Today, I am the guest blogger on The Professional Hypochondriac website (take a peek for recipes, too!).  My post was on the power of probiotics (and prebiotics) to boost your immune system.  It’s such a fascinating topic as we are born with natural defenses to fight off foreign (disease-causing) invaders.  Food can help fortify our bodies with a greater microscopic fortress…

Whether you have svelte, six-pack abs or a slight muffin top, what’s under your gut’s exterior is vital to your overall health.  Your gut
is a powerhouse of metabolic activity, which keeps everything in your body functioning in good order. The intestines, small and large, are an active organ teeming with trillions of microscopic bacteria – some are believed to be beneficial bugs called ‘probiotics’, which serve as a strong fortress of immune-fighting defense; others are disease promoting pathogens a.k.a  germs trying to wage war inside of you every day.   Although your gut has a mind of its own, research shows that there’s a close link between your gut and the
emotional centers of your brain – so what you put in your stomach is directly connected to your mental well-being, too. Thus, what you eat can either make for a smoothly running stomach – or just the opposite: an unhappy, bloated and noisy tummy.

Eating gut-friendly fare filled with probiotics – or beneficial bacteria, maintains microbial balance and well-being in your gut.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi (Japanese pickled cabbage), contain a good amount of probiotics and fortify the lining of your intestines with immune-defending bugs like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Additionally, there are foods that feed the good bacteria causing them to propagate on a larger scale.  These foods are called ‘prebiotics’ – they are carbohydrates that are fermented in the large intestine and fuel the beneficial microflora of your gut.  Some prebiotic-rich foods include garlic, onions, wheat, and Jerusalem artichokes.  Scientific research validates prebiotics as a viable means to benefit the microflora of our guts, according to an article in the British Journal of Nutrition (2010), as they can change the composition of your gut’s ‘ecosystem’ by enabling the good bacteria to outnumber the harmful ones.

Prebiotics may also work for a leaner gut.  Promising research in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology (November, 2011) revealed that the living landscape of your gut may have the potential to fend off fat accumulation around your middle. How does this work?   When non-digestible fiber is fermented in your large intestine by masses of microorganisms they release energy, as well as fatty acids called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).  The microscopic munching has shown to potentially help increase energy release and metabolism – all good for promoting efficient use of your food for fuel, which can mean a leaner waistline for you!