Did you know that your immune system is affected by the food you eat? Of course you did. Especially if you have been reading our blogs. Our recent article about Probiotics went into great detail about the impact that foods – especially fermented foods – can have on our body’s immune system. This is such a fascinating topic, we wanted to dive deeper into it.
So just how is food related to our immune system? Over the last few years, there has been significant research into the exact function of the gut and its centrality to good immune system function.1 Fascinating studies involving twins – who are exact DNA copies of each other – revealed significant differences in not only the types of bacteria, but the diversity of strains between the healthier twin and her sister. And some strains were missing completely.
Did you know that when the first cosmonauts returned from space flights, they had lost most of their good bacteria because they had no access to real food?2
New research is highlighting the need to have a wider variety of bacteria in our microbiome – the collection of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that function together to produce the chemicals, proteins, and hormones our bodies need. Think of a beautiful English cottage garden with an abundance of every kind of flower and plant growing and thriving. Now picture an Arizona desert, with nothing but hot rocks and sand. Our standard American diet, full of highly processed, sweet, and fast food, produces a gut microbiome that is much closer to Arizona than to the cottage in the English countryside. Just as bacteria in the soil are vitally important for maximum growth and health of plants that are grown in that soil, bacteria in our guts are critical to so many processes that keep us healthy and help us recover when we do become ill. There are two steps to making a difference in your gut microbiome:
Increase the diversity of bacteria into your gut.
Keep them there.
Increase Diversity - In our recent blog article about Probiotics, we highlighted some good sources of bacteria for increasing the population in your microbiome. Yogurt is great, but kefir has about twice the number of strains of bacteria, and kombucha has 2-3 times more than kefir. I’m happy about that because I greatly prefer kombucha to kefir. I have a Vietnamese friend who makes the most incredible pineapple kombucha. So this is a great way to get more bacteria, and a wider variety, into your system. Raw milk straight from the dairy (maybe not legally available in your area) and unpasteurized cheese are also great sources. Fermented foods – we’ve all heard of sauerkraut and kimchi, but just about any vegetable can be fermented – are another rich source of bacteria. The rest of the world eats a lot more fermented foods than Americans do. In a recent study of – get ready – fecal samples voluntarily collected by people as part of a science experiment conducted in Europe, Australia and America, Europeans had a much more diverse collection of bacteria strains than Americans.3 This was directly related to the diversity of plants consumed. A greater variety of fruits and vegetables is directly responsible for fostering a wider diversity in the types of gut bacteria.
Sustain the Colony – Once you add new strains of bacteria through eating cultured foods, you need to sustain it. The foods that do this are known as Prebiotics – they feed the bacteria, the Probiotics. Some of the most powerful sources of prebiotics include asparagus, artichokes, onions, garlic, and leeks, and fiber in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables and legumes. Lentils, chickpeas (hummus!), nuts and nut butters, are also good sources of fiber. Olive oil and avocados are excellent sources of fat that will also feed the colony and increase leptin, the “master” hormone that controls weight. You want to limit starchy foods such as potatoes.
Things to avoid
Antibiotics should be considered a last resort for medical treatment. They are the opposite of probiotics and will destroy much of the bacteria in your gut – good and bad4,5,6,7. Many people have reported experiencing increased food and other allergies following the use of antibiotics8. If you must use antibiotics, it is important to follow the steps above to restore a high level of gut flora as soon as possible. It is also important to avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners. Sugar can feed the bad bacteria, and artificial sweeteners can impact how well the bacteria can perform their jobs.
As we continue to learn and discover more and more about the amazing processes that take place in our bodies – our guts, in particular - that determine whether we are healthy or ill, lean or overweight, and susceptible or resistant to attacks from disease, we marvel at how wonderfully we are created. At Eden Grow Systems, we want you to join us on this journey of discovery. Our grow towers are just a tool for enabling you to increase your health and wellbeing by making it easier to add more, and a wider variety, of fresh, organic produce to your everyday diet. The science keeps pointing to the same conclusion – eating a diversity of real food is incredibly important to your gut – which directly impacts your overall physical and mental health.
For more information on our Eden Grow Tower, head over to our home page.
1Spector, T. What Role Does our Microbiome Play in a Healthy Diet? Feb. 27, 2019 presentation at King’s College London. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LUuqxQSaFQ
2Ilyin VK. Microbiological status of cosmonauts during orbital spaceflights on Salyut and Mir orbital stations. Acta Astronaut. 2005 May-Jun;56(9-12):839-50. doi: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2005.01.009. PMID: 15835023. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15835023/
3McDonald D, Hyde E, Debelius JW, et al. American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. mSystems. 2018;3(3):e00031-18. Published 2018 May 15. doi:10.1128/mSystems.00031-18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954204/
4Hirsh AG, Pollak J, Glass TA, Poulsen MN, Bailey-Davis L, Mowery J, Schwartz BS. Early-life antibiotic use and subsequent diagnosis of food allergy and allergic diseases. Clin Exp Allergy; 2017;47(2):236-44. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cea.12807
5Herman, R.A. Increasing allergy: are antibiotics the elephant in the room?. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol 16, 35 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13223-020-00432-2
6Hoskin-Parr, L, Teyhan A, Blocker A, Henderson A. Antibiotic exposure in the first two years of life and development of asthma and other allergy diseases by 7.5 yr: a dose-dependent relationship. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2013;24(8):762-71.
7Shi N, Li N, Duan X, Niu H. Interaction between the gut microbiome and mucosal immune system. Mil Med Res. 2017; 4(1): 14. https://mmrjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40779-017-0122-9
8Plunkett CH, Nagler CR. The influence of the microbiome on allergic sensitization to food. J Immunol. 2017; 198(2):581-9. https://www.jimmunol.org/content/198/2/581