The human immune system is a highly-sophisticated defense barrier protecting us against bacteria, viruses, other microbes and parasites. The healthy immune system can also identify and block food derived molecules that may lead to undesirable inflammatory and allergic reactions.
An enormously important part of the defense system exists at the level of epithelial cells. The epithelial cells are a single, protective layer of specialized cells that line the major ‘tubes’ of the human body including the nasal passages, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and digestive tract. In the digestive system or gut, the epithelial cells form a continues protective lining from the mouth to the anus. What has emerged in recent decades is that around 80% of the human immune defense system resides in the gut and of course the gut epithelial cells are vital to this. Research suggests the gut defense are like the conductor of the entire immune orchestra.
How what we eat affects our immune defence
The so called ‘Western’ diet has caused disruption to the health of our epithelial cells as well as the population of ‘friendly’ microbes. Not only are the epithelial cells and microbiome adversely affected by a high sugar and high fat diet, it is especially affected by low intake of plant fibre.
Fibre much more than just for regularity
Plant fibre not only provides foods for our friendly microbes but when they have been broken down by the microbes in the gut, produce molecules known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These are of enormous benefit in sending powerful health-promoting signals to other systems outside the gut.
What effects do SCFA’s have on other systems?
The effects of the SCFA’s can be as diverse as to affect mood and behavior (brain), appetite (brain), glucose regulation (pancreas), cholesterol levels (liver and endothelium), susceptibility to infection (respiratory system) and so on.
This article was written by
Paul Vella (BHSc Naturopathy)
Shop 2/325 Centre Rd Bentleigh, Vic. 3204