There are many components that make up our immune system, the intestine being on the front lines of defence against pathogens, infection and disease.
Part of the intestinal wall is the mucosal membrane, vital for a number of reasons.
As it lines the intestine, it creates an incredibly tough, resilient barrier. This not only assists with the absorption of nutrients from the food you eat, but protects the intestinal wall from tiny tears as food moves through it. These tiny tears can allow larger particles of food, fats and proteins that should be part of your waste, to be released into the intestine creating a toxic mess. This is called leaky gut syndrome and can lead to many autoimmune disorders including Crohn’s Disease, Asthma, rheuaetoid arthritis and others. Symptoms of leaky gut include bloating, gas, fatigue, joint pain and abdominal pain, to name a few.
The body’s immune system uses both learned responses and built-in responses to protect your body from viruses, pathogens and other invaders. Both learned and innate responses come very early on in our lives. From the moment we begin moving through the birth canal we are exposed to bacteria that is essential to our health throughout our lives. If this bacteria that we first encounter is not optimally balanced, our health and immune responses are compromised. As infants, we may already have an imbalance of friendly to unfriendly bacteria. But this can be corrected with the use of probiotics for the mother before birth and a children’s probiotic supplement given to the child after birth. Consulting with your health care professional can help you make the best decision for both you and your baby.
It must be said that several things contribute to the GI tract imbalances that we are all facing. Our modern lifestyle, even with all our modern conveniences, is stressful. Anxiety and worry follow many of us around like a black cloud. It is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing to get a handle on our stress levels. This can be done through meditation, making time to nurture ourselves, establishing boundaries and priorities.
Physical activity is also effective at decreasing stress levels while increasing those ‘feel good’ hormones that are important for our bodies. Taking up yoga, tai chi, hiking, martial arts, dancing, aerobics and any other physically active pursuits will also help, not only the stress level but that physical movement that keeps your body happy and healthy.
It may be strange to say, but our obsession with cleanliness and eradicating all bacteria from our homes and lives, comes with a price. You see, our immune system is like an army, very well trained, ready to fight off invaders that may damage our health. But, as with any army, they need to stay in shape. As we become more ‘skilled’ at cleaning away bacteria and germs, we are actually removing the opportunity for our immune system to learn what an real invader looks like. When this ‘learned response’ is removed, our ‘army’, which has forgotten who they are fighting, will actually start to over react and attack things that normally occur in our day to day lives, which can cause allergies or our own bodies, resulting in autoimmune disorders.
We all recognize the importance of having a strong immune system. It protects us against, not only the common colds and flu that plagues us, but against many other health issues, as well. Approximately 75% of our immune function lies within our gut. It is the first line of defense. Probiotics are a common sense first step in restoring our immune system to optimal health and allowing our digestive tract to begin to function normally, once again.