In everyday life, everyone comes into contact with a multitude of pathogens. It is the task of your body's own [...]
80 percent of the defence cells are located in the intestine. The intestine and its bacterial strains thus play a essential role for the immune defence essential role for the immune defence the intestinal barrier, a powerful protection against invading pathogens. With the right nutrition you can support your intestinal flora and strengthen your immune system.Dr. Tewodros Debebe
BIOMES Head of Science & Co-Founder
The intestine: A specialist – not only for digestion
The small intestine is the most extensive part of the digestive system, measuring four to five metres in length. Its surface area even measures an incredible 60 to 200 square meters, if you include the entirety of the so-called microvilli. A microvillus (from Latin villus = villi) is a filamentous cell extension that increases the surface area of a cell and improves the exchange of substances. The small intestine is mainly used to absorb nutrients. Certain cells in the mucous membrane of the small intestine are also involved in the defence against pathogens and support the function of the immune system. The large intestine plays an even greater role for the immune defence: it houses the intestinal flora with its many effective bacterial strains. Its mucous membrane also contains numerous lymph follicles that can recognize and eliminate viruses and bacteria.
Gut bacteria: Small helpers with great effect
These intestinal inhabitants also fulfil an important function in the structure of the intestinal barrier: they produce vital enzymes, support the absorption of nutrients and neutralise pollutants and germs that enter the body with the food. In addition, they stimulate the formation of the body’s own defensive substances.
Some intestinal bacteria produce antibacterial substances that inhibit the growth of foreign bacteria. Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are particularly effective in this respect: they strengthen the intestinal mucosa and produce lactic acid. The resulting acidic environment is intestine-friendly, but offers harmful bacteria a hostile environment. Lactic acid bacteria can also activate a receptor1 of human cells and thus directly influence the function of the immune system.
The effect of probiotics and prebiotics
A balanced and species-rich bacterial colonization in the intestine has a positive effect on your general immune system. If you want to support the useful microorganisms of your intestinal flora and strengthen your immune system, you can take probiotic food supplements. Natural yoghurt, kefir, pickles and sauerkraut also contain living microorganisms that colonise the intestine and thus support your microbiome in defending against infections. Prebiotic foods also promote the healthy growth of intestinal bacteria: Prebiotics are found, for example, in artichokes, chicory, flea seeds and flaxseed. Intestinal flora, immune system and nutrition are thus in an effective mutual relationship.
Intestinal analysis: the state of affairs
The intestinal flora and the immune system are closely intertwined. In order to support the intestinal bacteria and thus your immune system in a targeted manner, it is important to have a precise overview of your individual bacterial composition. With the biotechnological analysis method2 INTEST.pro from BIOMES this is easily possible: Simply send a small stool sample to our scientists. With the help of high-throughput sequencing (HTS)3 we can find out what your intestinal flora is currently composed of. In addition, we offer you a detailed and comprehensible overview of your calorie utilization, digestive performance and immune strength. On the basis of our analysis results, we create personalized recommendatios for you.
Strengthen intestinal flora and immune system with nutrition
A balanced and fibre-rich diet supports your body in maintaining vital functions. Fibre is not absorbed in the small intestine, but is transported further into the large intestine, where it serves as an energy supplier for the beneficial intestinal bacteria. The more diverse the bacterial colonisation in your intestine, the more effectively the intestinal flora can fulfil its functions for your health. A varied diet containing vital substances such as wholemeal products, fruit and vegetables, nuts and legumes promotes the richness of species in the intestine. You can also support general intestinal health in this way and strengthen your immune system in the long term.
The immune system is a highly complex network: In addition to the intestinal barrier and its interaction of intestinal cells and intestinal flora, the hormonal system, bone marrow, the nervous system, lymph nodes and many other immune organs, cell types and molecules are also involved. Accordingly, the immune system can react sensitively to stress, unbalanced nutrition or hormone fluctuations. A balanced lifestyle, sufficient sleep as well as regular exercise and a sufficient supply of nutrients can help.
The vitamins A, E und C play a special role because they are indispensable for the functioning of the immune system: they keep the mucous membranes moist, increase the performance of the white blood cells, promote the growth of defence cells and support the formation of antibodies. Red and green vegetables, lemons, olive oil, walnuts and legumes are natural suppliers of these vitamins and should therefore be regularly included in your diet. Then you are already doing a lot of things right and doing something good for the intestinal flora and the immune system.
2. Cho I, Blaser M J. The human microbiome: at the interface of health and disease. Nature Reviews Genetics 2012:13, 260-270. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrg3182
3. Cao Y, Fanning S, Proos S, Jordan K and Srikumar S. A Review on the Applications of Next Generation Sequencing Technologies as Applied to Food-Related Microbiome Studies. Front. Microbiol. 2017, 01829. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01829/full