Jennifer Saleh, Dietetics and Nutrition Student at KU Pembroke Pines campus

Did you know that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system? The digestive system contains the tools that help us break down that sandwich we just had for lunch or the afternoon handful of almonds, it also contains our gut flora (bacteria) that protects us from foreign invaders. When the gut flora becomes disrupted or wiped out, through antibiotic use and/or chronic stress, pathogenic (bad) bacteria have the opportunity to settle in. Your flora population can become outnumbered and over time, colonies start decreasing leaving our immune system vulnerable. It is important to take a probiotic to help repopulate your gut flora. Many companies have developed over the counter probiotic products to take as a dietary supplement. Additional food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. These fermented products contain lots of healthy bacteria to help your body function at its best.

When our gut flora is functioning optimally and breaking down the food we eat, we obtain the production of Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs). SCFAs do many great things, including increasing mitochondrial function (the powerhouse of the cell). Dietary carbohydrates, specifically resistant starches and dietary fiber, are substrates for fermentation that produce SCFAs. How can we keep our gut flora optimal and in simple terms, happy? Our flora depends on prebiotics to feed and thrive. Sources include bananas, oranges, flax seeds, oatmeal, berries, leafy greens, garlic, and onions. When you feed your gut the foods it needs to maintain optimal health, the flora stays happy and keeps your immune system well.


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