Fiber and gut health are like two peas in a pod. One of the primary benefits of fiber is to provide fuel for probiotic bacteria in the gut to flourish. The key to optimal gut health and probiotic diversity is to eat a high fiber plant-based diet with a diverse range of plant foods.
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The primary health benefit of fiber for gut health is the production of postbiotics.
Good bacteria that reside in the gut can transform fiber into postbiotics, also known as short-chain fatty acids.
Probiotics are living bacteria that have beneficial qualities.
Many types of fiber are prebiotics the promote the growth of probiotics. Fiber is essentially food for probiotics.
Prebiotics are used by probiotics to make postbiotics.
The three main types of short-chain fatty acids are:
Beneficial microbes release these short-chain fatty acids from the fiber. The short-chain fatty acids help to:
• heal the colon
• make the colon more acidic to prevent the growth of inflammatory pathogenic bacteria
• help to repair and heal leaky gut
• nourish the cells lining the colon while providing them with energy
• cool down an over-reactive immune system
• inhibit some of the most inflammatory molecules
• promote the growth of healthy bacteria while decreasing the release of bacterial endotoxin
A healthy gut requires an ample supply of fiber for beneficial bacteria to flourish and produce short-chain fatty acids. In turn, these short-chain fatty acids have powerful healing capabilities.
A fiber deficient diet can lead to a loss of probiotic bacteria in the gut. Beneficial probiotic bacteria can digest fiber, whereas many harmful bacteria cannot.
The benefits of prebiotic fiber are to fuel probiotic bacteria so that they thrive and crowd out any harmful pathogens.
Adding in some fiber from bran flakes isn’t enough to build a healthy gut. It is the fiber from various plants in your diet that fuel a healthy gut microbiome.
To build optimal diversity of beneficial probiotics in the gut eat a diverse diet full of all types of fiber and plant foods.
A specific strain of bacteria may thrive on kale whereas other probiotics flourish on broccoli.
So what is fiber?
Dietary fiber is the roughage and portion of plants that cannot be broken down by the digestive system.
There are two main types of fibers: soluble and insoluble.
Many types of fiber act as prebiotics to feed beneficial gut microbes. Resistant starches are also prebiotics that is fermented upon by colon microbes.
We have anywhere from 300 to over 1000 species of bacteria inside us. The diversity and ability of strains to thrive is dependant upon fiber from plant foods in the diet.
A diverse plant-based diet will fuel a healthy gut. A fiber deficient, high sugar, high fat, high animal protein, and a high refined carbohydrate diet can cause specific strains of beneficial bacteria to starve and die.
Eating various types of fiber for gut health is crucial for probiotics bacteria to thrive.
Taking a probiotic for gut health is popular these days, but are you also eating a variety of fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains to feed the probiotic bacteria?
Our digestive system is dependant upon gut bacteria to digest plant-based fibers. People often don’t tolerate fiber when they lack the probiotic bacteria to breakdown specific plant fibers.
In this case, the answer isn’t to eliminate the fiber but to instead slowly increase the amount of fiber consumed over time.
For example, someone may not tolerate the fiber found in beans. This can mean that this person may be lacking in the bacteria strains that breakdown the specific starches and fibers in beans.
Instead of avoiding beans 100 percent and blaming beans for all your gut problems, reduce the number of beans consumed.
As you slowly introduce beans into your diet, you will be helping to promote the growth of gut bacteria that thrive on breaking down the fibers in beans.
Over time you will be able to increase the number of beans consumed as you have supported gut bacteria that thrive on beans to flourish.
Benefits of fiber for inflammation
Another benefit of fiber is the production of hydrogen as a result of bacteria fermenting upon fiber. Molecular hydrogen is an antioxidant that protects the body from the cell-damaging reactive oxygen species.
Hydrogen produced by gut bacteria is an effective antioxidant to help reduce inflammation in the body.
The production of short-chain fatty acids by microbes communicate with the immune system to cool off when it is too hot.
Short-chain fatty acids also inhibit some of the most inflammatory signals in the body.
The fermentation of fiber by probiotic bacteria plays a crucial role in managing and reducing inflammation through the production of hydrogen and short-chain fatty acids.
Benefits of Fiber for gut health
Gut microbes help break down your food to get the most out of it and are often better at digesting our food than we are. We rely upon a healthy gut microbiome to digest our food.
In turn, we need to feed our gut bacteria fiber-rich foods. But not all bacteria eat the same foods.
If you permanently remove a food group, the bacteria that thrive on that food will starve till extinction.
These restrictive diets have their role in healing SIBO but you need to come out of the other end of healing SIBO and be able to eat a diverse fiber-rich plant-based diet.
When these diets are implemented for too long, they can be detrimental to the microbiome in the colon and cause beneficial microbes to become extinct.
The human digestive tract is incapable of breaking down larger fiber molecules, which is why we need a healthy microbiome to help us process fibers.
According to Dr. B from the plant fed gut and author of Fiber Fueled, we only have 17 enzymes that help break down complex carbs. The gut microbiome may contain upwards of sixty thousand enzymes that help process complex carbs and fiber.
Our gut microbiome plays a huge role in our ability to digest and process carbohydrates and fibers.
The most important factor in building a robust and healthy microbiome is the diversity of plant-based foods consumed.
There are potentially millions of different types of fiber found in plants. Every single plant and type of fiber requires unique microbes to breakdown the fiber.
Good bacteria then can transform certain types of fiber into short-chain fatty acids.
Fiber is indigestible by the human digestive system. By the time fiber reaches the colon, it is still intact. The colon is where the magic production of short-chain fatty acids begins.
A diet deficient in fiber will alter the gut microbiome and the ability of bacteria to make beneficial postbiotics.
Health Benefits of fiber
• fuel source for bacteria to make postbiotics, also known as short-chain fatty acids
• bulks up the stool for healthy bowel movements
• contains zero calories yet helps to provide satiety, which is fantastic for weight loss
• slows down the absorption of sugars and starches for optimal blood sugar balance
Fiber is truly a magical superfood required for optimal gut health. Eating fiber-rich foods from a diverse plant-based diet such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, grains is crucial for building a healthy microbiome in the colon.
If you want to improve your gut health, grab my gut health guide. For more information on the benefits of fiber read Fiber Fueled by Dr. B. This book will blow your mind and transform your gut health.