Added Dietary Fiber Improves Gut Microbiome and Health Status in Just One Week
Source: Journal Microbiome (2022)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (August 17, 2022)
We’ve all heard that dietary fiber is good for us, but two studies in 2022 have highlighted the importance of consistently getting a desirable amount of fiber each day from food and/or supplements. Essentially these two studies showed that adding more fiber to the diet of people who typically eat insufficient fiber (which is most people), significantly increased the number and diversity of gut-friendly bacteria after just one week.
This is an important finding because friendly gut bacteria metabolize certain types of fiber (soluble fiber) into a chemical called butyrate (short-chain fatty acid) that friendly gut bacteria use as a fuel, enabling them to thrive and crowd out unfriendly bacteria and potential other disease-promoting bacteria, yeast, and viruses. In the words of researcher Dr. Zach Holmes, “butyrate has been shown to improve the gut’s resistance to pathogens, lower inflammation, and create happier, healthier cells lining the host’s intestines”. As he also stated, “when your gut bugs (friendly bacteria) are happily munching on a high-fiber diet, they produce more of the short-chain fatty acids that protect you from diseases of the gut, colorectal cancers, and even obesity.
And in particular, they produce more of a fatty acid called butyrate, which is fuel for your intestinal cells themselves. Butyrate has been shown to improve the gut’s resistance to pathogens, lower inflammation, and create happier, healthier cells lining the host’s intestines. ”He went on to explain that the average American adult only consumes 20 to 40 percent of the daily recommended amount of fiber, which is believed to be a root cause behind a lot of our common health maladies, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, and colon cancer (the second leading cause of cancer death in our society).In their experiments with human subjects, they showed that increasing fiber from a variety of sources improved the gut microbiome or gut flora, which means that you can choose from a wide variety of beans, peas, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to acquire more fiber to your diet.
I personally also recommend the use of 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to many patients because it contains both cholesterol-lowering and colon cleaning fiber, and it contains phytonutrients shown to possess other cancer prevention properties. Psyllium husk fiber (Metamucil) is also a fiber source to consider, as are many fiber-enriched low-fat, low sugar, breakfast cereals and bread products (whole wheat bread, flax bread, etc.). Some people also show improved gut health and reduced intestinal complaints when they take a daily combination supplement containing digestive enzymes and prebiotics. Prebiotics include such things as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS), which are the types of dietary fiber that gut-friendly bacteria use to thrive and generate more health-promoting butyrate. These recent studies showed that people who routinely eat the least fiber from day to day saw the greatest benefit to their gut microbiome after just one week of added fiber. So, if your fiber intake has not been ideal up to now, the good news is that your gut microbiome and health status can be greatly improved within one week if you begin eating more fiber-rich foods today.
I have included the references for these studies in the text below.
1. Zachary C. Holmes, Max M. Villa, Heather K. Durand, Sharon Jiang, Eric P. Dallow, Brianna L. Petrone, Justin D. Silverman, Pao-Hwa Lin, Lawrence A. David. Microbiota responses to different prebiotics are conserved within individuals and associated with habitual fiber intake. Microbiome, 2022; 10 (1). https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-022-01307-x
2. Jeffrey Letourneau, Zachary C. Holmes, Eric P. Dallow, Heather K. Durand, Sharon Jiang, Verónica M. Carrion, Savita K. Gupta, Adam C. Mincey, Michael J. Muehlbauer, James R. Bain, Lawrence A. David. Ecological memory of prior nutrient exposure in the human gut microbiome. The ISME Journal, July 2022. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41396-022-01292-x
3. Science Daily: It doesn’t matter which fiber you choose – just get more! https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/07/220729173202.htm
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.