Never before has immune health been as important as it is right now. This means that never before has gut health been as important either. They are completely intertwined, to the point that they can’t be separated. Perhaps you’ve never heard of the connection between the gut and the immune system.
Most would never expect this, but let’s zoom all the way in so we’re looking at your gut at the cellular level. What you would find is that there is this single layer of cells called the epithelium that plays a critical role in the absorption of nutrients and attempts to block the absorption of toxins. On one side of the epithelium is the lumen of the intestine, where 38 trillion microbes – our microbiota – reside. And on the other side lives 70-80% of our immune system, termed our gut-associated lymphoid tissue (or GALT.)
You cannot separate the gut from the immune system. From an early age, our gut microbes play a critical role in the training of the immune system. It’s the reason that birth by cesarean section, being bottle-fed instead of breastfed, or receiving antibiotics early in life have all been associated with an increased risk of allergic and autoimmune diseases, like asthma, seasonal allergies, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease.
The connection between our gut and immune system also explains why when we analyze diseases characterized by a confused immune system – whether it be allergic or autoimmune – we always find that there’s been damage to the gut microbes. When you damage the gut microbes, you also injury the immune system. This means the opposite is also true, which is that when you strengthen the gut microbes, you also strengthen your immune system.
So what is it exactly, that strengthens the gut and gives us this benefit? Well, let me walk you through a study that I’ve been paying close attention to recently.[i] In it, they infected mice with influenza, a respiratory virus. Keep in mind that it would be unethical to do this study in humans, so animal studies are about the best we can do.
In this study, after infecting the mice with influenza, they led them one of two diets: high fibre and low fibre. They predicted that the high fibre diet, due to its anti-inflammatory nature, would actually be worse in the setting of an infection when you need activation of the immune system. But they proved to be wrong. The mice that had the high fibre diet lived longer, had fewer symptoms, and had objectively better lung function.
The scientists had to take a step back. Their theory disproven by the actual study. So they asked the question, why did the high fibre diet work so well in protecting from this respiratory infection? The answer lied in the way the fibre and the gut microbiome affected the immune system. The fibre was metabolized by the gut microbes to produce short-chain fatty acids. You’ve heard me speak in other blog posts to the importance of these SCFAs.
So what did they do? First, it recruited the CD8 cells – the ones you want to fight this infection – to the lungs. Get the right soldiers on the battlefield and into the fight. But at the same time, they got the rest of the immune system to cool off. It’s actually the overreaction of the immune system that can be the most dangerous, leading to the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). You don’t want an overactive immune system. You want a targeted, precise immune system. And that’s exactly what you got with the consumption of fibre.
This brings me to the Eimele product range. One of the things I love is that fibre is a focus in these products. They were designed with gut health in mind. Take the new Eimele shake me
al replacements for example. They have over 14 grams of fibre. That’s nearly half of yo
ur daily fibre requirement met with one meal replacement shake, that also happens to have the other vitamins and minerals to support a healthy body. Suffice it to say, Eimele meal replacement shakes absolutely can be part of our gut health and immune health optimization plan.
[i] Trompette et al., “Dietary Fiber Confers Protection against Flu by Shaping Ly6c− Patrolling Monocyte Hematopoiesis and CD8+ T Cell Metabolism.”