Are you ready for some football?
In the past, I could take it or leave it… usually, I’m only interested in the social aspects of football season.
I love having friends over for watch parties, eating delicious “tailgating foods” and just enjoying the merriment of it all… much to the chagrin of my husband, who is always laser-focused on the game. Somehow it doesn’t even matter who’s playing… he’s invested in every. single. game.
But this year, I feel differently about it all. It’s true what they say… you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…
And in a year when almost everything is off the table, I find myself hopeful that the season will get (and stay) safely off the ground.
It’ll be a sliver of normalcy in a decidedly not normal year.
Regardless of your devotion to sports… there’s no doubt that football is a major aspect of life in the United States!
All eyes will be on what happens after the first few games. Some states have already started high school football, college ball just kicked off last weekend and the first NFL game is next week.
What happens now will determine the fate of the rest of the season. It’s vital that the players, coaches, staff and the in-stadium fans stay healthy.
So what can we do to keep ourselves healthy… keep our beloved spectator sports going… and, hopefully, get back to normal sometime soon?
We have to make sure our immune responses rise to the occasion and do the job they were designed to do.
It’s crucial that your immune system doesn’t over-respond and send all its players onto the field at once. This overreaction is known as a cytokine storm, and it can be deadly.
A team of scientists in Berlin says that your immune response could be completely and totally dependent on the health of your gut microbiome.
In order to better understand why your gut microbiome is important in keeping your immune system strong and healthy enough to fight off infections, here’s a crash course in how it works…
You’re born with what’s called your “innate immune system.” Part of that system is your “conventional dendritic cells” or cDCs. These cDCs carry a range of pattern-recognition receptors, which allow them to quickly detect invading pathogens.
Once they detect an invader, these cells release cytokines, signaling proteins that attract immune cells to the site of the infection and then engulf and digest it.
And that’s when your immune response really levels up…
When those cDCs are good and full from their big meal of invading bacteria or viruses, antigens form on their surface which activates the T cells of your immune system and turns a full response into a targeted strike to wipe out the invader.
So, if everything goes as it should, the pathogen that could make you sick or even kill you is destroyed and you recover and carry on with your life.
Of course, not everything goes right all the time. That’s where the results of that new study come in…
The research showed that in order for those cDCs to start the cascade that leads to defeating the pathogens making you sick, they need to receive regular signals from your microbiome before those germs start their invasion.
According to the team in Berlin, your gut microbiome controls your immune system’s fitness.
It exerts this control by bringing the immune system to a state of readiness in order to speed up its response to pathogens.
Without a healthy microbiome, your cDCs effectively lack the fuel needed to respond to pathogens of any kind.
Luckily, getting gut healthy can be both natural and easy to do.
Here are a few things you can do to boost your gut health:
#1 — Eat fermented foods
Studies have shown that eating fermented foods such as kimchi and yogurt can help beneficially modulate the population of bacteria in your gut and enhance the health of your microbiome. Other fermented food and drinks to consider include:
Of the list above, beets are my favorite. Though I personally like them, I know a lot of people can’t get over the “earthy” taste.
Besides the polarizing flavor of beets, another drawback is the sugar content. In concentrated form, beets’ sugar content virtually outweighs their nutritional benefits.
That’s where fermentation comes in. Fermenting is the process of allowing the naturally present bacteria in food to start consuming or digesting the food, creating a new, slightly altered version that’s full of gut-healthy probiotics.
#2 — Focus on fiber and probiotics
Those fermented foods are so good for you because of the potent amount of probiotics they provide. This means that taking a probiotic supplement could provide big benefits as well.
#3 — Add in prebiotics
Prebiotics are compounds that encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Great sources of prebiotics include:
• Jerusalem artichokes
#4 — Soak up the sun
When you step outside into the sunlight, your body begins the process of making vitamin D.
This essential vitamin helps support your immune system, helping your body fight illness. It helps quell inflammation throughout the body, supports strong muscles, healthy bones and teeth and can even help boost mood and energy… and that’s just the start.
But getting the ideal amount of vitamin D can be difficult. It’s not found in many foods. You can find it in salmon, egg yolk and beef liver plus foods that are fortified with vitamin D like milk and orange juice.
And for many people — especially those who live in the northern hemisphere — it’s impossible to get enough sun to make it naturally. In addition, people of color and older folks can’t effectively absorb and process the sun they do get.
Even those who live in sunny climates can’t spend enough unprotected time in the sun for fear of sunburn to optimize their body’s own vitamin D levels.
That is why vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic. It’s important to supplement to bring your levels up.
Remember, gut health is immune health. And immune health is the key to getting back to life as we knew it.
Starting today, give yourself a swift kick in the gut… so your team’s kicker can get that extra point… all season long!