Fibre and Immunity

A healthy lifestyle including a varied, balanced diet can help to look after your immune system. Lifestyle measures such as exercise and physical activity, sleep and rest, managing stress, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking are important too so it’s not just about what you eat and drink.

You cannot ‘boost’ your immune system with any specific food or drink or by taking supplements whatever social media, friends or adverts might tell you. Neither would you want a ‘boosted’ hyperactive immune system with the risk of autoimmunity where the body attacks its own healthy cells, tissues or organs. We should support and care for our immune systems rather than boosting them.

There are many nutrients that support normal function of the immune system as part of a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle, for example iron and folate. Each one has a different role and all are needed in equal measure. You can include these nutrients in your diet by choosing a wide range of healthy foods. This is the best way to get all the nutrients important for your immune system and help to keep yourself healthy.

The human immune system is complex, involving cells, tissues and organs that work together to fight off disease and infection. Around 70% of your immune cells are located within your digestive system (gut). The gut wall acts as a physical barrier to keep out unwanted invaders. The trillions of microbes (gut microbiota) in the digestive system, found mostly in the large intestine, support, protect and communicate with the immune system helping it to do its job properly.

Research has shown changes in these gut microbial communities can negatively affect the immune system. Research into the link between immune health and gut health is still in its early stages and is still trying to answer the question whether disease affects the gut microbiota or the other way round (the gut microbiota impacts disease) or both.

Eating a balanced and varied diet as part of a healthy lifestyle including getting enough quality sleep can encourage a thriving gut microbiota.

Enjoying a wide rang of health foods in appropriate amounts of regularly is the best way to get all the nutrients that are important for your body and keeping healthy. Fibre is of particular importance as it not only helps keep your digestion healthy, but your gut microbiota use fibre as fuel. Care for your gut microbiota by including a variety of fibre containing foods that you eat regularly in appropriate amounts and it will help to look after your digestive and immune health.

Fibre is found in plant-based foods including wholegrains, vegetables, fruit beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Fibre is one thing you can boost in your diet. Choosing enough and a variety of fibre rich foods regularly is a simple way to make a healthy choice.

Choose an unsweetened high fibre wholegrain breakfast cereal in the morning and add a portion of fruit (fresh/frozen/canned in juice/dried)

Sprinkle nuts and seed onto instant oats to add crunch and fibre

Stir unsweetened muesli into live bio yogurt

Look at some of the delicious recipes here to give your fibre intake a boost.

If increasing your fibre intake, build up gradually by a portion a day per week and keep hydrated.