Close this search box.
Close this search box.
Research shows that people over 100 have healthier guts compared to those who die sooner. A balanced diet is important for gut health. (Pixabay)

Immune Health Expert Explains How Gut, Heart, and Brain Health Are All Inter-Related

Datis Kharrazian answers our pressing questions on how to build a strong immune system.

An award-winning research scientist and functional medicine provider, Dr. Datis Kharrazian is knowledgeable about autoimmune diseases in part because of his intimate understanding of immune health.

Most Americans are metabolically unhealthy, he explained. Despite that being a risk factor for more severe COVID-19 infections, the pandemic did little to change how we address personal health. That’s because most people lack the motivation to do anything until their symptomatic pain exceeds their perceived pain for fixing their health, he said.

(Courtesy of Datis Kharrazian)

Immune health gets harder as we age, but it’s never too late to address it. Dr. Kharrazian shared some bite-size wisdom for better resilience, energy, heart health, and brain health when we focus on immunity.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

American Essence: Is there one common underlying cause for weakened immunity?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Not exactly, although perhaps you could point a finger at the standard American diet and industrialized lifestyle. More specifically, high blood sugar and insulin resistance, poor nutritional status, low vitamin D, low glutathione, poor gut health, obesity, and endotoxemia—when pathogenic bacteria escape through an inflamed gut wall into the bloodstream—are outcomes of most Western diets.

Start your immune health journey by choosing to eat healthily. (Pixabay)

AE: What is the connection between our immune system and autoimmunity?
Dr. Kharrazian: Multiple factors can trigger autoimmunity, including genetic predisposition, but clinically we see inflammatory triggers make people more vulnerable. These include ignoring food sensitivities and eating a diet high in starches, sugars, and processed foods and low in nutritional quality. Infections can trigger autoimmunity, as can chronically high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and environmental toxins.

AE: Why are you interested in non-pharmaceutical approaches to autoimmune conditions?
Dr. Kharrazian: If people can understand what’s causing symptoms, evidence-based diet and lifestyle strategies may slow or even stop the progression of the autoimmunity. This doesn’t mean they might not need medication. But by using non-pharmaceutical strategies to dampen inflammation and regulate immunity, many people can largely resolve symptoms and improve general health.

Getting good sleep is a critical part of building a strong immune system. (Unsplash)

AE: How is immunity related to brain function?
Dr. Kharrazian: Chronic systemic inflammation often leads to brain inflammation, which causes symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, depression, and lack of motivation. Additionally, we see, clinically and in the research, correlations between poor gut health and poor brain health. Brain inflammation has been shown to promote neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, so it’s vital to take inflammation seriously.

AE: What are some steps to regulate our immunity well?
Dr. Kharrazian: Sleep is underrated when it comes to immunity, yet it is probably the most important factor. Eat enough protein (about one gram per pound of body weight), and drink about one ounce of water per pound of body weight. Exercise releases multiple beneficial compounds that support immune resilience. Ensure you are sufficient in vitamin D and glutathione, track your blood sugar to ensure you are not insulin resistant, and deal with your gut health. Of course, eat healthy—skip the fast foods, desserts, and processed foods. There are tons of strategies, and most of them are not in a supplement store.

From March Issue, Volume IV