The pandemic process has shown us all once again the importance of having a strong immune system. Intestinal health, which forms the basis of the strong immune system, also gained more importance in this period. Doctors specializing in Microbiota and Probiotics come to mind when it comes to the immune system; We answered our questions on concepts such as intestinal flora, microbiota, prebiotics, probiotics, and microbiome analysis for you. Experts also explained how a nutrition program can be protective during the pandemic period.
What is the relationship between immunity and intestinal flora?
We call microorganisms in our intestines “microbiota”. When they start using nutrients, they release some small molecular weight substances as a result of their own metabolism, and these products affect the functioning of cells that regulate the immune system.
We have two types of immunity, natural immunity and acquired immunity. In a virus infection, our T cells start working. The products produced by beneficial microorganisms in the microbiota as a result of metabolism cause T cells to produce “cytokines” that will protect us. The immune system is regulated with these secretions. The work and secretion of our cells, which are associated with our immune system, are directly affected by the microorganisms’ own metabolism. If there are good bacteria in our intestines, there is a positive regulation and works towards the protection of the reaction related to infection, which we call “inflammation”. If more bacteria do not support the intestinal balance, it cannot protect it and a continuous inflammation is triggered there.
What is gut microbiota? Can you talk about its importance?
We used to call the microbes in the gut ‘flora’. Now we call it microbiota. The balanced microorganism community primarily protects intestinal health. Our gut microbiota creates small molecules called short-chain fatty acids with the food we eat. These molecules are very important for our health. These small molecules are effective in the regulation of hormones and important secretions, which we call neurotransmitters, using nerve messages in the brain-intestinal axis.
The regulation of cells and cell secretions, hormones, and some secretory molecules in the immune system is directly related to the balance of our microorganisms in our intestines. If the balance is disturbed here, you may encounter a disease wherever there is a sensitivity in your body in line with your genetic predisposition and eating habits.
The balance of our microorganisms in our intestines is mainly; affects our eating habits, exercise, and sleep. Besides these; The use of antibiotics, stomach acid regulators, antidepressants also disrupt the balance of these bacteria and cause the reproduction of the negative. If this rate disorder continues, the tight junction proteins in the intestinal epithelium stop working and the intestine starts to leak. Actually, this is what we call ‘leaky gut’. What it passes through is the toxic structure in the bacteria’s wall. When these escape into the bloodstream, the person’s genetic sensitivity is almost there; Systemic diseases such as metabolic syndrome, weight control disorders, obesity, and intestinal diseases occur. It causes complaints such as gas, bloating, burning, or constipation in the abdomen after eating. When hormonal release and secretions are affected; Neurodegenerative diseases such as anxiety, depression, panic attack disorders, autistic spectrum disorder, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s may also occur.
Is it possible to strengthen our immune system by protecting our intestinal health? Can we be protected from diseases thanks to healthy intestines?
We are absolutely protected. The main system of immune system works in the intestines. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues with all its intensity. The severity of the disease is related to the strength of our immune system as well as the virus. Some of our patients survive the COVID-19 infection without symptoms, some with moderate symptoms, some with severe symptoms. Studies conducted; show that in people with balanced intestinal microbiota, this balance also provides the balance of lung microbiota, in this group, the immune system easily eliminates this microorganism, and patients do not even have symptoms.
How should we be fed during the pandemic period? What should we pay attention to protect our intestinal health?
Our microbiota; does not like sugar, unqualified carbohydrates, saturated fats such as margarine, unqualified oils. When we take these, microorganisms that we do not like increase. It is also useful to stay away from packaged foods as much as possible.
Mediterranean type of diet is also beneficial for our intestinal health. Microbiota loves fibrous foods such as vegetables and fruits, especially dark ones such as pomegranates, black carrots, and beets. Protein should also be preferred within the limits of healthy consumption. Fish should be a priority as meat. While consuming red meat, vegetables should be consumed at the rate of 3 to 1. So if we are eating 100 grams of meat, we should consume 300 grams of vegetables.
Fruit consumption is also required, provided it is controlled. If a kilogram of fruit is consumed while saying that I will take vitamin C, excess sugar will be taken. It is sufficient for an adult to consume two servings of fruit a day.
A cold-pressed olive oil, qualified butter, coconut oil, avocado oil should be preferred. Think of the body as a machine, it needs to put some fuel in it for the machine to work properly. For the immune system to work properly, qualified oils should be consumed.
A quality yogurt prepared at home can be preferred. We don’t highly recommend drinking cow’s milk; because the casein protein in it can cause food sensitivity. When this protein enters yogurt, its structure becomes more tolerable with the bacteria that make up the yogurt.
Plenty of water, good sleep, and exercise; are also essential for health. Since walking in the fresh air is an activity that combines movement and oxygen, it balances the functioning of cells.
What are prebiotics and probiotics? Should everyone use these products?
Prebiotics are the structures we get from natural foods, especially fibrous carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruits. Inulin; is a carbohydrate fiber that does not break down. Since this fiber is not broken down, it forms a nest-like structure when it enters the intestine. Good bacteria settle here easily. There are commercial forms of prebiotic made this way; most of these contain inulin. We need to use these commercial preparations because probiotic bacteria cannot be colonized with food in some people. Besides these; breast milk also shows prebiotic properties.
Onion, garlic, leek, cabbage, artichoke, banana, strawberry, pineapple, raspberry are good enough foods for prebiotics. Apple has another feature. Apple contains a substance called ‘quercetin’. This is a highly recommended protective support in the COVID-19 period. Foods with antioxidant properties, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D are very important in supporting the immune system, especially in this period.
Probiotics are supplements sold in commercial forms that are mainly used to support the health condition and immune system, from those of bacteria that have been medically identified down to the genus, species, and strain code. Yogurt is not probiotic. Yogurt is a good fermented product. Fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles, and cheese are important for a healthy life.
We have an organization named “Microbiota and Probiotic Association” working in this field. Our main goal here is; To assist legal and ethical regulations of microbiome analysis and the correct use of probiotics in our country. Probiotics are not products that can be used by one’s going to pick one from the shelf. Different bacteria cause different effects. For this reason, they should be used individually under the control of an expert.
What is gut microbiome analysis, how is it done? What is the contribution of having this analysis to our health?
There are billions of bacteria in our intestines. It is not easy to analyze this. This analysis is a metagenomic study, highly complex, and requires experience to do. Meta; Deciphering the genomes of our bacteria in the gut, which means very large, complex, complex, means to extract our intestinal bacteria map. In the analysis, the DNA of the bacteria is studied. Feces are used as a material. No invasive procedure is applied to the patient. After the DNA is obtained from the stool with special methods, the microbiome analysis of the person is evaluated with special genome analysis studies followed by bioinformatic analysis. Microbiome analyzes are very useful when conducted under the control and evaluation of experienced physicians.
Intestinal microbiome analysis provides the opportunity to take precautions before the disease develops. Power is very important in terms of preventive medicine. As a result of the analysis, it can be said that the person is susceptible to chronic inflammatory-based disease with his microbiome profile before he gets sick. With intestinal microbiome analysis; The eating pattern of the person, the most appropriate probiotic recommendation, and prebiotic support for the regulation of the current imbalance can be planned most accurately. Intestinal microbiome analysis is one of the most important strengths of personalized medicine and preventive medicine. It seems that the code in our intestines, which is the main structure of the most up-to-date and most interesting health support programs of medicine, will open many more doors.