The Link Between Your Gut & Immune System
Immune cells grown in the gut circulate through the blood stream looking for threats to immunity. Immune cells learn from the gut when to act and how to differentiate friendly bacteria from bad. Autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis psoriasis and eczema can occur when the immune cells attack the wrong bacteria. Hence the importance of the link between good gut health and your immune system, as well as skin health.
What happens in the gut affects the whole immune system
Within the immune tissue in the gut, B cells (a type of immune cell that produces antibodies against infections) are taught what to react to. Once they’ve matured, they then circulate around in the bloodstream, patrolling for threats. So, what happens in the gut affects our whole body immunity, and not just immune responses against germs in our food.
Teaching Immune Tolerance
As well as mounting an attack against dangerous substances, the immune cells found in the gut also have to know when not to react. In other words, they have to know which substances do not pose a threat to our health and leave them alone. This is known as ‘immune tolerance’. Substances they should learn to leave alone include the body’s own cells, substances in our food that are safe for the body to absorb and also the ‘friendly’ gut bacteria.
It’s thought that the friendly bacteria and other organisms found in the gut help to teach the immune cells what to react to and what is safe. This is one of their vital roles, and one of the reasons it’s so important to have a healthy gut flora.
What happens when immune tolerance goes wrong?
When this process goes wrong, this is one reason why allergies and some food intolerances can develop. Quite simply, cells of the immune system are reacting against harmless substances.
Autoimmune conditions can be another consequence of immune tolerance gone wrong. An autoimmune reaction is when our immune system starts to attack our own cells and tissues. Conditions that are autoimmune in nature – or have an autoimmune component – include rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and other conditions including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
So this is a primary reason why having a healthy gut – and a healthy gut flora – is thought to be essential to keep our immune system in balance, fighting the right things and not the wrong things.
Other links between gut health and immunity
There may also be other links between our gut and the development of allergies, inflammation and autoimmune conditions.
One is the theory of ‘altered intestinal permeability’ or ‘leaky gut’ . A healthy gut lining should be made up of cells that are closely packed together, with little or no gaps between them. This means that only selected substances – including fully digested components of our food, such as glucose, amino acids and minerals – can pass through the gut barrier into our bloodstream.
Probiotic Infused Skincare Solutions that also help with Gut Health
But when the gut lining is not in optimal health, wider gaps can open up between the cells. This can allow larger food particles and other potentially toxic substances to be absorbed. The immune system then recognises these substances as foreign and mounts an attack. This is a potential cause of allergies and food intolerances.
And that’s not all. It’s also thought that some substances absorbed in this way may ‘mimic’ some of the body’s own cells. So as the immune system is attacking substances that have been mistakenly absorbed, it may also mount an attack against our own tissue, leading to autoimmunity.
Causes of this ‘altered intestinal permeability’ may include a poor diet, lack of nutrients that nourish the gut wall, infections with parasites or harmful bacteria, another illness, or use of certain medications.
So, you can see how important good gut health is for your immune system as well as skin health! That's why at Beauty & Vitality, we believe the combination of probiotics with the best vitamins for skin delivered via a skincare supplement and a pre and probiotic infused skincare moisturiser will deliver the best skincare routine helping you improve skin and gut health.
The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. If you are taking any medications, have a diagnosed medical condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult your doctor or health practitioner before taking supplements.
- Groschwitz KR, Hogan SP. Intestinal barrier function: molecular regulation and disease pathogenesis.J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Jul;124(1):3-20; quiz 21-2.