The body’s immune system is continuously hard at work with one primary goal: keeping us safe, healthy, and free from infection. Its defenses are regularly bombarded with bacteria, viruses, infections, and toxins, all of which can threaten health. In response to these pathogens, immune cells on patrol react with speed and accuracy. Early detection—combined with the immune system’s powerful biological “weapons”—enables it to eliminate threats before affecting the body.1,2
For this process to function successfully, however, the immune system itself needs to be healthy. Many factors contribute to a robust, optimized immune system—and one of the main ones is your gut microbiome. Without beneficial bacteria in your gut, the immune system simply can’t work the way it needs to in order to fully protect you. Additionally, gut bacteria populations can become skewed toward a predominance of pathogenic, unhealthy microbes, further weakening the immune system.
The Gut Microbiome And Our Immune System
Inside the gut, a flourishing ecosystem thrives. Composed of trillions of both good and bad bacteria, this microbiome needs to be balanced to maintain overall health. Balance is achieved when good bacteria—called probiotics—outnumber harmful bacteria and other pathogens like fungi or viruses.3
Probiotic bacteria residing in the gut are essential for shaping and training our immune system, ensuring that the body has access to nutrients and compounds that are vital for healing.
Additionally, the gut is home to over 70% of the entire immune system. Because of this, the flora of the gut can have a profound effect on overall health.
What happens when the gut microbiome is out of balance? A condition called dysbiosis is the result, where unhealthy bacteria outnumber the good. This can be caused by a variety of factors, which threaten to sabotage the balance of the immune system. Dysbiosis can lead to an overreaction in the immune system, encouraging inflammation that then attacks healthy cells. Alternatively, the immune system can become suppressed, leaving the body more vulnerable to infection from everyday viruses and bacteria.4
7 Gut Disruptors That Can Weaken The Immune System
Regular disruption of immune function from dysbiosis can have a negative impact on overall health. It causes damage to the immune system, which ultimately affects the way it responds to infection. To avoid negative effects on immunity, it’s vital to maintain a healthy microbiome balance. This can be easier said than done, however, as many factors can easily affect gut bacteria.5
Some of the worst offenders in disrupting the balance of the gut microbiome are:
- Antibiotics And Medications - Certain medications can cause dysbiosis, many after just a single dose. Aside from antibiotics, these medications include PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), antidepressants, and beta-blockers.6
- Pesticides - Pesticides like glyphosate can allow harmful bacteria to flourish in the microbiome, as they kill good bacteria in the gut.7,8
- Processed Foods - Foods that contain large amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats encourage the growth of bad bacteria and inhibit probiotic bacteria. Since good bacteria feed on prebiotic fiber, limiting this supply and replacing it with processed foods may cause an imbalance in the immune system.9
- Stress And Anxiety - The gut and brain are intrinsically linked in what is called the gut-brain axis. Dysbiosis can be caused by mental and emotional stress, while stress is increased by dysbiosis. This causes a dangerous feedback loop in which the microbiome and mental health are simultaneously affected.11
- Environmental Toxins - Many everyday household cleaners and other chemicals—including heavy metals—can be absorbed into the bloodstream and affect the health of the microbiome. This can leave other systems in the body vulnerable, altering their healthy function as the immune system is unable to fully support them.12
- A Sedentary Lifestyle - A lack of movement and exercise allows bad bacteria in the gut to flourish.13
- Poor Sleep - A lack of or diminished quality of sleep can lead to dysbiosis. As we’ve seen, this weakening of the immune system affects nearly every other system in the body.14
How An Unbalanced Gut Microbiome Affects The Immune System
The above 7 factors often occur simultaneously, increasing the likelihood that the gut bacteria can become out of balance—with increased risks to health. Pathogenic bacteria produce damaging toxins that attack the gut’s protective barrier inside the intestines. One of these bacteria byproducts is lipopolysaccharides, or LPS toxins.
When LPS toxins and other toxic byproducts of harmful gut bacteria attack the gut barrier, they can get into the bloodstream. Once there, these toxins can reach any part of the body. Although the gut barrier’s purpose is to let nutrients into the bloodstream and keep toxins out, an imbalanced microbiome results in a dangerous escape of some of these compounds.17
Once this occurs and the threat has been detected by the immune system, it uses inflammation in response to defend the body against these perceived invaders. The problem occurs when these toxins are constantly escaping the gut barrier and entering the bloodstream. The immune system never shuts down its response, leading to long term inflammation that can cause autoimmune disorders and chronic illnesses.
While these harmful bacteria are flourishing, they’re also diminishing the population of good bacteria. Probiotic bacteria are vital for the immune system to function at its best. Some of the key roles good bacteria play include:
- Helping the body fully digest food and absorb nutrients18
- Creating nutrients like vitamin K and B vitamins that are essential for overall health19
- Creating short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), a vital part of regulating the function of immune cells20
- Producing anti-inflammatory compounds to help regulate immune response21
- Protecting the body against dangerous pathogens22
- Keeping the gut barrier strong and functioning23
None of these essential processes can work optimally when the gut microbiome is out of balance. When bad bacteria outnumber the beneficial bacteria, the support of probiotic activity is limited. In order to keep all systems functioning correctly, the microbiome must be kept in a state of balance.
The good news is that there are healthy ways to restore the microbiome for optimal immune system functioning—and overall wellness.
5 Ways To Balance The Gut Microbiome
These simple changes have been known to help good bacteria to flourish and promote a balanced gut microbiome.
- Detox The Gut - Removing toxins from the body helps probiotic bacteria to thrive, keeping harmful bacteria at bay and allowing the immune system to function optimally. A natural and gentle detoxifying program—including ecoNugenics clinically researched detox solutions—can remove these toxins and allow the microbiome to flourish.*
- Add Probiotics - If the probiotic bacteria in the gut are being outnumbered by pathogens, adding a probiotic supplement can help restore the balance. A high-quality probiotic like organic, botanically-enhanced ecoProbiotic, can add essential beneficial bacteria to the microbiome, keeping the immune system functioning at its best.*24
- Add Prebiotics- Prebiotics are the food that probiotic bacteria thrive on. Supplementing with prebiotic fiber can give the good bacteria in your gut the right diet for them to function effectively. It also provides them with the fuel needed to produce SCFAs, a vital healing compound.25
- Eat A Healthy Diet - Filling our plate with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fiber- gives the gut what it needs to stay balanced. Avoiding processed foods full of harmful fats and sugars can ensure that the microbiome can maintain its balance.26
- Get Regular Exercise - The good bacteria in the gut increases with moderate exercise. Maintaining physical activity ensures that the microbiome is diversified and also improves overall health.27
These simple strategies can support optimal gut health, microbiome balance, and immunity—with additional total-body benefits for long-term wellness, naturally.
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 Liang Y, Zhan J, Liu D, et al. Organophosphorus pesticide chlorpyrifos intake promotes obesity and insulin resistance through impacting gut and gut microbiota. Microbiome. 2019;7(1):19.
 Zinöcker MK, Lindseth IA. The Western Diet-Microbiome-Host Interaction and Its Role in Metabolic Disease. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):365.
 Karl JP, Hatch AM, Arcidiacono SM, et al. Effects of Psychological, Environmental and Physical Stressors on the Gut Microbiota. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:2013.
 Liu RT. The microbiome as a novel paradigm in studying stress and mental health. Am Psychol. 2017;72(7):655-667.
 Tu P, Chi L, Bodnar W, et al. Gut Microbiome Toxicity: Connecting the Environment and Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases. Toxics. 2020;8(1):19.
 Bressa C, Bailén-Andrino M, et al. (2017) Differences in gut microbiota profile between women with active lifestyle and sedentary women. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0171352.
 Benedict C, Vogel H, Jonas W, et al. Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Mol Metab. 2016;5(12):1175-1186.
 Smith RP, Easson C, Lyle SM, et al. Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLoS One. 2019;14(10):e0222394.
 SA Gharib, MD et al. Transcriptional Signatures of Sleep Duration Discordance in Monozygotic Twins. Sleep, January 2017
 Ghosh SS, Wang J, Yannie PJ, Ghosh S. Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction, LPS Translocation, and Disease Development. J Endocr Soc. 2020;4(2):bvz039.
 Rowland I, Gibson G, Heinken A, et al. Gut microbiota functions: metabolism of nutrients and other food components. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(1):1-24. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1445-8
 Morowitz MJ, Carlisle EM, Alverdy JC. Contributions of intestinal bacteria to nutrition and metabolism in the critically ill. Surg Clin North Am. 2011;91(4):771-viii. doi:10.1016/j.suc.2011.05.001
 Corrêa-Oliveira R, Fachi JL, Vieira A, Sato FT, Vinolo MA. Regulation of immune cell function by short-chain fatty acids. Clin Transl Immunology. 2016;5(4):e73. Published 2016 Apr 22. doi:10.1038/cti.2016.17
 Lobionda S, Sittipo P, Kwon HY, Lee YK. The Role of Gut Microbiota in Intestinal Inflammation with Respect to Diet and Extrinsic Stressors. Microorganisms. 2019;7(8):271.
 Jandhyala SM, Talukdar R, Subramanyam C, Vuyyuru H, Sasikala M, Nageshwar Reddy D. Role of the normal gut microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21(29):8787-8803. doi:10.3748/wjg.v21.i29.8787
 Hiippala K, Jouhten H, Ronkainen A, et al. The Potential of Gut Commensals in Reinforcing Intestinal Barrier Function and Alleviating Inflammation. Nutrients. 2018;10(8):988.
 Linares DM, Ross P, Stanton C. Beneficial Microbes: The pharmacy in the gut. Bioengineered. 2016;7(1):11-20. doi:10.1080/21655979.2015.1126015
 Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019;8(3):92.
 Miclotte L, Van de Wiele, T. Food processing, gut microbiota and the globesity problem. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2020;60:11, 1769-1782.
 Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:3831972.