The largest immune system organ in your body
For as much as we collectively love to focus or fixate on the body, you’d be surprised how little people actually know about their body works.
The human body is truly amazing!
Consider the autonomic nervous system that operates without your own conscious will, regulating respiration, the beating of your heart, and the digestion and elimination of the food you eat. (No one needs to consciously will their esophagus to contract to move food down into their stomach).
The immune system is another impressive system in the body, one that may be of particular interest this time of year, and our short focus today.
When you think of the immune system, you might imagine that video you watched in your 7th grade science class, where white blood cells were actively fighting off foreign invaders. Most people, at the very least, can agree that the immune system works hard to keep the bad stuff out.
Gut-associated lymphatic tissue
Did you know that about 70% of the immune tissue is found surrounding the gut, something known as the gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT)? This makes it the largest immune organ in the body. This is a big deal, my friends. I’m not sure if you’ve experienced this before, but when my body is fighting off a little virus going around, I nearly always notice changes in my gut functioning and imagine my gut-flora like a little army, though compromised, rallying the troops and getting to work.
The take-home point here is if you want to support your immune functioning, you absolutely want to care for your GI health.
Your dietary friends
From a dietary stand-point, probiotics and prebiotics are two very friendly and supportive gut allies. Probiotics include yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut or kim chi. Prebiotics offer your gut bacteria some healthy food to chomp on. These include foods like asparagus, artichoke, jicama, onion, and even cooked and cooled potatoes and rice. Reducing immune suppressors like extra sugar can help too as does increasing the “mother’s cure” garlic into your diet. You might try an easy roasted vegetable recipe rich in prebiotic foods, chopping asparagus, leeks, and onions, and adding chopped beets, parsnips, and squash and tossing in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting for 45 minutes. A kind gesture!
Interesting Fact: I know people that eat a very healthy diet that often still deal with immune system challenges and people that eat more conventionally processed foods (i.e. junk food) that have strong and resilient immune systems. Do you have people in your life like this? Remember, the immune system is…a whole system. In my world this means that support for the immune system includes not only the quality and content of a person’s diet, but a person’s capacity to process emotions and past life experiences, say the truth, practice boundaries, and care for chronic stressors.
Never a dull moment living in a body is there? Wishing you a season of good health and time to reflect on that which nourishes you most deeply.