The Surprising Connection Between Gut Health and Immune System

May 10, 2023

The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in regulating not only our digestion, but also our immunity. One misconception about immunity is that it is solely determined by genetics. While genetics play a role, our gut microbes shape the immune system’s development and function.

They help to train immune cells, promote immune tolerance, and regulate inflammation. Research has shown that disruptions to the microbiome, such as those caused by several rounds of antibiotics, poor nutrition, and/or chronic stress, can lead to immune dysfunction and an increased risk of infection, autoimmune disease, and other long-term health concerns.

In this article, we will touch upon how bacteria regulates the immune system and cover the 5 steps you CAN take to strengthen your immunity starting today! 

How does Bacteria Regulate the Immune System?

Our gut bacteria regulate our immune system in four major ways: 

  1. maintaining balance between activation and suppression
  2. producing metabolites that affect immune cells
  3. interacting with immune cells
  4. and educating the immune system to recognize and respond to different germs

In this article, we won’t go over all four but will highlight the importance of number two- Bacteria produce metabolites that are called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate.

Those are vital to our health because they suppress inflammation and enhance the immune response. In addition, they also provide energy to the cells that line the colon, which keeps the gut barrier healthy and prevents “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” 

Below is an image that shows the relationship between SCFAs and its effects on the immune and central nervous system. Continue reading to learn which dietary fibers increases the production of SCFA. ¹

It is estimated that around 70% of our body’s immune cells are located in the gut mucosa, making it a critical site for immune function. Thus, it is important to maintain a healthy gut and diverse microbiome to strengthen the Gut-Immune connection. 

Tip💡: Curious to see whether you are producing SCFAs? A functional Microbiome Stool test will provide a comprehensive report of your metabolite levels. Book a 15 min Complimentary Call with one of our Naturopathic doctors to determine if stool testing is right for you! 

5 Ways You Can Strengthen Your Immune System

  1. Eat a healthy diet: Eating a balanced and varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can provide the essential nutrients needed to support the immune system and promote a healthy gut microbiome. Fiber-rich foods such as legumes, nuts, and seeds can also help to feed beneficial gut bacteria.
  1. Take probiotics and prebiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that can be taken as supplements or found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that act as food for probiotics. Together, they can help to increase the number of beneficial gut bacteria and improve gut health.
  1. Reduce stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome and weaken the immune system. Practicing stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help to improve gut health and boost immunity.
  1. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can improve gut health by increasing blood flow to the intestines, promoting healthy bowel movements, and reducing inflammation. Exercise also stimulates the production of immune cells, which can help to boost immunity.
  1. Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for a healthy immune system and a strong gut microbiome. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night and create a calming sleep environment to promote restful sleep.

By incorporating these naturopathic approaches into your lifestyle, you can strengthen the connection between your gut and immune system, and improve your overall health and well-being.

In conclusion, gut health and the immune system are closely interrelated, and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is crucial for overall health and wellbeing.

Small changes to diet and lifestyle can positively impact gut health and, in turn, improve immunity against pathogens. Incorporating probiotics, prebiotic-rich foods, and stress-reduction techniques are all ways to support a healthy gut microbiome and promote overall health.

Additional resources: 

If you would like to learn how gut health is linked to fertility. Read this blog

This article touches upon the relationship of Parksinon’s and gut health 


Silva YP, Bernardi A and Frozza RL (2020) The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids From Gut Microbiota in Gut-Brain Communication. Front. Endocrinol. 11:25. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2020.00025

Zheng, D., Liwinski, T. & Elinav, E. Interaction between microbiota and immunity in health and disease. Cell Res 30, 492–506 (2020).

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