Protect your immunity by taking care of your microbiota

There are multiple situations that can compromise the state of our immunity, but, surprising as it may seem, the state of our gut health is one of the most common and most researched.

Similar to the barrier function of our nasal mucosa, the gut mucosa also provides a protective barrier and is home to millions of beneficial microorganisms that fight to protect us from pathogens. Keeping the gut microbiota in balance contributes not only to digestive wellbeing but also helps to improve the immune responsiveness to new threats.

What links the immune system and gut health?

A weakened immune system is generally a reaction of the body to various factors that affect us on a daily basis such as stress, temperature changes, lack of sleep and, importantly, changes or imbalances in our diet.

The close link between diet (because of its direct involvement in the balance of the microbiota) and immunity means that we can focus on the consumption of certain nutrients, prebiotics and bioactive substances that can have a significant impact on the daily care of our immunity.

The effect of gut microbiota on immune health

There are many natural substances that can help us in the maintenance of the gut microbiota. As experts in biotechnology and the study of fungi, we highlight the bioactive substances present in many of the medicinal mushroom species we research.
Mushrooms have been appreciated for their benefits for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, and nowadays, what we know as “Mycotherapy” (the use of mushroom compounds for health) is becoming more widespread. Why? Mushrooms contain minerals such as magnesium, selenium, zinc or potassium; vitamins C, B and provitamin D, as well as essential amino acids and other beneficial naturally occurring substances.

What links the immune system and gut health?

A weakened immune system is generally a reaction of the body to various factors that affect us on a daily basis such as stress, temperature changes, lack of sleep and, importantly, changes or imbalances in our diet.

The close link between diet (because of its direct involvement in the balance of the microbiota) and immunity means that we can focus on the consumption of certain nutrients, prebiotics and bioactive substances that can have a significant impact on the daily care of our immunity.

The effect of gut microbiota on immune health

There are many natural substances that can help us in the maintenance of the gut microbiota. As experts in biotechnology and the study of fungi, we highlight the bioactive substances present in many of the medicinal mushroom species we research.
Mushrooms have been appreciated for their benefits for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, and nowadays, what we know as “Mycotherapy” (the use of mushroom compounds for health) is becoming more widespread. Why? Mushrooms contain minerals such as magnesium, selenium, zinc or potassium; vitamins C, B and provitamin D, as well as essential amino acids and other beneficial naturally occurring substances.

Substances of interest which support the immune system

  • Vitamin C. The effect of vitamin C on the immune system, and in particular on viral respiratory infections such as the common cold and influenza, has been extensively studied for more than half a century. In addition, vitamin C has antioxidant activity which means its use can reduce some of the damage caused by free radicals.
  • Vitamin D. Traditionally known for its role in bone health, it is actually just as essential for immune defences. Deficiency has been linked to a higher incidence of respiratory infections.
  • Zinc. In a study of 575 people with the common cold, daily zinc supplementation reduced the duration of colds by 33%.
  • Prebiotics. Seventy percent of immune cells are in the gut, so including prebiotics in the diet helps to balance the gut microbiota and support the immune system’s response. Sometimes small imbalances in intestinal flora or microbiota, accompanied by a drop in defences, are enough to facilitate the overgrowth of pathogenic or pathoboint microorganisms and the onset of disease.
  • Beta-glucans. These are biological response modifiers capable of modulating the immune response, which has implications for protection against various diseases.

Beta-glucans are the most important bioactive compound found in mushrooms. They are considered immunomodulators, i.e. they are modulators of the immune system which help us to strengthen our defences by restoring the balance of the different aspects of the immune system.

In other words, we could say that beta-glucans act as soldiers and generals that help to organise our immune system to fight against the viruses and bacteria that surround us every day and can attack us.

Mushrooms also contain hundreds of natural compounds that awaken the body’s natural defences, but they also provide other substances whose antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action is constantly being researched.

Summary

Our immune system is made up of complex, interconnected systems that can determine everything from the quality of our sleep to the condition of our skin.

In this respect, our gut health plays a key role in supporting immune health and therefore a good diet and a healthy microbiota are fundamental to immunity.

Research has shown that fungi contain a wealth of substances of interest. Through Mycotherapy we explore how to apply these myriad benefits to enhance immune health.

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