Optimizing our immune systems is at the forefront of all of our minds these days, but have you ever stopped to wonder exactly where your immune system actually is?
You may be surprised to discover that about 80% of your immune cells are located deep in your digestive tract.1 This means that maintaining a robust gut microbiome—one with a thriving, diverse colony of friendly bacteria—is one of the best ways to support your immune system and overall health.
Below are our best tips to support your gut health and keep your body’s natural defenses in top shape.
Prioritize a Full Night’s Rest
Have you noticed that a good night’s sleep makes everything feel brighter, but that after a sleepless night you feel, well, really off? That perception is grounded in science. Recent research reveals that people who get enough quality sleep seem to have more diverse gut microbial environments than those who don’t—and that good sleep supports healthy T cell production.2,3 When sleep deprivation becomes a habit, it actually suppresses the body’s immune system, and even just a few consecutive nights of insufficient sleep may significantly reduce the numbers of certain beneficial gut bacteria.4,5
To support your defenses, create a relaxing bedtime ritual and allow plenty of time for the amount of sleep your unique body needs. It’s helpful to turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime and keep your bedroom dark and cool. This sends your brain the message that it’s time to sleep.
Find Ways to Mitigate Stress
Whatever the original cause, stress challenges your immune system by discouraging microbial diversity, reducing fresh blood flow to the digestive tract, and making the gut more permeable.6,7,8
Stress can take on many forms—from fear, worry, and negative thoughts to anxiety, sadness, and even a prolonged state of alertness.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
For the sake of our health, it may be time to reign in our news and social media checking tendencies and to instead set aside time each day for relaxation, fresh air, and connection with loved ones. If you make a habit of tuning in to your body a few times a day, you’ll be able to tell if you’re operating in a heightened state of stress, which is the first step to being able to make the adjustments you need to change the habit. Remember, we may not be able to control our circumstances but we can always control our response to them.
And, if you’re just not sure where to start, try beginning each day by making a list of what you are grateful for.
Move Your Body
Up until a few generations ago, taking a journey involved physical exertion, and it turns out that helped keep our ancestors healthy. We humans were never meant to sit still all day! Moderate exercise encourages the immune system to do its job properly.9 Workouts may also help you relax and sleep better—two more immune-friendly perks!
Exercise needn’t be intense; in fact it may be better when it isn’t. Dance to your favorite tunes, stream an online yoga class, find a low impact routine online, or run around with your kids. You can even just walk for 20-30 minutes and explore. The main thing is to have fun and stick with it.
Commune with Nature
Being outside is pure joy, and it also helps keep your immune system strong. Being exposed to a variety of beneficial microbes outdoors supports microbial diversity—and exposure to sunshine encourages your body to produce vitamin D, which plays a significant role in immune function. The beauty of nature is also super relaxing, so you’ll reap some stress reduction benefits as well.
Keep in mind that just a few minutes outdoors can make a big difference in the way you feel and will keep both you and your immune system happy.
Feed Your Gut
Our friendly gut flora are living organisms that need proper nourishment in order to do their jobs—in other words, you’ve got to feed the troops if you want them to fight for you. That nourishment comes from the prebiotic fiber in plant foods like apples, nuts, berries, and broccoli, and it’s also in our organic prebiotic powder.
At the other end of the spectrum, processed foods, GMOs, pesticides, refined sugar, and synthetic additives are all harmful to your tiny gut bugs. Support your microbial army by eating lots of whole plant foods (preferably organic) and avoiding anything processed or artificial.
That said, even with the purest diet and lifestyle, our modern lives can still be tough on our defenses. That’s why many leading experts recommend supporting your gut and immune health on an ongoing basis. If we were to pick the best way to do this, we’d add these two formulas to our daily regimen:
Our flagship probiotic formula is formulated with 15 diverse yet targeted strains to help replenish the beneficial bacteria that support your digestive and immune function.
This chewable probiotic delivers two hardy, potent strains (Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL9 and Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2) that are clinically studied to support healthy immune function and upper respiratory health.
Common Sense Measures for Uncommon Times
During uncertain times, a little common sense wisdom goes a long way toward keeping your defenses up. Pay attention to your body and what it’s telling you, stay hydrated, eat well, move, breathe, and enjoy the little things (that really are the big things). And remember, it may be common sense, but it only works if we actually do it!
1. Panda, S., Guarner, F., & Manichanh, C. (2014). Structure and functions of the gut microbiome. Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders Drug Targets, 4, 290–299.
2. Smith, R. P., Easson, C., Lyle, S. M., Kapoor, R., Donnelly, C. P., Davidson, E. J., Parikh, E., Lopez, J. V., & Tartar, J. L. (2019). Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLOS ONE, 14(10), e0222394.
3. Dimitrov, S., Lange, T., Gouttefangeas, C., Jensen, A. T., Szczepanski, M., Lehnnolz, J., Soekadar, S., Rammensee, H., Born, J., & Besedovsky, L. (2019). Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. Journal of Experimental Medicine, 216(3), 517-526.
4. Prather, A. A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. H., & Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep, 38(9), 1353-1359.
5. Benedict, C., Vogel, H., Jonas, W., Woting, A., Blaut, M., Schürmann, A., & Cedernaes, J. (2016). Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Molecular Metabolism, 5(12), 1175-1186. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.10.003
6. Bailey, M. T., Dowd, S. E., Galley, J. D., Hufnagle, A. R., Allen, R. G., & Lyte, M. (2011). Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: Implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 25(3), 397-407. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2010.10.023
7. Bailey, M. T., Dowd, S. E., Parry, N. M., Galley, J. D., Schauer, D. B., & Lyte, M. (2010). Stressor Exposure Disrupts Commensal Microbial Populations in the Intestines and Leads to Increased Colonization by Citrobacter rodentium. Infection and Immunity, 78(4), 1509-1519. doi:10.1128/iai.00862-09
8. Konturek, P. C., Brzozowski, T., & Konturek, S. J. (2011). Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 62(6), 591-599.
9. Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 8(3), 201-217.
Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.
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