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The incidence of childhood atopic disease in developed countries has increased dramatically over the past several decades. In Australia at present one in four children is affected. The exact reason(s) for this is still not completely understood. It may be linked to our environment, the food we are eating, changes in our lifestyle, genetics or a combination of these factors.
Enzymes are specialised protein molecules found in all living cells. They accelerate and regulate all biochemical reactions that occur in the human body. An enzyme itself does not change during a reaction but acts as a catalyst by changing one compound (known as the “substrate”) into another (known as the “product”). Enzymes also play a key role in digestion. They break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats enabling us to benefit from the nutrients found in these foods, while removing the toxins. Enzymes turn the food we eat in energy.
This newsletter is going to discuss the connection between our gut and the immune system, and the importance of maintaining a healthy gut for a strong immune system. This is a huge topic, so unfortunately this article is only a brief summary.
The immune system protects our body from foreign substances, cells and tissues, and includes the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, and special lymphoid tissue found in the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. It is an internal communication system, made up of networks of integrated cells, which are there to protect our body. A good analogy is to imagine the human immune system as an entire military force in place ready to recognise, attack and destroy any "invaders" in order to preserve health. The immune system has three main functions, these are to:
1) Identify foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and chemical toxins.
2) Destroy each specific type of foreign substance (one plan of attack does not apply to all invaders).
3) Maintain a "built-in" memory to recall the specific type of invader next time it enters the body.
When the immune system is not able to differentiate between the host (you) and an invader it may begin to destroy healthy cells and tissues in our body. This is referred to as an autoimmune disorder.
Last year I posted a newsletter that discussed the strong link between our gut and the brain (The Gut Brain Connection). This mentioned the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is imbedded in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and how it has a complex interaction with the gut and the immune system. The gastrointestinal associated lymph tissue is the largest immune compartment in the body. Many people do not realise that approximately 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system, which explains why it is vital to maintain a healthy gut to ensure optimal health.