4 Ways to Support Immune Health by Supporting Gut Health

by Jodi Cohen

“The best defense is a good offense.”

This strategic offensive principle can be applied to your health, and more specifically, your immune system, especially during this time of intense concern around the spread of flu and viruses.

Here’s the good news — a healthy digestive system supports a healthy immune system for a number of reasons:

  • Properly digested nutrients are the building blocks for supporting our immune system
  • Your immune system is centered in your gut, with 70–80% of your body’s immune cells found in the gut.
  • Your digestive system and intestinal barrier is a key barrier to keep out pathogens, like viruses.
  • Undigested proteins can trigger an immune response, contribute to gut inflammation and put your immune system under greater stress

Proactively supporting your digestion and gut health can help keep your immune system healthy and help you better navigate external threats like the flu and virus.

 

Essential Oils to Support Digestion and Gut Health

Digestion begins with your vagus nerve triggering the parasympathetic state to support the digestive process.

1. Turn on the Parasympathetic State for Digestion

Digestion begins in your brain.  Signals from your brain, sent via your vagus nerve, turn on your digestive function and route blood flow to your organs of digestion, which turns on your digestive process:

  • Your mouth releases saliva to both break down your food and as a defenses against disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. It contains antibodies that attack viral pathogens. Saliva also contains enzymes that destroy bacteria in different ways, by degrading bacterial membranes, inhibiting the growth and metabolism of certain bacteria, and disrupting vital bacterial enzyme systems (more here).
  • Your stomach produces HCL acid.  In addition to breaking down proteins so they don’t trigger an immune response, stomach acid serves as a chemical barrier against infection, effectively killing any bacteria or viruses that have been caught in mucus in the airways or consumed in food or water.
  • Your pancreas secretes enzymes which in addition to helping your body break down protein, fat and carbohydrates, can support your immune system by fighting pathogens in the intestines. Research shows that pancreatic enzymes can support your immune system and calm inflammation.
  • Your gall bladder releases bile.  New research shows that bile acids may help regulate gut immunity and inflammation.  More specifically, bile acids have been shown to exert immune-modulating effect by interacting with immune cells in the gut. “Once bile acids leave the gallbladder and complete their fat-dissolving duties, they make their way down the digestive tract where they are modified into immune-regulatory molecules by gut bacteria.”
  • Your sphincters open and close contributing to motility, allowing nutrients and waste to move through the digestive system and be properly eliminated.  Any kind of compromised motility or constipation can impede absorption of key nutrients, some of which are needed to support the immune system, as well as other side effects such as inflammation and bloating.  Over time, this lack of nutrient absorption and build-up of food matter will weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to the viruses. Constipation also affects the balance of good bacteria within your digestive system, which is crucial for the strength of your immune system producing substances that drive off or kill invading bugs and viruses.

A poorly functioning brain does not stimulate your vagus nerve, and healthy digestion is not turned on, which undermines a healthy immune system.

To support optimal brain function and enhance digestion, apply a small drop of Parasympathetic™ behind your mastoid bone before meals. When you apply it, take a few deep breaths, with the exhalation longer than the inhalation to fully relax and turn on digestion prior to meals.

2. Protect the Bacteria Balance in Your Mouth

As mentioned above, your mouth is a gatekeeper of immunity. Essential oils can be powerful tools to support a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth.  For example, research demonstrated that a mouth rinses formulated with essential oils of tea tree, clove, and basil “showed significant reduction in  microbial colony forming units” along with antiplaque, antigingivitis, and antimicrobial improvements.

The simple practice of oil pulling with essential oils has demonstrated similar benefits.  Oil pulling consists of swishing 1-2 teaspoons of edible oil (like coconut oil which is said to be naturally antibacterial or sesame oil) in your mouth around your teeth and gums, similar to how you might swish mouthwash.  The longer you push and pull the oil through your mouth, the more pathogens are pulled free, so be careful not to swallow any. Spit out the oil after for 10 – 20 minutes.

The oil is able to reach and attract harmful substances between teeth and in the gums like bacteria and plaque much the way a powerful magnet attracts metal bits.

You can optimize the benefits even more by adding essential oils like Clove, Cinnamon and Peppermint™ to your oil pulling routine.  For example, Clove oil contains the active ingredient eugenol, which helps naturally numb and reduce pain and anti-inflame.  A study found that eugenol is more effective at reducing pain, inflammation, and infection than another type of analgesic toothpaste.

My friend Katie Wells at Wellness Mama created a super easy recipe for making essential oil pulling chews HERE.   I have tested a variety of essential oil flavors, including clove, cinnamon and peppermint.  I find Peppermint to be the most refreshing.

As your mouth is a key entry point for viruses and bacteria, helping to support that physical barrier can minimize the number of pathogens in the mouth and reduce your risk of infection.

3. Support Your Gallbladder

You need a healthy gallbladder to support your detoxification and immune function.

Your gallbladder stores, concentrates and releases an important fluid known as bile that helps carry pathogens out of the body and breaks down the fat you eat so your body can absorb it.  Fat assimilation is critical for numerous functions in the body, including the absorption of critical fat soluble minerals, like vitamins A, E, D and K – all of which are critical for healthy immune function.

This process only works well when bile is able to flow easily from your gallbladder to your small intestine.  If your gallbladder is congested or inflamed and bile doesn’t easily flow into your intestines your fat isn’t properly broken down and absorbed.  Without the healthy flow of bile to break down fat soluble vitamins, like A and D, your ability to fight off infection is severely compromised.

To support your gallbladder helps and healthy immune function, apply Gall Bladder™ to the gallbladder, on the right side of the body under the bra under-wire or along and slightly under the right rib cage, before meals to help ease bile flow for optimal fat assimilation and absorption.

4. Fortify Your Intestinal Barrier

Your intestinal lining serves as a physical barrier against any viruses or other pathogens you might swallow, preventing them from passing into your bloodstream.

Remember that 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, specifically in an area of the ileum known as Peyer’s patches. Peyer’s patches monitor, analyze and respond to the intestinal bacteria in the small intestine to prevent the growth of harmful pathogens. If a dangerous pathogen presents, the Peyer’s patches trigger an immune response – producing antibodies and alerting the immune system to launch a full body immune response to the pathogen before it can spread beyond the intestines.

When the lining of your small intestine breaks down, it turns the immune system on and triggers systemic (system-wide) inflammation, increasing your risk for food sensitivities, inflammation, pain, brain degeneration, and autoimmune disease.

Healthy gut flora is needed to maintain the healthy balance of bacteria in the intestines. The epithelial cells and the mucosal lining of the gut serve as a physical barrier to pathogens entering the body. Healthy gut flora helps to support the immune functions in the epithelial cells, like maintaining physical and chemical barriers and making the gut more acidic and hostile to invading bacteria. Healthy flora also compete with potential pathogens for space and food. If your healthy gut bacteria are already using all the resources available, there’s nothing left to feed the bad guys. They also help to modulate the inflammatory immune response and neutralize toxic substances.  To read more about supporting gut immunity, click here.

Your intestines are lined with a mucosal barrier that can be damaged by anti-biotics, food intolerances and other digestive stress. The mucosal lining plays a key role in optimal immune function. It contains several immune antibodies known as immunoglobulins (sIgA, IgA, IgG and IgM) and is critical for healthy gut function, plays host to healthy gut flora and proper digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. To help balance and heal the intestinal mucosal lining, apply Intestinal Mucosa™ blend in a clockwise around the belly button 2 – 3 x daily. This helps restore the integrity of the mucosal lining to restore optimal balance of healthy intestinal flora.

In order for the gut to heal, you need to remove the source of damage. This could include inflammatory foods, medications, alcohol and intestinal infections. Consider a strict elimination diets that remove all grains, sugar, dairy, corn, soy (and in some cases nuts, eggs and nightshades). You can also help to reduce inflammation through topical application of Vibrant Blue Anti-Inflammatory™ oil rubbed clockwise around the belly button 2 – 3 x daily.

 

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About The Author

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.

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