Sometimes in the fall or winter, do you just feel like a sitting duck? Walking around with a big ‘ol target on your back saying – germs! Come on! I’m right here! Take me! I’m yours!
Maybe you feel there is nothing you can do, they are going to take you down one way or another. But, what if there was a way to ward off the germs or at least put up a valiant fight?
Strong Digestion = Strong Immune System
Did you know that between 70-80% of your immune system resides in your digestive tract? We often think of our immune system as being in our lungs or nasal passages, but in fact those two components are just the tip of the iceberg. The digestive system is where the brunt of the work really happens.
The stomach is the digestion powerhouse where the majority of pathogens are eradicated. Our stomach acid is literally our first line of defense against any major invader.
Getting to the appropriate acidity level in your stomach is a critical component to ensure pathogens can be eliminated.
But, if you eat in a rush, are under a lot of stress or even just eat a high-carb diet (or very low-protein diet), your body will naturally reduce the amount of stomach acid available for use. And that means you’re vulnerable.
Thankfully, the stomach isn’t the sole line of defense. We do have a back-up system. (Our body really is smart!) The lining of the small intestine is loaded with lymph nodules called Peyer’s Patches. The Peyer’s Patches are there to absorb and destroy any remaining microbes in the food as it passes through the small intestine. But, here’s the catch. They can only work so hard and so fast.
Remember Curious George in the chocolate factory? Remember when he accidently turned the machine up too quickly and the chocolate went flying? Nobody could get the chocolate into the boxes fast enough. That’s essentially what happens to the Peyer’s Patches. If the stomach wasn’t able to destroy the bulk of the pathogens, the Peyer’s Patches are going to be overwhelmed and won’t be able to pick up all the pathogenic microbes appropriately. Again, leaving you vulnerable. (Not surprisingly, Curious George had quite the stomachache after that experience.)
What can you do?
- Slow DOWN when you eat. Chew, chew, chew your food. The mouth really does have an important job in breaking down your food appropriately so your stomach (followed by your intestines) doesn’t have to work so hard.
- Take note of your #2’s. I’m serious! Check out this chart and do a little health assessment each day. This tells you so much about how you are digesting. If you aren’t consistently a 3-4 on the Bristol Stool Chart, then you aren’t digesting well. Time to figure out why.
- Not consistently a 3-4? Don’t assume you can just ‘gut’ it out and get through it. Or that ‘this is just the way you are’. No. Every body should eliminate at least 1x per day, if not 2-3x per day. If this isn’t happening, your body really does need you to hit the ‘reset’ button. Consider drinking some lemon in water or apple cider vinegar in water before your meals to stimulate your own stomach acid production and aid digestion.
- Add in foods that support digestion. This is the fun part! There are many foods to support digestion! Drink bone broth, eat cultured veggies, drink kombucha, kefir and kvass and eat plenty of brightly colored raw or lightly steamed veggies.
Broth literally helps stimulate your own gastric juices and it also doubles as a repair tool for the small intestine so that it is better able to absorb what it needs. Raw or lightly steamed fruits and veggies add enzymes and fiber to your meal. These help you digest your foods appropriately and provide enough bulk to eliminate all those pathogens your body destroyed along the way. Probiotic rich foods also add well, probiotics to facilitate house cleaning by triggering elimination and by crowding out the bad guys.
By following these steps, will this mean you never get sick? Um, no. I hate to break it to you, but if you never get sick that’s a red flag too. That means your body isn’t strong enough to fight the pathogens coming in and those pathogens are just hanging out. Because, let’s face it, pathogens are all around us. But, by strengthening your digestion you will get sick less often and shorten the duration when you do.
Share in the comments below – what are your favorite immune – boosting methods! Tis the season, let’s help each other out.