Has the recent pandemic made you wonder if you have a strong immune system? A healthy immune system is vital to protecting your body from invading microbes. Our bodies are designed to recognise invaders and respond by launching an attack (the immune response) to destroy them. So what is a healthy immune system and how can our gut bugs protect our bodies from these harmful pathogens?
Your gut microbiome is a community of trillions of bacteria that live deep inside the large intestine. These ‘gut bugs’ are vital for health and wellbeing due to their incredible ability to break down the food we eat, releasing beneficial substances into our blood. One of the more potent substances released by our gut bugs is the fatty acid ‘butyrate’. When we eat food high in prebiotic fibres, our bodies cannot break down the part of the plant called the fibre. This fibre moves through our gut into our large intestine where our gut bugs feast on it, releasing butyrate into the blood.
Butyrate has a number of health properties and has been linked to boosting the immune defence system of the body. By increasing the amount of prebiotic fibre you eat, you can provide further fuel for your gut bugs, increase your level of butyrate and therefore boost your immune system.
Here are 3 simple ways to increase your intake of prebiotic fibres:
1.Eat cooked but cold starches – potatoes that have been cooked and left to cool contain high levels of ‘resistant starch’ – a type of prebiotic fibre shown to increase butyrate. They need to be cooled for maximum effect so boil some potatoes or pasta and keep cold in the fridge for salads and snacks.
2.Grab an apple – apples contain the prebiotic fibre pectin which has also been shown to increase butyrate levels. Add grated apple to your salads for a fresh twist or keep for a handy and portable snack. Citrus fruits are also high in pectin.
3.Replace some meat with lentils – lentils and legumes are high in the prebiotic fibres that our butyrate producing gut bugs love. Try substituting meat in dishes like spaghetti or curries with cooked lentils.
*This article was originally published in Flannerys Magazine and was written by Carly Barlow for the Gwinganna Health Retreat  Schulthess et al., (2019).The Short Chain Fatty Acid Butyrate Imprints an Antimicrobial Program Macrophages. .Immunity 50, 432–445.