A Few Words...

What is written here is my opinion and personal experience only. I am not qualified to give advice - medical, legal, or otherwise. Please be responsible and do your own research regarding treatments, diets, doctors, and alternative therapies.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gut Health Equals Immune Health

As you may have heard by now, the bacteria living in our MALT play a critical role in the function of the immune system. These bacteria either produce or stimulate our own bodies to produce specific types of substances that are absorbed into the bloodstream and go on to communicate directly with immune cells. 

A subset of the MALT is the GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue. In my area of practice as a nutrition support dietitian, we have been talking about this for years in relation to our patients who are unable to obtain their nutrition through the gut and instead are dependent on IV nutrition. It had been something of an enigma for years that this population was far more prone to infections, especially bloodstream infections, aka sepsis. We now know that this is due to the growth of undesirable bacteria in the gut and the subsequent increased permeability of the intestinal walls. It is common practice now that we administer a fiber-containing tube feeding formula into the gut as what are known as trickle feeds for the sole purpose of preventing this from happening, which has resulted in fewer bloodstream infections. 

Along these lines, scientists have begun studying the make-up of the intestinal flora of healthy people. While the communities of microbes can vary widely in the healthy population, there are some common themes among them and studies have shown that even small changes in the diet, specifically the presence or absence of certain types of fiber, can have an impact on the profile of the microbial flora. In particular, diets containing prebiotics, in conjunction with probiotics, are believed to be particularly beneficial. Click here for a brief article that explains this in a little more detail. 

It is very important to note that some people have difficulty digesting something called FODMAPs, of which prebiotic fibers are included. Symptoms of this can be gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and fatigue. Click here to learn more about these symptoms and what to do about them.

Here's a good way to start the day:

Place 1/3 cup of dry, old-fashioned oats and about 2/3 cup of water in a cereal or soup bowl and cook in the microwave for 90 seconds. Stir in 2 heaping tablespoons of whole milk plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 sliced banana, and 1 tsp honey (opt.). Eat with 10-12 dry roasted, unsalted almonds and a small orange.


  1. Thanks so much for these articles, very interesting I am especially interested in the gut health seeing that I have a lot of stomach issues especially if I forgot to take my probiotic.

    I have been reading a lot about (sounds gross I know) stool transplants and how it can cure some illnesses, even the potential to cure food allergies systemic fungal infections and others.

    I wonder if a stool transplants can be of any help with Meniere's. Any thoughts on this?

  2. The science is all very new and moving quickly. I think it would premature for me to even take a stab at the idea, but it is thought-provoking, isn't it?

    1. yes very, thought provoking. It would be such a simple solution to many diseases if it pans out. I read an interesting article a few months ago about a child who had a bone marrow transplant and it cured their peanut allergy. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/814379

  3. That's interesting, Vicki. Thanks for sharing. The focus right now still seems to be identifying the multitude of microbes that exist in the gut and what specific role they each might play. Unfortunately, there is very little available in the way of determining which probiotic supplements should be used for specific indications. I often recommend probiotic supplements to my patients undergoing chemo and radiation therapy, but I always have to explain to them that there are not standard recommendations for which strains to use and for how long. In clinical practice, the fecal transplant route remains reserved for severe cases of c. diff, but it's great to hear that researchers are trying it for other indications.