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Your digestion is key to your immune system

Whole Naturopathy / Digestion  / Your digestion is key to your immune system
gut and immune

Your digestion is key to your immune system

Whilst these systems may seem unrelated, they are actually closely linked. From a naturopathic view, a healthy digestive system is essential for all other aspects of health. After all, it is where all nutrients required to build and repair your body are absorbed, as well as where most metabolic waste products are excreted.

Leaky Gut (Intestinal Hyperpermeability)

You may have heard of the term “leaky gut”. It is a condition in which the tight gaps between the intestinal walls are increased to allow substances other than nutrients, electrolytes, and water to enter the blood supply. The immune system is then activated to eliminate these substances which are toxic (when outside the digestive system), and a continual supply of these over time, results in a state of chronic inflammation, and altered immune function.

The Gut microbiome

The intestinal bacteria plays a major role in leaky gut, as the bacteria form the first protective layer inside the intestinal walls. Many things can contribute to an unbalanced microbiome such as gastro viruses, stress, diet, and antibiotics. Obviously, the role of antibiotics is to kill bacteria, but it kills both the beneficial and the harmful. Care should be taken after antibiotic treatment to restore the beneficial bacteria which has been destroyed.


The beneficial bacteria feeds on plant fibre, whilst the damaging bacteria feeds on sugar and refined carbohydrates. Aim to eat 5 serves (where 1 serve is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw) of vegetables covering all the colours of the rainbow daily, as well as a variety of in-season fruit. This will encourage the growth of a diverse range of strong beneficial gut bacteria, which will restore an unbalanced microbiome and therefore strengthen your immune system as we head into winter.


To create the ideal environment for beneficial bacteria, eat a variety of probiotic foods: yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, or miso soup.

In some cases, a probiotic may be helpful, and various strains have been studied for specific immune diseases. For best results the correct strain(s) of bacteria for your condition, will give the best results.

Herbal medicine and nutritional medicine offer natural options for improving digestion, the gut microbiome and regulating the immune system. A naturopath can make a custom mix of herbs or select the best probiotics to best treat your unique symptoms.

This advice is general in nature and not intended to be prescriptive. For individualised prescriptive advice, please see a naturopath or other health care practitioner.


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