Your gut is the gateway to health—including your immune system.
I’ve learned this first-hand, and in this article, share 10 small hacks that can make a big difference in improving your gut health and immune system too.
Winning the COVID-19 War…Starts in Your Gut: My Story
I didn’t think it would happen to me.
After all, I am a healthcare practitioner and uber-health conscious. I check all the boxes.
I drink celery juice every morning.
I workout daily.
I drink water.
I sleep 7-8 hours every night.
I don’t eat gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, processed foods, wheat, even eggs.
The thing is…it did happen. I am still immunocompromised. With a history of autoimmune disease, Lyme disease, and long-term experience of gut issues (colitis, constipation, dysbiosis, IBS), the cards were stacked against my gut health for at least 20 years.
And, when the coronavirus came around, I got sick: 100-degree fever, fatigue, chest tightness, air hunger, shortness of breath, diarrhea.
I never get sick like that.
Everything happened a couple of weeks before COVID-19 was really on anyone’s radar in the States. I saw 3 doctors and had 2 ER visits within a span of 2 weeks.
“There’s nothing we can do.”
No one would test me. I had all the signs. I just had not traveled out of the country—meaning I didn’t meet the testing criteria at the time. I was left to manage it on my own.
The good news: when given the right tools, the body innately wants to fight and heal itself.
Repeat: when given the right tools, the body (and your gut biome) innately wants to fight and heal itself.
Thankfully, I caught it early.
To treat it: I turned to the primary tools with which I had been trained—nutrition, gut health, and immunity. It was not a cake walk. I thought about breathing every waking moment. Walking up stairs and prepping food felt like a chore. But with consistency in giving my body the right tools (10 Simple Gut-Boosting Hacks) my body fought—hard.
Today, I feel 110% better.
My first-hand experience was a huge wakeup call to what the power of our gut microbiome health can do for us and our immune system when we give it the right tools.
Feel like there’s not much more you can do than take vitamin C and wear a surgical mask? Think again.
Gradually incorporate these 10 hacks—one at a time—and you will be amazed.
10 Clinically-Tested Gut Hacks to Boost Your Immunity
Water is anti-inflammatory—hydratingthe mucosal lining of the intestines to promote better balance for good bacteria in the gut. While suggested amounts differ, and everyone’s body is different, aim to drink at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water daily. So if you weigh 140 pounds, then aiming for 70 ounces—a little over 8 cups—is on the money.
#2. Eat an Anti-Viral Diet
Boost gut and immunity with a food-first mentality. Diet alone can significantly alter your gut—for the good, or the better—in as little as 3 days of a dietary change (45).
Foods to focus on in an anti-viral diet include:
Nitric oxide is an essential compound that helps promote proper blood flow and oxygenation in the body. You can find it in several foods including:
- Fermented beets
- Dark leafy greens
- Lemon, oranges, and limes
When your body is in bacterial and viral defense mode, bacteria seem to benefit from a lack of sugar. Avoiding sugar or high amounts of glucose during illness pushes the body to metabolize fat instead, generating chemicals called ketones to fight bacterial inflammation (46). No, this doesn’t mean you need to go on a ketogenic or anti-carb diet, but keep your starches in a low-moderate range (1 to 2 servings) to quiet down dysbiosis.
Prebiotic fibers (and ditch most grains, gluten, and wheat for now)
When you do eat starch, choose prebiotic fibers—fiber that feeds beneficial (healthy) probiotic bacteria and stimulates the production of anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids in the gut. Most processed grains, gluten, and wheat, on the other hand—such as Cheerios, Wonder Bread, corn tortillas, and cereal bars—up regulate our ACE2 enzyme receptors. These are the exact same mechanisms that invite COVID-19 to come into play (47).
Some gut-friendly prebiotics include:
- Cooked and cooled new potatoes, fingerling, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes
- Green-tipped bananas and plantains
- Chicory-root and dandelion tea
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Steel cut, gluten-free oats (cooked and cooled)
- Cooked and cooled white rice
Probiotic foods have gut-loving properties, particularly strains such as Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, and multiple bifidobacterium species. These show potency in promoting viral control (48).
For example, one study in over 700 school children during flu season found that those who supplemented their diets with fermented probiotic-rich yogurt were two-thirds less likely to contract the flu than the kids who did not eat probiotic-rich foods (49). Another study in adults found that daily intake of Lactobacillus plantarum for 8 weeks naturally boosted their Th1-cell immunity, helping to combat respiratory and asthmatic conditions (50).
Incorporate one to three fork-fulls of fermented, probiotic-rich foods one to two times per day into your daily diet.
Note: kombucha is not a potent probiotic, as it is more sugar-water than anything else. Choose these instead:
- Fermented vegetables
- Coconut kefir, water kefir, goat’s milk kefir, or grass-fed cow’s milk kefir
- Full fat, grass-fed organic yogurt or Greek yogurt
- Sauerkraut (such as Farmhouse Cultures or make your own)
Eat immune-balancing foods.
Think: herbs, meat and bone broths (a la chicken noodle soup), lots of vegetables, Manuka honey, garlic, and ginger. The fresher (and well-washed) the better, but if not readily available, frozen veggies are a close second. You can also order bone broth to be delivered to your door. (Kettle & Fire is amazing and shelf stable. Use code DRLAURYN for 15% off).
#3. Take a Quality Probiotic
Not all probiotics are created equal. A vast majority of foods and supplements do not contain the probiotics they claim on the label (51). Most are overly processed, highly heated during manufacturing and shipping, or don’t survive your stomach acid to make it to your large intestine where they belong.
Here are a few vetted ones:
#4. Boost Stomach Acid
Stomach acid is essential to break down food during the initial stages of digestion and prevent dysbiosis via undigested foods down the line. In fact, the reason why many people feel bloated or experience indigestion is because they are low on stomach acid. Boost yours naturally!
- Slow down at meal times and chew your food REALLY well (until it is fully liquified).
- Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 4-8 ounces of water and swig before meals.
- Take 1-2 HCL tablets with meals*.
- *Do not take HCL if you are currently on a corticosteroid, pregnant, or taking PPIs.
#5. Boost Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are also essential to breaking down food for improved digestion and less “back up” or dysbiosis in the long run. They are naturally produced by your pancreas, gallbladder, and saliva and work like the Pac-Mans in the video game Pac-Man, helping your body break down and chew your food.
Take 1-2 digestive enzymes with meals.
Practice proper food-combining techniques. Improper food combining can cause gas, indigestion, bloating, metabolic imbalances, and eventually speed the process of aging.
- Complex starches & proteins are best eaten separately (or a smaller amount of one when combined with the other).
- Eat fruit alone or with simple foods (smoothie, yogurt, etc.)
- Pair protein with non-starchy veggies.
- Pair starches with healthy fats and vegetables.
- Leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables, herbs & spices go with everything.
- Eat a condiment-sized serving of fermented foods with meals.
- Drink water away from meals.
- Minimalist meals digest best.
#6. Break Up Bile Sludge
Bile sludge is what happens when your body’s own bile becomes thick. Bile is essential for clearing out wastes. If it becomes too thick, it makes the digestion, elimination, and detoxification of foods and toxins more difficult. Bile sludge happens from diets low in vegetables, dehydration, toxic burden, eating too fast or on the go, eating processed or takeout foods more often than eating in, and stress on the body. The good news is you can naturally increase your bile flow!
- Eat 2 to 3 servings of dark leafy greens daily.
- Incorporate more cholagogue-rich foods (apples, artichokes, beets, bitter greens, celery, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, turmeric).
- Sip peppermint and dandelion tea.
- Supplement with bile acids (especially if fat-containing foods such as salmon, ghee, and olive oil make you feel sick. Take 1-2 capsules of this with meals OR this if you’ve had your gallbladder removed.
#7. Soothe Your Gut Lining with Colostrum
Colostrum is the #1 ingredient in the first perfect food you ever ate—your mother’s milk. Colostrum can help to heal your gut by increasing the surface area of your intestinal lining, which can improve the overall absorption of nutrients and calming inflammation.
#8. Boost Your Immune Function Through Anti-Viral Gut Support
Once some of the baselines of gut-love are established, this is where turning up the volume of anti-viral immune supports can come to the rescue and really work. These include:
- High-dose buffered Vitamin C (2000-4000 mg/day)
- Elderberry Syrup (1 tbsp, 1-3 times per day)
- Liquid Vitamin A (700-900 mcg) & Vitamin D (1000-2000 IU)
- Zinc (30-50 mg/8 weeks or, if sick, then maintenance dose of 15 mg/day)
- Oregano Oil and/or Olive Leaf (1 capsule)
- Herbs: Dandelion, Ginger, Astragalus or Blend (1 dropper, 1-3 times per day)
#9. Keep Antimicrobial Herbs & Biofilm Disruptors on Hand
In the face of illness, I always keep a reinforcement supply of antimicrobial herbs and biofilm disruptors that can target pathogens and rebalance dysbiotic bacteria if necessary. Some of my top picks include:
Broad Spectrum Antimicrobial Herbs
These are best used under the guidance of a skilled practitioner who is knowledgeable in treating gut infections and dysbiosis. During my own immune battle with a viral infection, I treated it with a couple droppers of Biocidin, plus Colloidal Silver and Lauricidin and found the combination worked for me, but other combinations or formulas may work for different people.
#10. Oxygenation & Heat
Viruses and pathogens HATE oxygen and heat. They thrive in anaerobic (without oxygen) and cooler conditions. For this reason, adding oxygen and heat to your routine can significantly decrease the circulation of inflammatory reactive oxygen species (ROS), increasing your body’s cellular, bacterial, and mitochondrial functions.
This may look like:
- Infrared sauna 3-7 times per week (I LOVE this portable low cost solution)
- Ozone therapy (IV, sauna)
- Fresh air and walks daily
- Enhancing your body’s ability to breathe naturally:
- Nasal washes daily
- Anti-microbial throat spray and propolis throat spray
- Nasal saline spray and HOCL anti-bacterial spray
Boost And Build Your Gut Army
These hacks barely scratch the surface of how deep you can go in supporting your gut, but they will give you a great start.
A quote I often share with my patients is: “When given the right tools, your body innately wants to heal itself.”
A vast majority of the tools to do so start in your gut. Focus on boosting and building up your own gut-bug army, and your body will be better prepared for ANY battle.
*Disclaimer: The writings and tips in this article are not meant to be construed as personal medical advice. Consult with your personal healthcare practitioner before commencing any new supplements, medications, or dietary interventions.
Uplevel Your Gut Health
Don’t go it alone. Contact Dr. Lauryn for a complimentary 10-minute phone consult to book an appointment or learn how to reset your gut microbiome.