By Dr. Deedra Mason, Director of Clinical Education and Research

The gut plays a central role in supporting immunity, the bodies’ tissues of detoxification and even mental acuity. There is simply no getting around the importance of supporting the gut.

Regardless of your age, the gut plays a role in your response to stressors, both physical and mental. One physical aspect often overlooked is our ability to manage seasonal and environmental triggers for allergies. With spring upon us, maybe it is time to go beyond “a cleanse” for spring-cleaning and consider building up our arsenal for spring-defense.

When the body feels overwhelmed by its environment it tends to be weaker at defending itself. Sometime the environmental triggers are that much more insulting because we are not getting good sleep or our dietary intake is less than optimal. Sometimes, and this has a huge impact on the gut, we are not managing our emotional stress.

Where can you start?

Sleep and functional nutrients are two important components to consider for your functional approach to seasonal wellness.

An essential step toward better health is a better night’s sleep. Restorative sleep beats out diet, hands down! Lack of sleep or chronic “poor sleep” puts a strain on your immune function and the ability to mount a response under this physiologic stress. Studies show lack of sleep goes well beyond just feeling grumpy or not being the best colleague at work. In fact, sleep deprivation can have a significant effect on your ability to attack what the season throws at you. Do not forget that immunity starts with the gut!

When you cannot eliminate environmental triggers, trigger the power of nature with nutritional support. Immune boosting components found in our foods include pre- and probiotics from fermentable foods or functional starches. Don’t like fermented vegetables? Then a trip to the farmers market is in order. Vegetables that have not been irradiated and have been gently washed can be a great source of probiotics. In fact, adding in a local farmer’s asparagus, onions and garlic can be a significant step towards better health. Add inulin or seeds, too. All are ways to get the prebiotic into the gut for the probiotics do the heavy lifting!

A simple solution of probiotic diversity can make a big difference in your body’s response to environmental stressors. Probiotics can be supportive to recolonize the beneficial microbes.

Vitamin and beta-glucan combinations are also beneficial to the gut, to innate immunity and to overall defense against environmental stressors.

Filling your plate with colorful vegetables and essential fats can provide zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D which are all supportive of a healthy immune response and have a wide range of other health benefits. Vitamin C, minerals like zinc, and fat-soluble nutrients like beta-carotene and vitamin D provide nutrient and antioxidant protection. A multinutrient approach strengthens the immune system and is a key player in the body’s response to allergenic triggers. One of the best things you can do is get enough vegetables to assist your day-to-day immune challenges.

Beta-glucans from mushrooms or other glucan-rich options like oats, algae, seaweed and aloe vera can be just what the doctor ordered. Beta-glucans are not only nutrient dense, but are also specifically beneficial in the case of seasonal and environmental triggers that may lead to immune compromise. Beta-glucans offer a source of polysaccharides, which are the primary fuel for beneficial microorganisms that support immunity and help your body mount a defense against seasonal triggers.

Natural ways to address allergic triggers offer a long-term solution from season to season. Support on a daily basis provides assurance that health challenges down the road will be considerably less.