Guest Post by Thryve
Having a strong immune system is essential for living a healthy life. At Thryve, we’ve been huge advocates in boosting your immune system. In today’s current COVID-19 pandemic, we’re shouting it from the rooftops. Not only are rooftops safe for social distancing, but they help spread the message quicker!
Cases of COVID-19 in the United States are over one million and counting. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the immunocompromised are among those who are at the greatest risk of contracting a severe illness from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis (1). While handwashing and social distancing are essential for preventing the spread of this disease, your immune system is crucial for surviving if you contract the virus.
While you can load up on Vitamin C every cough and cold season, you’re only putting a bandaid on a boo-boo that needs stitches. You need to go deep into your gut. After all, that’s where over 80% of your immune cells come from (2)! Our gut bacteria and immune cells work together to protect us from intruders. Here’s how you can improve your gut health and boost your immune system to fight off COVID-19.
Gut Bacteria and The Immune System
The human body is composed of trillions of microbes. Microbes are microscopic living beings. They include thousands of species of bacteria, fungi, yeast, and yes…viruses.
For the most part, everyone works together pretty well in the communal space inside of you known as the microbiome. Microbes that survive your gut are kept in check by other species. When there is a delicate balance among the living beings, then everyone lives in harmony. The goal of our system is to always maintain this zenful balance.
When it comes to keeping everyone in check, gut bacteria seem to play the law enforcement of our microbial neighborhood. They remain somewhat close to our gut barrier. Here, toxic food particles and harmful bacteria can enter the system from the small intestine. So, our probiotic bacteria are the first line of defense against these intruders. That’s why they produce so many immune cells.
How Probiotic Bacteria Can Help With COVID-19 Recovery
Seeing as they need so much backup, cells that line your gut produce antibodies. Their immune defenses include T-cells (3). While researchers are finding out new information about the immune system and COVID-19 every day, many studies points to the importance of T-Cells in battling this novel coronavirus.
One analysis in Nature stated, “T cells are attracted away from the blood and into the infected site to control the viral infection. In patients with COVID-19, increased T cell exhaustion and reduced functional diversity predicted severe disease (4).”
Gut Bacteria and Lung Health
One of the worst effects of COVID-19 is that it damages lung tissue (5). Your lungs are an essential organ. Therefore, they have a direct line of communication with our body’s military base — the gut.
Kathryn Winglee of Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research has long studied the relationship between the lungs and gut (3). She injected mice with tuberculosis and tested their DNA through daily fecal samples. During the experiment, she saw that a significant number of bacteria species had tapered off. Winglee believes this is the immune system at the site of the damage communicating what’s going in the lungs back to the gut.
By replenishing these missing bacteria, you can relieve a strain on the immune system. You’ll have more defenders to fight off the regular invaders from the intestines. They’ll also produce more antibodies that can help assist the already worn-out immune cells fighting off COVID-19.
How to Improve Gut Health to Boost Immune System
There are many changes you can make to your daily routine that will set your immune system up for a better chance of surviving COVID-19. Here are a few tips you can follow to improve your gut health and immune system.
Get Your Gut Tested
Your gut bacteria are always on call. They digest your poor food choices, fight off harmful microbes, and produce immune cells. As we get older, these burdens become a bit much for your bacteria.
Too many sweets, environmental toxins, and dwelling in stress beats down on our gut bacteria and immune system. That’s why the elderly and immunocompromised are at the highest risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19.
While poor gut health seems inevitable, it only truly is if you continue to ignore the problems. So, be proactive by finding out which gut bacteria are in your microbiome.
As we said, the gut needs a proper balance of bacteria. The best functioning system is one that is teeming with diverse bacteria. By testing your gut with Thryve, you can find out how many of each species is in your gut. That way, you can find the right probiotic supplement to create the microbial diversity your immune system needs.
Use Custom Probiotics
Bacteria are living beings. Just like us, they have their individual dietary preferences. Unfortunately, harmful bacteria have a sweet tooth, too. A lifetime of processed foods, artificial ingredients, and refined sugars can cause a drop in beneficial bacteria. Which harmful bacteria thrive all depend on which foods are your vices. That’s why it’s so important to get your gut tested.
Once Thryve has your results, they can determine which gut bacteria your system is lacking. With that knowledge, they can provide you a custom probiotic recommendation. Using their subscription service, you can get a custom probiotic delivered to your door every month.
Eat Dietary Fiber
Remember when we said harmful bacteria liked your guilty pleasures? Well, probiotic bacteria like fiber found in grains and greens. Score one for mom trying to feed us broccoli all those years!
Probiotic bacteria are amazing because they help us digest food. They consume the dietary fibers that we can’t break down. These fibers are known as prebiotics.
One of the most effective prebiotics is inulin. This compound is found in many plant-based products, but mostly in chicory root. Thryve includes this prebiotic in their proprietary probiotics. That way, the living bacteria within your custom probiotic have some food to eat that will keep them alive long enough to colonize your gut.
Probiotic bacteria that eat dietary fiber give back to us by producing short-chain fatty acids as waste (6). In particular, they produce butyrate. This healthy fat helps repair our gut lining that gets destroyed by harmful bacteria and inflammation.
Producing butyrate can help your gut and immune system in two distinct ways. For one, it protects cells that produce antibodies. Butyrate also stops inflammation from occurring along the gut, freeing up immune cells that normally deal with those problems to tend to with the COVID-19 crisis.
Eat More Colors
Diet plays an essential role in not just our gut health, but our physical and mental health, too. Every bite you take is a decision. You can choose to boost your immune system or ravage it.
Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that represent each color in the rainbow. Every pigment denotes a different antioxidant. Just like you need a wide variety of gut bacteria, you also need a spectrum of antioxidants.
These molecules fight off free radicals that may destroy healthy cells (7). During a pandemic, you need all the backup you can get. So, fight off the free radicals and keep your immune system strong.
As a member of the Thryve Gut Health Program, you can get personalized diet recommendations. They also provide you with a wide range of recipes that will feed the gut bacteria in your probiotic.
Cut Out Allergens
We talked about the foods that will boost your immune system. Now, it’s time to eliminate the ones that are hurting it. If you’re unsure of what foods you’re sensitive to, try an Elimination Diet (8). Give your body a break and cut out any potential allergens. Then, slowly reintegrate these foods back into your diet and see which are causing inflammation in the system.
One of the perks of getting your gut tested is that the presence of specific bacteria can determine which foods are triggering allergic reactions. That’s why the Thryve Gut Health Program also offers a list of foods to avoid based on your gut bacteria.
By eliminating these foods, you won’t trigger immune responses that cause inflammation and destroy healthy immune cells. Then, your body will have a better chance of fighting off COVID-19.
The connection between our immune system and gut health is well-defined. However, our immune system is relying on our gut more than ever in the wake of COVID-19. That’s why it’s so important to get your gut health in check. Test your gut bacteria with Thryve and get personal probiotic and diet recommendations. Set your immune system up for success during this pandemic and all year round with good gut health.