Immune System and SIBO – Are they Connected?
The immune system is your body’s defense mechanism, which always protects you against all diseases that threaten you from both outside and inside. It recognizes and attacks any domestic or foreign bodies (called pathogens) that breach your first lines of defense.
If your immune system gets weakened or impaired due to HIV, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or deficiency of IgA antibody, it fails to protect your gut from excessive bacterial growth. Therefore, the chances of developing SIBO increases in those who have a weakened immune system.
Table of Contents
- 1 A Closer Look at Your Immune System
- 2 How do SIBO and IBS can further Weaken your Immune System
- 3 How can you Strengthen your Immune System at Home
- 4 Conclusion
A Closer Look at Your Immune System
Did you know that your body’s immune system comprises a complex combination of blood and lymph? It approximately consists of 5 liters of blood as well as lymph.
The lymph, a clear, colorless liquid, together with blood, transport all the essential elements of your immune system throughout the body so that they can help protect you against all pathogens. And there are white blood cells, which are the warriors of your immune system that change into battle mode when they see any kind of trouble.
These white blood cells belong to two categories – the lymphocytes and phagocytes. The phagocytes move through your tissues and blood vessels to absorb or ingest the invaders. They target organisms (pathogens) that produce toxins and cause diseases. After absorbing a pathogen, a phagocyte may send out a chemical to help lymphocytes detect what type of pathogen it is.
The lymphocytes carry antibodies, which help in fighting the antigens that are carried by pathogens. Your body has three main kinds of lymphocytes, including T cells, B cells, and the natural killer cells. Among these three types of lymphocytes, the B cells produce antibodies for attacking viruses, bacteria, and toxins entering your body. T cells are responsible for killing the affected cells that have become cancerous or overtaken by viruses.
The natural killer cells, like T cells, attack and kill cancerous or infected cells by making a special chemical or enzyme that destroys the cells. Your body produces new antibodies whenever a pathogen infects it with a new antigen. So, if your body gets infected by the same antigen a second time, it can quickly produce several copies of the antibody and destroy it.
The white blood cells have a lifespan of only a few weeks, and so it is important that you have plenty of them. It has been estimated that a drop of blood contains roughly 25,000 white blood cells.
How do SIBO and IBS can further Weaken your Immune System
Pathogens can invade your body and get through your body’s defense mechanism via different routes, your digestive system being one of them. The drinks and foods you consume regularly can be contaminated with viruses or bacteria.
While your stomach acid may kill many of these pathogens off, you must facilitate the release of digestive enzymes and stomach acids by having herbal bitters before a meal. Otherwise, the microbial load on your body may increase and make your immune system weaker.
Further down the gut, the gastrointestinal wall forms a barrier, but in most cases, it is violated by the growing number of pathogens in the intestine. If these pathogens get the opportunity to enter your circulatory system, then your immune system will recognize them and jump into action. Your gut wall consists of tightly packed cells that help in forming a barrier so that it can prevent the pathogens from crossing over.
If you are suffering from IBS and SIBO, it is likely that you will experience irritation of the gastrointestinal wall along with muscle spasms (usually caused by diarrhea), which make the barrier vulnerable, resulting in gaps. This condition is called ‘leaky gut,’ and it allows more pathogens to pass through the ‘leak’ and enter your bloodstream, which can overwhelm your immune system.
A leaky gut along with constipation (also common in IBS and SIBO) causes the waste to move slowly through the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in more toxins to leach out and putting more pressure on your immune system.
How can you Strengthen your Immune System at Home
Here are some easy-to-follow home remedies that will help boost your immune system.
1. Have a healthy diet
Nutrients obtained from food, especially plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, spices, and herbs, are all needed to keep the immune system functioning healthily. Since the plant-based foods possess antimicrobial and antiviral properties, they help you fight against infections and diseases.
Research has shown that the antimicrobial and antiviral properties in spices, including oregano, thyme, clove, cumin, and cinnamon help keep harmful bacteria and fungi away 1.
Moreover, the folate, iron, copper, selenium, zinc, and Vitamins A, C, B6, B12, and E you obtain from food are some of the nutrients needed to fortify your immune system 2. Protein is another nutrient critical for your immune health.
It consists of amino acids that are of prime importance for building and maintaining immune cells. If you skip this macronutrient, you will reduce your body’s capability of fighting against infections 3.
2. Reduce stress
According to a recent scientific research, long-term stress causes elevated levels of the steroid hormone cortisol 4. And when the cortisol levels are consistently high, the immune system is prevented from doing its job, i.e., protecting your body against threats like bacteria and viruses. There are different stress-reduction techniques, and you need to find out what works best for you.
Your doctor may recommend any activity like meditation, journaling, playing golf, drawing, or fishing. You just need to try and do at least one of these stress-reducing activities per day.
3. Get enough sleep
Since your body heals while you sleep, getting plenty of sleep is crucial for a healthy immune system. To be more precise, sleep is the time when the body creates and distributes important immune cells such as cytokines (a protein that either promotes or fights inflammation), interleukin 12 (a type of pro-inflammatory cytokine), and T cells.
When you are sleep deprived, the immune system cannot effectively defend you against infections and diseases, making you susceptible to sickness. According to the findings of National Sleep Foundation (NSF), you should get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep at night to optimize your health.
4. Exercise every day (preferably, outdoors)
Daily exercise reduces your chances of developing chronic illnesses (such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity), as well as bacterial and viral infections.
Exercising regularly also increases the production of endorphins (hormones that lessen pain and create a feeling of well-being), which helps in managing stress. It is another way by which you can improve your immune response because stress negatively affects your immune system.
5. Drink in moderation
When it comes to drinking alcohol, taking high amounts can cause a wide range of negative health effects. When you drink high amounts of alcohol, your body’s natural immune response is suppressed since your body tries to detoxify the system. Therefore, people who consume high amounts of alcohol are prone to alcoholic liver disease, cancers, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pneumonia.
If you have been diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), then you should strictly follow the guidelines and home remedies mentioned above to support your immune system. You may try some herbal remedies like echinacea, which possess strong antiviral properties and can also target invading fungi and bacteria.
If herbal or home remedies are not effectively working for you, a trip to a medical practitioner might be necessary. Your doctor may prescribe some antiviral medications or specific antibiotics to help your immune system fight against a stubborn infection.
If you have been prescribed some antibiotics, you may need to take a probiotic supplement along with your medication to support the healthy gut bacteria. Therefore, make sure to stay on top of doctor visits, medications, and healthy habits. This way, you will keep all the symptoms at bay.
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