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How your gut is the star player in a robust immune system

Dr Melvin Look, medical director at Panasia Surgery Group, shares how to maintain gut health.

Governments the world over are urging citizens to practise good personal hygiene by regularly washing their hands and avoiding touching their faces because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But, according to Dr Melvin Look, medical director at Panasia Surgery Group, preventive measures should also include steps to boost one’s immunity. “Not everyone exposed to the virus will be infected. People who tend to get infected are those with poorer immune systems… and not everybody realises that the gut is a very important part of the immune process,” says the 55-year- old general surgeon with sub-speciality expertise in gastrointestinal surgery.

He highlights that about 70 per cent of cells that perform the immune function live in the gut. Maintaining the integrity of its lining is key to a healthy immune system.

(Related: How to take care of brain and gut health for general well-being)

According to Dr Look, the elderly are at risk of micronutrient malnutrition as they possess an ageing gut that is unable to absorb micronutrients as effectively. They are also susceptible to a nutrient gap if their diet is calorie-dense but nutrient-poor.

Ingredients such as sugar and preservatives in processed foods are disruptive to gut health, while whole foods contain micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, iron, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, E and D that are beneficial. As such, a predominantly plant-based diet supplemented with lean meat and fish such as salmon is ideal.

When fresh produce is not readily available in times of crises, Dr Look recommends consuming minimally processed frozen produce, as canned foods are packed with preservatives. He adds, “You might also want to consider (nutritional) supplements, instead of just depending on food sources.”

(Related: Mental health wellness avenues and tips to get us through the coronavirus outbreak)