Digestive Immunity

Digestive system anatomy



The most crucial area in our body with regard to our general immunity lies in the digestive tract. Up to 80% of our immune system is located there.

Our food is laden with bacteria, molds, yeasts and viruses. Cooking destroys almost all pathogens, but cooked food is often contaminated by molds in the air, or bacteria and viruses acquired after cooking. Raw food is naturally more “alive” with life of all sorts. The old saying “you have to eat a peck of dirt ……” illustrated what we now know to be true; that is in many cases, we get stronger from being exposed to a number of these environmental pathogens.

Healthy Small Intestine

When we are healthy, the naturally occurring acid in the stomach kills a great number of pathogens. Unfortunately however, much of our modern food and way of life produces gastric symptoms which we treat with antacids and medication to block acid production. Not only does the use of antacids negatively impact on our ability to digest protein, but it also allows many more pathogens to pass into our small intestine; a very permeable area designed to absorb our food and thus is vulnerable to infections.

The healthy small intestine contains a number of front-line defense systems. The small intestine is rather like a skin inside our body, designed to protect us from pathogens. This outer layer consists of mucus, produced by special cells (green below) lining the digestive tract.

Mucus creates a physical barrier and offers two bonuses.The mucus layer supports friendly bacteria ([probiotics = pro-life), which create a physical barrier against bacteria, yeasts, and viruses, and, which offer a wide range of other benefits. Nestled within the folds of the small intestine, lie lymph glands which are a critical part of our innate immunity.

Normal small intestine Nests of immune cells- click for audio Villus - please click for audio Villus - click for audio Villus - click for audio explanation

The mucus layer provides a place in which immunoglobulins (nonspecific antiviral and antibacterial substances created by immune cells in the intestinal wall) lie in wait for pathogens which have managed to penetrate the probiotic layer.

The walls of the small intestine are rich in macrophages, neutrophils, plasma cells and other immune functioning cells. Sometimes however, bacteria or viruses can overwhelm these defenses and we become ill. The degree of our resistance to these pathogens depends almost entirely on our innate immunity. Acquired immunity plays a very small role in the small intestine.

Factors Which Impair Digestive Immunity

1.Decreased Probiotic support lowers immunity and is caused by:

Chlorine in drinking water decreases beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Concentrated chlorine, as in a swimming pool, kills all bacteria.

Antibiotics:-studies have shown that taking a course of antibiotics leaves the intestine virtually bare of beneficial bacteria. Many people will get a yeast infection following a course of antibiotics. Women frequently get a vaginal yeast infection after a course of oral antibiotics.

Another condition, especially dangerous for some people who receive antibiotics, is the growth of another bacteria, Clostridium dificile. This bacterial overgrowth can be life-threatening and, in my opinion, is largely preventable. Taking probiotics during and after antibiotic therapy may reduce this risk although a diet rich in naturally fermented foods may prove to be a better option.

Similarly, children who receive a course of antibiotics for conditions like middle ear infections frequently have another infection within a few weeks of taking the antibiotic. In my opinion, the trigger for these subsequent infections is created by yeast growth in the mucus membranes in the eustachian tube and ear. Yeast infections cause a fluid discharge which provides a ripe environment for a second bacterial infection. This requires another round of antibiotics. I always encourage parents to give probiotics with the antibiotic and for some time afterward. A diet lower in dairy products,flour products and sweets, including very little apple, grape or orange juice, can reduce the risk of further infections. This approach assists the body in resisting yeast growth, and thus resist further infections.

Antibiotics may also found in some samples of cows milk, beef, pork, poultry and farmed fish. There is some concern that eating these foods creates both a possibility for us to acquire antibiotic resistant organisms, and allergies. The ingestion of food which contains antibiotics is also thought to increase the possibility of promoting a yeast condition. (See Candidiasis). Eating organic meats, fish and poultry likely reduces this risk.

Excess simple sugars and alcohol in the diet encourage yeast (Candida) growth. Candida albicans produces chemical factors which are antibacterial, reducing friendly bacteria, which results in diminished immunity.

2. Immunity will be compromised if the mucus layer is thinned by the following:

a) NSAIDs (diclofenac -Advil and Motrin, aspirin and naproxen)-medications commonly used to reduce fever, inflammation and pain, have a dramatic effect turning off, or markedly reducing, the ability of the mucus cells in the intestine to produce effective mucus. This illustration shows a markedly thinned mucus layer (turquoise) which allows yeasts (brown blobs) access to invade the villi. With a thinned mucus layer, the intestine is vulnerable to damage (gastric and duodenal ulcers), and cannot support an effective probiotic layer.

b) Illness like gastroenteritis or food poisoning may decrease the mucus layer.

c) Alcohol and coffee may be a problem for some people. Alcohol, especially wine and beer, tends to promote yeast (Candida) growth. Coffee enhances intestinal peristalsis and may promote cramps and ulcers. The birth control pill seems to increase susceptibility to yeast infections. Prednisone, used for treating inflammatory conditions including asthma, is also a promoter of yeast infections.

Factors which Promote Digestive Immunity


  • use spring or filtered water

  • use lots of good quality, preferably organic, fresh vegetables, cooked and raw, include some fruit

  • if possible always use organic products

  • try to include some beans and legumes for protein, instead of meat

  • cook whole grains and whole-grain pastas. Use whole-grain, preferably sourdough, bread

  • use meats and dairy products in moderation. Some people will do best when they completely eliminate cow milk products from their diets, with the exception of butter. Goat or sheep milk is often an acceptable alternative.

  • restrict simple sugars and alcohol

    Humic acids in the form of Ion Biome (TM)  can have a huge benefit in restoring gut integrity, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of allergies and auto-immunity.

Some people with digestive problems may benefit by eliminating wheat, because it easily breaks down into simple sugars, which can promote Candida overgrowth, resulting in intestinal gas and bloating. Others may need to eliminate gluten completely. For more information about a diet to help deal with Candida, please see Preliminary Candida diet.

Eat a good balanced breakfast. It really does keep you going through the day, helping to reduce the afternoon carb binges and helps to reduce weight.

Lifestyle Issues which Promote Digestive Health

  • try to eat your larger meal in the middle of the day. Eat lightly at supper. Protein eaten later in the day stresses the body. Larger meals later in the day interfere with restful sleep.

  • cook on the stove and use the oven. Don't use the microwave. Microwaves may be harmful and they are thought to alter the shape of proteins rendering them more difficult to digest

  • relax when you eat. Avoid disturbing distractions.

  • chew well - aim for 30 chews per mouthful

  • during the meal, restrict drinking in excess, even water. Drink enough good quality water between meals.

  • exercise. Moderate exercise such as walking daily, helps a great deal.

  • sleep is important. Try to get six to eight hours nightly.

  • attitude. Happy contented people have fewer illnesses

Supplements to support Digestive Immunity

  1. Take probiotics daily.

Having adequate intestinal friendly bacteria gives a tremendous assist to innate immunity. Traditional cultures that have people who live a long time have always eaten foods that contain probiotics, like yogurt, sauerkraut (middle Europe),miso and pickles, (Japan) and tempeh (Indonesia).

Without doubt, the best approach to gut health and a healthy biome is a diet rich in naturally fermented foods. Before purchasing check to make sure they are live - not heated or pasturised, not prepared with white vinegar or have the bacteria killed with sodium benzoate, methyl paraben, BHA or BHT.  These include:

fermented vegetables - sauerkraut, olives, kimchee, dill pickes

fermented grains - kombucha, rice vinegar

fermented beans - miso, natto

fermented dairy - unpasturized yoghrt, quark

fermented fruits - vinegars from apple

Some experts are now discouraging the use of daily probiotics, turning instead to these fermented foods and pre-biotics (food derivatives which encourage the natural growth of beneficial bacteria).

The following advice regarding the daily use of probiotics was current a few years ago but has now been called into question by recent understanding.

Most of the food we consume has no live beneficial bacteria. Even yogurt, unless it is specifically created with human probiotics is of no benefit. Supplementing with high-quality acidophilus, bifidus and other friendly bacteria has been shown to increase immunity not only in the intestine but also through the whole body. Recent studies have shown a benefit in treating irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis with daily probiotics.

Please buy your probiotics from a store where they are kept cold or order them from a reputable company where they are kept fresh and shipped quickly. Keep your probiotics in the fridge. Most types of probiotic bacteria die rapidly when warm. Always take extra probiotics during and after using an antibiotic (perhaps for as long as one month).

2. Take a diet rich in micronutients

Every cell in our body requires a wide range of nutrients. For health, we require both a balance of macro nutrients (protein, fats, and carbs) as well as a smattering of micro nutrients ( boron, silica, manganese, zinc, etc.). However, with modern "chemical" farming practices, the nutrients in the average diet are thought, by many scientists, to be deficient.

In addition, many of the "nutritional supplements" which are currently offered for sale have been produced in a chemical laboratory. Our body may perceive these supplements as chemicals and, in many cases, cannot use them, or hamper their usefulness by only partial effectiveness.

By contrast, food, especially those organically farmed contain a much wider range of micronutients which your body can use to support your health. If you feel you can't eat well enough to include a range of micronutients, one approach is to include a supplement of micronutients crafted in a new way to make them easy to absorb and utilize.

Another group of foods rich in micronutrients are the sea algae: kelp, nori, kombu, hijiki, and arame. Including these in your diet is very beneficial. As a tablet, they are also available, combined in Wachter's Sea Vegitation #22B which I highly recommend as a daily addition. I have been assured that they were harvested prior to the Japanse nuclear accident and are routinely tested for radiation.


One of the family of foods richest in mineral micronutients is known collectively as blue-green algae. This family of edible algae comes from three different sources.

1.Spirulina-a spiral shaped blue-green algae growing in Japan and Hawaii.

2.Chlorella-another farmed algae mostly from Hawaii which has a tough outer shell which needs to be ruptured prior to eating.

3. Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), a wild crafted algae growing wild in a lake. It thrives, pure and contaminant-free, nourished by the volcanic sediment rich water, in the mountains of Oregon.

All these algae are fine sources of mineral micronutients as well as being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, chlorophyll and a blue pigment, phycocyanin. This remarkable blue substance, found predominantly in AFA, has been demonstrated to have a number of health benefits, including being, what investigators think may be an anti-cancer agent. Phycocyanin may also promote stem cell migration to sites in the body where immune defenses or regeneration is required. In my practice, I have seen very impressive results with many patients who have used AFA. It is also the algae which I and my family have eaten since the mid-80's and continue to eat daily.

Which blue-green algae should you use? I strongly recommend AFA from Upper Klamath Lake. Click here for more information on this wonderful food.

What follows may be the most important discovery in decades for improving our immunity.

Include a beta-glucan supplement on a daily basis.

Beta-glucan is a simple, highly purified, complex carbohydrate, derived from food grade baker's yeast. It provides a safe and extremely effective boost for immunity.

Traditional healers in the East have known about beta-glucans for a long time. Reishi mushroomThey are found in the cell wall of many of the mushrooms, (reishi, shitaki), traditionally used as immune boosting supplements. Beta-glucans are also found in yeast and grains like wheat and oats. When cooked, grain beta-glucans produce the thickening in sauces and gravy. Beta-glucan is a complex carbohydrate; built out of simple sugar molecules, much the same way as cellulose. It does not contribute in any way to problems with sugar intake nor will it harm those with diabetes.

In the 90’s, a patented process was developed so that beta-glucan could be more successfully delivered intact to the small intestine. Previously, beta-glucan, because it is like a starch, was subject to digestion, making the immune benefits of eating mushrooms less significant.

Beta-glucan Description:

WGP beta-glucan This new patented product is derived from the highly purified cell wall of baker's yeast. Baker's yeast cellsIt has been of extraordinary benefit to many of my patients who, when they take it daily, have experienced a reduction in the number of viral illnesses, an improvement in energy and well-being, and a reduction in Candida problems. It has helped many of my patients clear up illnesses, both bacterial and viral, more rapidly than would have been expected. It can safely and effectively be used at the same time as an antibiotic. It is currently being researched as an adjunct in cancer therapy. During the anthrax scare, the Canadian military tested WGP beta-glucan™ and found it extremely effective in preventing anthrax infections.

How Does WGP beta-glucan™ Work?

The islands of lymph tissue in the small intestine are programmed to look out for yeast and to defend against it. WGP beta-glucan™ fools the immune system into thinking that immunity is in jeopardy, thus waking it up. When ordinary yeast is present in the intestine, the macrophages in the lymph islands become activated to defend against an invasion.

In a usual yeast invasion, whole, live, yeast cells which includes protein, chitin, and carbohydrate, are identified by the lymph tissue in the small intestine where specialized receptors pass the information to macrophages and neutrophils. These white blood cells become much more active, greatly enhancing immune surveillance.

WGP beta-glucan™ gives the immune system in the intestine the signal that a yeast invader is coming. WGP beta-glucan™ does this because it contains the highly purified sugar molecules whose physical shape the receptors are designed to identify as yeast (and thus a likely pathogen = danger).

These receptors take in the WGP beta-glucan™ which is transported to local macrophages and neutrophils. They in turn activate other local macrophages and neutrophils. Thus local immune surveillance is ramped up. Part of this increased activity involves making the white blood cells (killer T cells) more able to travel to areas of trouble and rapidly deal with infection. Another benefit is that the turned on neutrophils travel quickly through the body, reaching distant lymph tissue in a matter of minutes, and waking it up too.

The body does not appear to tire of this wake up. Clinical experience has demonstrated that people can use WGP beta-glucan™ every day for years without the benefit diminishing.

How to take WGP™Beta-glucan

This beta-glucan is usually supplied in 250 mg. capsules. In order for it to work as an immune support it must be taken on an empty stomach (at least two hours after eating or 1/2 hr before food). One capsule per day is usually enough to give support to most people.

In the case of an impending illness, or when illness is already established, up to three may be taken spaced out through the day. More will not be of benefit but will not be harmful either. It may safely be taken be people of all ages including children (who can take part of a capsule stirred into a non-fibre food like yogurt).

It may be combined with any non fibre food (like yogurt or cheese), or a clear juice. It may be taken concurrently with an antibiotic when it will speed healing. It will not interfere with an antiviral medication.

People with severe yeast allergies may be intolerant. Please do not confuse regular beta-glucan with WGP™ beta-glucan Please refer to the page dedicated to this issue for more information.

Please click here if you would like to order WGP™ Beta-glucan

Please read on to learn more about respiratory immunity, Next.