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How what you eat affects the immune system


  • 70%-80% of immune cells are located in the intestinal tract;
  • on average 1.5 - 2 kg of bacteria live in the intestinal tract;
  • intestinal microbiota can be described as a very diverse and active commune, where beneficial and unfavorable inhabitants for our body live;
  • the intestinal tract is covered by intestinal cells (enterocytes), which are tightly bound together by intercellular contacts;
  • when the barrier function of the cells of the intestinal tract is disrupted under the influence of external or internal factors, toxins released by bacteria, undigested nutrients and other particles foreign to the body constantly enter our body;
  • the area of ​​the human intestinal tract is about 400 m2, which corresponds to two tennis courts in real life;
  • while the gut microbiome is dominated by beneficial bacteria, the immune system is susceptible to unfavorable bacteria and viruses,
  • however, an unbalanced diet rich in sugar and industrially processed food promotes the development of bacteria that are harmful to the body
  • if the immune system is 80% busy fighting the consequences of dietary choices, then it is more difficult for it to fight viruses and bacteria that enter from the external environment.
  • Intestinal barrier function can be strengthened by reducing sugar and sugar-containing products in the diet (bad bacteria are usually eaten)
  • You should take 30-35 grams of fiber - 1/4 (6-8g) should be soluble fiber
  • You should take fermented products containing live bacteria (probiotics)
  • Let's not forget about vitamin D - it will help everything to be strong

In order for the immune system to work well, we especially suspect the spread of respiratory diseases and outbreaks of viral infections. If we understand what our microbiota is and take care of it by thinking about what kind of diet we eat, we improve the chances of a strong immune response to stop infections in their tracks.

The information on strengthening immunity is very broad - starting from simple recommendations on a healthy and balanced diet, physical activities and walks in the fresh air, ending with folk medicine, teas and taking specific biologically active substances, vitamins and minerals.

The possibilities of how to strengthen immunity are varied and the amount of information available can easily cause confusion on this matter. This time about how our immune system is affected by the microbiota. Summarizing the latest scientific knowledge, we will explain how to promote the harmonious functioning of these two systems.

The majority of immune cells reside in the intestinal tract

The immune system is a group of cells and molecules that protect us from disease by monitoring our body and reacting to foreign substances that the immune system perceives as threats. The main goal of the system is to neutralize these threats. Our immune system has evolved alongside a diverse gut microbiota - the collection of all microorganisms living in the gut. About 100 trillion microorganisms live in the human intestinal tract - bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts. So far, 200 different species have been identified, which on average make up 1 per person.5 – 2 kg of total body weight.

The microbiota can be described as a very diverse and active commune, where beneficial and unfavorable inhabitants for our body live. The immune system and gut microbiota interact. They regulate each other and work closely together to protect us from viruses and harmful bacteria. The importance of this interaction is confirmed by the fact that 70-80% of the body's immune cells are located directly in the intestinal tract.

Develops and changes throughout life

The formation and development of the microbiota starts from the birth of a person.  We are alone in our mother's bodies, but when we were born and came into contact with the external environment, we began to interact with microorganisms in the skin, mouth, lungs and finally in the gastrointestinal tract.

The first source of food that a baby receives is mother's milk, it is rich in all the necessary nutrients - it contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for the baby to grow, develop and strengthen the immune system. Analyzing the composition of breast milk has revealed that it also contains nutrients that the infant's digestive system cannot digest, but the good bacteria in our microbiota can. These are 200 different soluble molecules of bad sugars, which are called breast milk oligosaccharides, which in a certain way or selectively feed the good bacteria and ensure their reproduction, division and increase in diversity.

The microbiota changes rapidly during life. At birth, the diversity of the species that make up our microbiota is tiny, in 10-12 years it reaches its balance, which it tries to maintain until the senior years.  

As long as the borders are adequately guarded

When thinking about the diversity of the microbiota, 19 comes to mind.century "You are what you eat" is the famous slogan of the French lawyer, politician and also a famous gastronome Jean Antelme in Brie - Savarin. If we eat a diet rich in raw materials necessary for our beneficial bacteria, then they will multiply and form a long-term mutual relationship with us, or live in symbiosis with the host organism.

The functions of the intestinal microbiota in the body are very broad and directly affect human health - digestion, metabolism and regulation of immune functions, so depending on the colonization ratio of specific bacteria (the ratio of good microbiota to bad), it can have both beneficial and adverse effects.  

The area of ​​the human intestinal tract is about 400 mwhich corresponds to two tennis courts in life. The large area is achieved because the apical end (top of the cell) of the enterocyte (intestinal cell) has 3,000 densely arranged microvilli whose primary function is nutrient absorption.

When the barrier function of the cells of the intestinal tract is disrupted under the influence of external or internal factors, toxins released by bacteria, undigested nutrients and other particles foreign to the body constantly enter our body.

The border of the intestinal tract is formed by intestinal epithelial cells, which are closely connected to each other by cell junctions (jugules), the main task of which is to prevent the transport of foreign molecules between cells. The yoke of our intestinal cells can be compared to the border of a country, as long as it functions and fulfills its task, strangers will not enter and do no harm. Good microbiota can be compared to border guards - as long as there are enough of them, there will be no problems with the border.

Intestinal barrier function

While the intestinal microbiome is dominated by beneficial bacteria, the immune system is susceptible to unfavorable bacteria and viruses, however, an unbalanced diet rich in sugar and industrially processed food promotes the development of unfavorable bacteria for the body. The substances released by the harmful bacteria destroy the intestinal tract barrier, cross it and trigger an immune system response, causing systemic inflammation in the long term.  

If 80% of the cells of the immune system are busy fighting the consequences of an unhealthy, substandard diet - systemic inflammation due to the loss of the intestinal barrier function, then the long-term immune system is weakened and the body cannot be sufficiently susceptible to new viruses and other pathogens.

Clinical studies on the microbiota have revealed factors that most affect the balance of the microbiota and damage intestinal permeability.

Factors that most influence the microbiota

Nutrients that multiply bad bacteria

They are most likely to be found in food products with a high sugar content or industrially processed products with a high proportion of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids. Eating such foods not only feeds us, but also the harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract.

Ingested sugar is broken down by our digestive enzymes into simple, or mono sugars, so that they can be absorbed in the small intestine.  Simple sugars that are not absorbed end up in the large intestine, where they are used as a food source for harmful microorganisms. As a result, they multiply and release toxic substances into our body. The most secreted internal toxin is lipopolysaccharides (LPS), a component of the cell membrane of harmful bacteria, which is released when the bacteria die. LPS damages cell junctions causing loss of barrier function, in addition to crossing the intestinal cell barrier elicits a strong immune cell response resulting in inflammation.

Consumption of high-fat processed products

It causes the loss of the ability to restore the barrier function of the intestinal cells, promoting the release of bile acids, damaging the enterocytes that participate in the absorption of nutrients.

Use of antibiotics

Destroys all micro-organisms, without distinguishing between good and bad ones, and after their use it is necessary to ensure the opportunity for good micro-organisms to regenerate.

We change nutritional habits for the benefit of immunity

Reducing the burden of 80% of our immune system requires daily changes in dietary habits. Intestinal microbiota quickly reacts to dietary changes - certain bacteria can multiply, others can die. From around the clock in the short term to one week and more in the long term.

What can we do to increase the good bacteria while reducing the bad, so the immune system doesn't have to deal with the negative consequences of dietary choices? The first step is to provide raw materials that the good microbiome can consume and the bad microbiome cannot:

We can supplement the daily menu with fiber-rich products such as bran, flaxseeds, berries, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, barley, oats, bananas and whole grain products. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 30 - 35 grams, 1/4 of which should be soluble fiber. Fibers are ballast substances that, when they enter the digestive tract, do not break down and change as a result of the influence of enzymes. There are two types of fiber - water soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibers act as an "intestinal brush" that removes unnecessary substances along the way, thus promoting digestive processes. After that, they continue their course further and, at the end of the digestive cycle, are excreted from the body.


On the other hand, the soluble fibers used by our good bacteria are called prebiotics (translated from the Greek pre – before, bios – life). Just as humans have enzymes that break down nutrients into smaller units for absorption, good bacteria have special enzymes that can break down prebiotics into simple sugars so they can be used as nutrients. Bad bacteria do not have these enzymes, so prebiotics cannot use them.


Valens Nutri offers a soluble fiber with a prebiotic effect - PreImma, which reaches the colon in about an hour and feeds the good bacteria. 1 packet - 3.5g soluble fiber. Nutritional sources of soluble fiber are Brussels sprouts (2g of 78g of product), avocado (4g per one), broccoli (1.5g 95g broccoli), nectarines (1.8 g in a medium nectarine). 

For prebiotics to be effective in the intestinal tract, they must overcome the stomach acid barrier, be digestible to short-chain fatty acids, and increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the body.

Short-chain fatty acids are used as a source of energy in intestinal cells, and also reduce intestinal pH, thus suppressing the development of malignant bacteria. The main short chain fatty acids are acetate, propionate and butyrate. In general, prebiotics have a beneficial effect on health, when they are used in the diet, it is possible to reduce the duration of diarrhea, stimulate the immune system, and improve the bioavailability of minerals.

Valuable additional forces - probiotics

We can also reproduce living bacteria related to those living in our intestinal tract by taking them with food. These live bacteria are called probiotics. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) define probiotics as "live microorganisms that, when ingested in sufficient quantities, improve the health of the host"

If prebiotics are a source of food for our good microbiome, then probiotics are supplements introduced from the outside, which must be taken regularly, because the ability of probiotics taken from the outside to reproduce in the intestinal tract is very small. Dietary probiotics after death become postbiotics (post bios – translated from Greek meaning – after life) and are used as a food source for the good microbiome.

Probiotics are mostly found in fermented and fermented products - sauerkraut, cucumbers, carrots, beets and other fermented vegetables. New on the Latvian market is Kimchi - a spicy Korean dish based on sauerkraut. Dairy products include sour milk, kefir, yogurt, pure culture and other fermented milk products, as well as specialized products to which a pure culture of lactic acid bacteria is additionally added. From drinks, kombucha - tea fermented with bacteria and yeast colonies. Additionally fermented soybean products - tempe, miso paste, natto, tamari soy sauce and other products fermented with bacterial cultures.

Take note!

-When fermented and acidified products are heated, living bacteria die and cannot fulfill their beneficial function.

-Probiotic nutritional supplements available over the counter contain specialized frozen bacteria that come to life in the intestinal tract.

-The most effective is the use of probiotics and prebiotics together, thus obtaining a symbiotic effect.

Vitamin D deficiency, microbiota suffers

Recent studies emphasize the importance of vitamin D3 in maintaining microbiota balance and regulating immune functions. Vitamin D plays a major role in calcium metabolism and bone growth. It has also been extensively studied in relation to immunity, and its effects are to promote, inhibit and coordinate the activity of specific immune cells.

The active form of vitamin D3 activates vitamin D receptors of intestinal epithelial cells, which directly affects metabolic and immune processes. More and more studies show that

people with vitamin D deficiency have a disorganized microbiota and impaired intestinal barrier function.

The main source of vitamin D is the sun, which promotes the release of vitamin D in the skin. Unfortunately, it is problematic to get the necessary amount of vitamin D with food products, because the concentration of the vitamin there is very small. An alternative is to take it with the help of nutritional supplements.

Recommended dosage

Many forms of vitamin D are available on the market, but I recommend using it in capsule form, starting with 4000 IU (international units). It should be noted that the full functioning of vitamin D is not possible without magnesium. Good dietary sources of magnesium are nuts, seeds and legumes.

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