Fiber Helps Your Gut’s Microbiome

We are constantly extolling the virtues of eating more fiber and high fiber foods. Fiber is excellent for the digestive tract, it helps keep you regular and, probably most important to our customers, it can help regulate blood sugar. Fiber slows your body’s absorption of sugar. That’s why whole fruit doesn’t make your blood sugar spike the same way fruit juice does. Having a diet that is rich in fiber can help your body perform at its best and make you feel great!

Sometimes, we don’t stick to the healthiest diets. We don’t always eat as much fiber as we should. We don’t always choose the best options. Most people eat less than 50 percent of the daily recommended fiber. That’s because we don’t eat enough vegetables, and processed food is sorely lacking in fiber.

Our team has always found that one of the best ways to motivate ourselves to stick to our plans is to have multiple reasons to do it. New research has found yet another reason to love fiber and make sure you get enough into your day: fiber significantly impacts gut health.

The study found that increasing fiber in the diet could alter the gut’s flora in positive ways in as little as two weeks. Considering how much of your health starts in your gut, that is a great motivator to eat more fiber. While humans can’t digest fiber, the bacteria inside our guts can. And when they do, they put it to use by forming short-chain fatty acids that aid health. The composition of people’s microbiomes changed by about eight percent in just two weeks. The changes included a boost in the bacteria that breaks down fiber! The researchers believed that had the study gone on for longer, they would have seen larger results.

 “We hope to carry out longer dietary fiber interventions and study how fiber can support the gut microbiome and promote health,” said Dr. Katrine Whiteson. She is an associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, co-director of the Univ. of California Irvine Microbiome Initiative, and co-author of the study. “At this time during a pandemic, when we need our immune health and healthy vaccine responses, we encourage everyone to think about the plant diversity of their diets and add some beans, berries and avocados where they can.”

Students in a microbiology course ate 10 high fiber, unprocessed meals every week for two weeks. They recorded the rest of their diet and ate 50 grams of fiber a day. On average, most people said they had to increase their fiber intake by about 25 grams from their normal diet. Some said that they realized, in the beginning, that they ate nearly zero fiber in their regular lives and had to increase to 50 grams!

We all became a little obsessed with how much fiber was in the food we were eating,” said grad student Andrew Oliver, a teaching assistant. He coached the students during the study and advised them to drink plenty of water.

Stool samples were taken before and throughout the study to monitor people’s internal bacteria. The people in the study reported enjoying learning more about food and enjoying their meals. They believed it would change how they ate long-term.

Banner image: The researchers and the undergraduate class who worked together on the study are pictured analyzing samples of their own gut microbiome. Image credit: Univ. of California Irvine
April 28, 2021
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