Gut flora has been established as an important player in keeping us healthy. This microbiome comprises more than 1,000 different species of bacteria consisting of at least 3 million genes. In addition to aiding in digestion, gut bacteria also contribute to the production of key vitamins needed for optimal immune function. But how exactly does the interplay of these agents – immunity, gut flora, and vitamins – determine how well we’re able to defend against illness? Let’s take a look.
The Microbiome & Immunity
The complex relationship between intestinal bacteria and immunity has puzzled scientists for quite some time. Generally, it is believed that the intestines and the bacteria that colonize them work together to control the body’s response to disease. But the precise mechanisms have remained unclear; specifically, scientists have wondered how our immune system allows bacteria to thrive in the intestines without attacking it. Emerging evidence suggests this is precisely where vitamin A comes in.
Vitamin A for Immune Response
Recent Brown University research suggests that moderate vitamin A levels within the intestines control immune response, preventing it from overacting. These findings could hold significant value for people suffering from autoimmune conditions, including Crohn’s disease.
In their studies, researchers discovered that gut bacteria adjust a protein that activates vitamin A in the gastrointestinal tract to regulate the host’s immune responses. While further research is still needed, these findings may hold answers to what will ultimately help control or cure certain chronic illnesses in the future. Because many of these diseases are linked to increased immune response, this discovery of the gut bacteria’s ability to suppress immune response is enlightening.
As of now, the role of vitamin A in inflammation continues to be puzzling, but in the future, scientists aim to explore why suppressing proteins that activate vitamin A is important in regulating the immune response. It’s clear that changing vitamin A levels somehow relates to inflammatory bowel conditions, which suggests that both diet and existing gut bacteria are linked to the behavior of immune cells.
In the meantime, if you’re suffering from an autoimmune condition, discussing supplements with your doctor could be a good place to start. While maintaining healthy eating habits is one powerful way to maximize your nutrient intake, the modern diet often leaves nutritional gaps. Sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, and broccoli are all rich in vitamin A, but if you’re concerned about your levels, supplements could help you compensate for any nutritional shortcomings.