How Supporting Your Gut Health Can Boost Immunity

Jennifer Brix, ND
Woman eating probiotic-rich yogurt

More than ever, we are recognizing how the state of our gut and microbiome is connected to our immune system and overall quality of life. The gut lining is one of the body’s most essential defence barriers, and when this barrier is compromised it becomes more permeable. As a result, the immune system – of which 70% is located in the gut – reacts and requires additional support. Therefore, to maintain a healthy immune system, gut and microbiome health are the first things to get on track to help your body’s immune system.

We know the importance of frequent handwashing, nutritious diets, regular exercise, and plenty of rest to support your immune system. Still, these might not be enough if you lack the nutrients needed for a robust immune system.

Mother teaching her daughter to wash her hands with soap

When taking proactive steps to protect your immunity, follow these steps to nourish the gut-immune connection:

1. Identify and remove triggers of gut inflammation

  • Processed food and foods high in sugar have been shown to compromise the gut lining and impact the balance of the gut microbiome, contributing to a “leaky” gut. [1] his increase in permeability leads to systemic inflammation, putting a strain on the immune system. Consider giving your gut a break by eliminating highly processed food and those lacking healthy fibre. Cutting out sugar, gluten, dairy, corn, and soy for 4–6 weeks is an ideal amount of time to clear these common triggers of gut inflammation and help your immune system stay strong.

2. Balance stress

  • Both acute and chronic stress can impair gastrointestinal and immune function and increase susceptibility to illness. [2] By suppressing your parasympathetic nervous system – the one responsible for resting and digesting – chronic stress can really take a toll. Altering digestive enzyme and stomach acid secretions will impair your digestive and absorptive abilities, ultimately impacting your microbiome and hence your immune system.

3. Nourish the gut lining

  • The amino acid glutamine is the main fuel for the cells that line the digestive tract. Studies have shown that this amino acid can positively affect gut health by supporting the gut microbiome and the gut lining’s integrity, and by modulating inflammatory responses. [1] In order to provide benefit, look for a powdered and micronized L-glutamine, providing a highly absorbable form and an easier way to take the recommended 5 g per day.
Woman holding her probiotic supplement

4. Rebalance the microbiome

  • The gut microflora signals the immune system to rev up antibody production during times of stress. It also helps inhibit the growth of pathogens within the digestive tract. [3] Probiotic supplements have been shown to temporarily modify gut flora, helping to shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections by up to 1.9 days and reducing their incidence by 47%. [4]

5. Try a fibre supplement

  • Fibre has been touted for several health benefits, including weight loss, cholesterol and blood sugar balance, and healthy bowel function. A 12-week randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial published in 2022 showed that partially hydrolyzed guar gum reduces cold-like symptoms in healthy adults. [5] This water-soluble dietary fibre is thought to influence immune function, suppress cold-like symptoms, and prevent infections through the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which regulate immune functions through their receptors. [6]

While there’s no cure for the common cold, supporting gut health can profoundly impact immune function. Implementing these tips can help you stave off illness and feel better faster!

Jennifer Brix, ND
Dr. Brix completed her professional training at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine.
  1. Deters B, Saleem M. The role of glutamine in supporting gut health and neuropsychiatric factors. Food Sci Human Wellness. 2021; 10(2):149-54. 
  2. Diop L, Guillou S, Durand H. Probiotic food supplement reduces stress-induced gastrointestinal symptoms in volunteers: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Nutr Res. 2008; 28(1):1-5. 
  3. Galdeano CM, Cazorla SI, Dumit JM, et al. Beneficial effects of probiotic consumption on the immune system. Ann Nutr Metab. 2019; 74(2):115-24. 
  4. Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Gerlier L, Roy D, et al. The clinical and economic impact of probiotics consumption on respiratory tract infections: Projections for Canada. PLoS One. 2016; 11(11):e0166232. 
  5. Sakai S, Kamada Y, Takano H, et al. Continuous partially hydrolyzed guar gum intake reduces cold-like symptoms: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial in healthy adults. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2022; 26(14):5154-63. 
  6. Rooks MG, Garrett WS. Gut microbiota, metabolites and host immunity. Nat Rev Immunol. 2016; 16:341-52