Guest Post by Dr. Deedra Mason, Director of Clinical Education & Research
Your immune system is complex. The mass amount of cells that must respond in concert to both internal and external triggers is fantastic in number, and as such add to the complexity. Other factors that affect this intricate system include:
- Your environment, both internal and external
- Your sleep and stress habits, including how well you recover from physical and mental burdens
- Even your biologic age and activity level being orchestrated by your genes, and the proteins for which they code your response to all of the above!
It is all complex. There is not one thing you can do to make this system work, but instead, you guessed it, a well-rounded, multi-action solution that includes diet, intentional movement and supplementation to set a healthy tone for your gut and your immune system.
By most expert’s estimation, 70% of your immune system’s cells are found in your gut and the tissue surrounding your intestines. This massive immune complex is referred to as the Gut-Associated-Lymphoid-Tissue (GALT). This webbing is an important part of your body’s defense and acts as a permeable barrier for the interior of the body. Therefore, anything that threatens its health, integrity or function is a threat to your immune system.
The Warriors on the Front Line
You have literally trillions of well-synchronized cells called the microbiome. Your microbiome is made up of a diversity of bacteria-fighting for your health and immunity. Do not take their work for granted. They are the powerhouse responsible, in many cases, for your digestion, energy utilization, (your potential to store extra weight), and hormone production, all of which are intimately linked to immune function and well-being.
There is no leading actor in this fight, but a massive supporting cast, making a combination of nutrients and botanicals of extra importance today and every day.
How to Keep Your Gut in Good Shape
Let’s discuss one of the important supporting members in immunity. You guessed it, greens and diversity of botanicals. Think of chard, kale, spinach, arugula, dandelion greens, brussel sprouts, and cabbages. As well as spices like turmeric (curcumin) and cumin (black seed oil) are also hugely beneficial and play a role in the supporting cast. Daily intake of bitter greens, spices and supplement botanical formulas as a therapeutic tool can be traced way back to the 1800s.
Today, there is a resurgence of interest in detox botanicals and formulas for a robust immune system. When it comes to the immune system, you want to make sure you have a supportive detoxification system. Select botanicals to help ramp up healthy detoxification AND elimination pathways to complete a healthy immune complex.
Did You Know?
From a clinical perspective, to get the full range of benefits from supplementation, botanicals should be selected not only for their impact on gut health but also for their role in supporting the liver and kidneys. Supporting the liver and kidneys will help maintain optimal detoxification pathways. Some examples of bitter herbs that do just that are milk thistle, dandelion, burdock, and turmeric.
Strong bitter herbs like gentian, for example, stimulate stomach acid and other digestive secretions, while slightly milder botanicals, like Schizandra chinensis, fennel and peppermint oil, not only calm digestive upset but also balance the central nervous system. In fact, the health benefits of the liver and digestive botanicals go far beyond the digestive system and have been shown to positively impact liver, kidney, immune and hormone functions. These same pathways are players in longevity and a healthy hormonal balance. A common dietary or supplement approach to maximizing our sex hormones is a healthy liver. Milk thistle, NAC and Dandelion root to the rescue!
A detox program, including diet and supporting botanical formulations can be a powerful tool to not only support healthy digestion but also positively influence liver and kidney function and thereby promote optimal detoxification, optimize energy and maximize your immune system.
In summary, the best way to establish and maintain a healthy gut environment is to have a balanced approach to life and what it throws at you. Get adequate sleep, exercise routinely, reduce stress levels, don’t drink too much alcohol and eat a healthy, balanced diet. For everything else there is supplementation.