Every day, pathogens like infectious bacteria, viruses, and toxins threaten your health—and in today’s global climate, we need to be extra vigilant against them.1 Specialized immune cells are always on patrol, ready to detect these harmful invaders and eliminate them. Once your immune system identifies the threat, it mounts an appropriate immune response to defeat health-robbing pathogens and restore balance to the body.2
But that’s only when immunity is working properly.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are an increasing number of factors and environmental impacts that can throw your immune system out of balance.
One emerging factor that’s proving to play a major role in immune function is your microbiome—the population of microbes that colonize your gut and other areas of the body. The truth is, your immune system can’t function properly or completely, without assistance from the good bacteria in your gut.
And it doesn’t take a lot to shift your microbiome from a healthy balance of friendly flora, to an overgrowth of harmful microbes.
The Gut-Immune Connection
70% of your immune system is located in your gut, and the microbes that live there have significant influence on your immune responses. When your gut microbiome is healthy, friendly bacteria (aka probiotics) are more prevalent than harmful microbes like pathogenic bacteria and fungi, leading to numerous benefits throughout the body.3
Friendly flora in your GI tract work to help bolster your immune system, and supply it with supportive nutrients and compounds. But when unhealthy microbes outnumber the friendly flora, your gut microbiome falls into a state of dysbiosis and inflammation, with negative consequences on your health—starting with your immune system.
Gut dysbiosis is an increasingly common problem, and can trigger immune overreactions and further inflammation, even autoimmune conditions.4 On the other hand, such an imbalance can also suppress your immune system, making you vulnerable to infections, cancer and other conditions.
The truth is, your gut microbiome faces a barrage of common assaults on a regular basis. Many of these triggers are linked directly to increasingly common health problems, like cancer and metabolic diseases. Understanding how these threats disrupt the gut and microbiome health can help guide therapeutic strategies to defend immunity and long-term health.
7 Gut Disruptors That Harm Your Immune System
Gut dysbiosis can significantly impair healthy immune responses. 5 Numerous everyday factors can work against a healthy gut microbiome and immune system, leaving you extra vulnerable to infections.
Major offenders include:
1. Antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), beta-blockers, and antidepressants—These Rx drugs, and many others, are shown to disrupt healthy microbial populations and cause dysbiosis, even after a single dose.6
2. Pesticides, including glyphosate,7 destroy beneficial bacteria, and allow pathogens to dominate the microbiome.8
3. Processed foods, refined sugars, and trans fats encourage pathogen growth in the gut.9
4. Chronic stress impacts your microbiome via the gut-brain axis.10Stress and anxiety cause dysbiosis, and dysbiosis increases inflammation and emotional stress, creating a destructive cycle.11
5. Environmental toxins, household cleaning products, heavy metals and other common pollutants can negatively alter the gut microbiome.12
6. Sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity can increase the populations of harmful bacteria and reduce healthy microbiome diversity in the gut, contributing to increased risk of diseases and infections.13
7. Poor sleep habits and lack of sleep can also cause dysbiosis, inflammation and reduced immune capacity.14-16
Any one of these common threats can disrupt your microbiome, and as a result, your immune function. Chances are, you’re dealing with at least a few.
How Microbiome Imbalance Derails Immune Function—And How to Get it Back on Track
Dysbiosis hinders healthy immune activity in several ways.
Pathogens like bad bacteria produce damaging toxins, including those called lipopolysaccharides (LPS toxins). Both the bad bacteria and their toxins attack the lining of your intestines—aka the gut barrier.
The barrier’s job is to allow nutrients to pass into the bloodstream, while keeping invaders and toxins inside the gut. But when pathogens, their toxic byproducts, and other toxins are present in high numbers in the gut, they can inflame and damage the gut lining and leak into the bloodstream.17
Your immune system detects these invaders and mounts an inflammatory attack. But with the leak ongoing, the inflammatory immune response is ongoing too. This can lead to long-term inflammation throughout your entire body and over time, immune dysregulation that causes autoimmune and other chronic inflammatory conditions.
But that’s not all. An overgrowth of harmful microbes in the gut prevents good bacteria from thriving, leaving you with essential protective benefits for the immune system.
Healthy gut microbes play an essential role in optimal immune function by:
· Breaking down food and increasing nutrient absorption18
· Manufacturing essential nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K19
· Manufacturing short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that support healthy immune function20
· Producing anti-inflammatory compounds21
· Protecting against an overgrowth of pathogens22
· Supporting gut barrier strength and integrity23
By rebalancing your gut microbiome and allowing beneficial microbes to flourish, you can help get your immune system back on track—and experience a wealth of additional benefits for overall health and vitality.
5 Steps to Rebalance Your Gut—AND Your Immune System
1. Gentle GI cleansing and detox: For probiotic bacteria to flourish, you need to avoid and safely eliminate common toxins that threaten them. In my practice, I recommend clinically proven, gentle, natural detoxifying formulas such as modified citrus pectin and alginates, to help your body get rid of those culprits that cause dysbiosis. These powerful binding agents also support GI health by offering prebiotic nourishment to good bacteria.
2. Probiotics: Live strain probiotic supplements can help restore balance in your gut microbiome. Feeding your body a fresh supply of probiotics every day is an essential strategy for keeping your gut and immune system balanced and healthy.24 In my practice, I’ve seen unparalleled digestive healing results using an organic, fermented liquid probiotic formula with digestive herbs and prebiotics.
3. Prebiotics: Healthy bacteria need nutrients too, known as prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics nourish and energize probiotics, and give them the building blocks they need to produce beneficial compounds like SCFAs.25
4. Diet: The standard American diet (SAD) does no good for your microbiome. For optimal gut health and microbiome balance, emphasize unprocessed Whole Foods that provide the nutrients and prebiotic fiber your gut needs to stay in healthy balance.26
5. Exercise: Research shows that physical activity helps increase healthy bacterial populations and promotes microbiome diversity— with numerous additional benefits for long-term health. 27
A healthy microbiome and a robust, balanced immune system form the foundation for long-term health and protection against infection and chronic diseases. These strategies outlined above can help you achieve optimal vitality while providing essential protection for long-term health and wellness.
 Brower JL. The Threat and Response to Infectious Diseases (Revised). Microb Ecol. 2018;76(1):19-36.
 Furman D, Davis MM. New approaches to understanding the immune response to vaccination and infection. Vaccine. 2015;33(40):5271-5281. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2015.06.117
 Dong L. Gut Microbiota and Immune Responses. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1238:165-193.
 de Oliveira GLV, Leite AZ, Higuchi BS, Gonzaga MI, Mariano VS. Intestinal dysbiosis and probiotic applications in autoimmune diseases. Immunology. 2017;152(1):1-12. doi:10.1111/imm.12765
 Lazar V, Ditu LM, Pircalabioru GG, et al. Aspects of Gut Microbiota and Immune System Interactions in Infectious Diseases, Immunopathology, and Cancer. Front Immunol. 2018;9:1830.
 Vich Vila A, Collij V, Sanna S, et al. Impact of commonly used drugs on the composition and metabolic function of the gut microbiota. Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):362.
 Rueda-Ruzafa L. Gut microbiota and neurological effects of glyphosate. Neurotoxicology. 2019 Dec;75:1-8.
 Liang Y, Zhan J, Liu D, et al. Organophosphorus pesticide chlorpyrifos intake promotes obesity and insulin resistance through impacting gut and gut microbiota. Microbiome. 2019;7(1):19.
 Zinöcker MK, Lindseth IA. The Western Diet-Microbiome-Host Interaction and Its Role in Metabolic Disease. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):365.
 Karl JP, Hatch AM, Arcidiacono SM, et al. Effects of Psychological, Environmental and Physical Stressors on the Gut Microbiota. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:2013.
 Liu RT. The microbiome as a novel paradigm in studying stress and mental health. Am Psychol. 2017;72(7):655-667.
 Tu P, Chi L, Bodnar W, et al. Gut Microbiome Toxicity: Connecting the Environment and Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases. Toxics. 2020;8(1):19.
 Bressa C, Bailén-Andrino M, et al. (2017) Differences in gut microbiota profile between women with active lifestyle and sedentary women. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0171352.
 Benedict C, Vogel H, Jonas W, et al. Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Mol Metab. 2016;5(12):1175-1186.
 Smith RP, Easson C, Lyle SM, et al. Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLoS One. 2019;14(10):e0222394.
 SA Gharib, MD et al. Transcriptional Signatures of Sleep Duration Discordance in Monozygotic Twins. Sleep, January 2017
 Ghosh SS, Wang J, Yannie PJ, Ghosh S. Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction, LPS Translocation, and Disease Development. J Endocr Soc. 2020;4(2):bvz039.
 Rowland I, Gibson G, Heinken A, et al. Gut microbiota functions: metabolism of nutrients and other food components. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(1):1-24. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1445-8
 Morowitz MJ, Carlisle EM, Alverdy JC. Contributions of intestinal bacteria to nutrition and metabolism in the critically ill. Surg Clin North Am. 2011;91(4):771-viii. doi:10.1016/j.suc.2011.05.001
 Corrêa-Oliveira R, Fachi JL, Vieira A, Sato FT, Vinolo MA. Regulation of immune cell function by short-chain fatty acids. Clin Transl Immunology. 2016;5(4):e73. Published 2016 Apr 22. doi:10.1038/cti.2016.17
 Lobionda S, Sittipo P, Kwon HY, Lee YK. The Role of Gut Microbiota in Intestinal Inflammation with Respect to Diet and Extrinsic Stressors. Microorganisms. 2019;7(8):271.
 Jandhyala SM, Talukdar R, Subramanyam C, Vuyyuru H, Sasikala M, Nageshwar Reddy D. Role of the normal gut microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21(29):8787-8803. doi:10.3748/wjg.v21.i29.8787
 Hiippala K, Jouhten H, Ronkainen A, et al. The Potential of Gut Commensals in Reinforcing Intestinal Barrier Function and Alleviating Inflammation. Nutrients. 2018;10(8):988.
 Linares DM, Ross P, Stanton C. Beneficial Microbes: The pharmacy in the gut. Bioengineered. 2016;7(1):11-20. doi:10.1080/21655979.2015.1126015
 Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019;8(3):92.
 Miclotte L, Van de Wiele, T. Food processing, gut microbiota and the globesity problem. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2020;60:11, 1769-1782.
 Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:3831972.