Sonu Shivdasani, our CEO and Joint Creative Director, shares his thoughts on the importance of gut health and tips on staying healthy
We humans are undoubtedly better equipped to combat illnesses than at any other time in our history. Today, we benefit from the progression of science, from improvements in communication to the development of medicines and therapies to treat viruses and infections. However, our modern lifestyle has also undermined some of our natural immunity. Evidence of immune system dysfunction is seen through the rise of autoimmune conditions in developed countries, such as MS, coeliac, Crohn’s and psoriasis. The severity of some of these conditions shows that our body’s immune system is very powerful but is no longer functioning within the environmental constraints for which it evolved.
The human gut is a microbiome that contains trillions of organisms, including healthy bacteria, protozoa and yeasts, which is increasingly seen by scientists as the key to our health and overall wellbeing. An interesting theory about the origin of autoimmune disorders is the idea that the gut becomes irritated and ‘leaky’ when it is exposed to our modern environment, such as processed food and additives. When the gut microbiome is unbalanced, a loss of gut integrity allows proteins to pass into the bloodstream undigested, triggering an immune response.
Right now, it is more important than ever to be proactive in maintaining our immune systems and keeping them strong. We can do a lot by choosing the right foods that support our gut, consuming those with immune-boosting and natural antiviral properties, such as the garlic used in Mediterranean cuisine, red onions in the Middle East, or turmeric and ginger in Asia. A healthy gut also needs good bacteria to restore our intestinal flora. However, cultured probiotics available in supermarkets and health stores, or on-trend fermented food that claims to contain beneficial bacteria, are not the answer. The majority of their bacteria will die before they reach the small intestine and the ileum, the region in our gut that needs them most.
Elevated microorganisms can help restore and renew the gut – found in the ileum, they also produce Vitamin B12, a vital nutrient that plays a variety of important roles, including DNA synthesis, the production of red and white blood cells and cellular immune function. A good source of these elevated microorganisms is sprouting seeds, beans and legumes, such as alfalfa, broccoli, clover, fenugreek, lentil, mustard, sunflower and kale. When sprouted, they behave like living micro gardens, a tiny, nascent form of life that is teeming with beneficial bacteria.
For more information about gut health, I recommend reading Medical Medium by Anthony William. In my experience, I’ve found Ion Gut Health (formerly called RESTORE), an immune-strengthening product by Biomic Sciences, has been fantastic in supporting my own gut health – you can find it on their website at restore4life.com.
For general immune health, Dr Lakshman, our Ayurvedic expert at Soneva Fushi, and my own personal physician, has shared some further information on the use of Andrographis
paniculate for its immune-stimulating properties. Numerous studies have demonstrated this supplement’s ability to not only reduce the duration of upper respiratory infections but also significantly reduce the severity of symptoms due to its ability to increase lymphocyte production. A recent study screened compounds from Andrographis paniculate for their ability to inhibit key enzymes of COVID-19, determining that Andrographis and its derivatives were able to inhibit several key infectious enzymes of the virus.
- Avoid red meat and animal proteins, which can cause inflammation. A plant-based diet, packed with naturally-occurring anti-virals, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, will boost the function of your immune system.
- Research has shown that regular, daily exercise plays an important role in immune function, as well as benefitting your mental wellbeing, too. I like to vary my exercise, such as one day in the gym, and yoga the next day.
- Try to get some fresh air and sunshine. The regulation of our natural, circadian rhythms plays an important role in immune health, while exposure to sunlight generates Vitamin D, which is essential for activating T-cells.
- Breathe deep and try to relax. It may be difficult to manage your worries during these uncertain times; however, prolonged stress can reduce our immune system’s ability to fight off antigens. Studies have shown that regular meditation can lower stress levels and significantly reduce inflammation.
- Spend quality time with your loved ones, even if it’s over the telephone or by Skype. Findings show that a robust support network is strongly associated with increased physical and mental wellbeing, better moods and improved illness recovery rates.
- Laughter is a great medicine. Whether you’re watching the comedy channels or sharing a joke with your family, studies have shown that mirth can have a profound effect on our bodies, decreasing levels of the stress-hormones cortisol and adrenaline, increasing the production of antibodies and activating our immune system’s protective cells, including T-cells.