness or even the medication for treating it.

Avoiding the food or allergen is one way to deal with the situation, but to achieve optimal health it is vital to boost immunity and gut function from within. Secretory IgA (sIgA) levels are an important indicator of immune health within the gut: a decreased level shows diminished activity of the intestinal immune system and often leads to allergies, asthma, autism, IBS, food intolerances, behavioural problems, chronic infections, Crohns, candidiasis, thrush, cystitis, coeliac disease, and autoimmune conditions; very high levels on the other hand are indicative of intestinal inflammation and immune overload.

SIgA is found in saliva in the mouth, throughout the gastrointestinal tract, and in the mucus secretions throughout the body. Secretory IgA (sIgA) provides our first line of defence against bacteria, food residue, fungus, parasites, and viruses. Poor diet, alcohol, infections, medications, ageing, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, chemotherapy, and high stress levels causes an imbalance in secretory IgA levels.

Doing the best for your bones:
Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D is definitely the prescription for healthy bones. The difficulty is getting foods to fit into your diet that fill this need, especially when many of the fad diets recommend cutting out dairy foods to promote weight loss. So what can you do to practically make sure that you are having enough calcium and vitamin D, without compromising on your diet, to keep you at, or move you in the right direction to a healthy weight?

Switch to low fat or skimmed dairy products — they will have just as much calcium as the higher fat versions. They may be a bit hard to get used to at the start, but persevere — your taste buds will soon get used to the healthier version. Include at least three portions of dairy foods per day — tips on how to do this, are to have milk on breakfast cereal, yogurt with lunch, and some cheese sprinkled over your vegetables in the evening. Milk added to your tea & coffee can be counted as well.

Vitamin D:
Although vitamin D is referred to as the sunshine vitamin, you can only rely on the full summer sun to provide enough intensity to make enough vitamin D, and unfortunately it is not a vitamin we can stock up on. It is important to get vitamin D from our diet. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified breakfast cereals, margarine, dairy products, oily fish, and egg yolks. To get a sufficient amount you should eat at least a few of these foods every day. Oily fish is rich in vitamin D, so not only is it good for your heart but will also help your bones. Eat oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and trout at least once a week. Tinned oily fish will do as well. Tuna is the only exception, as it contains calcium but very little vitamin D because of the way it is processed. If you cannot stand oily fish take fish oil supplements.

Safeguarding your bones is vital — remember that exercise is as important. The best exercises to help towards strong bones are weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, aerobics or bouncing on the trampoline. Strong bones will definitely support you for a healthier life.

11 August 2011