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How Different Kinds of Fiber Affect The Microbiome

by Gut Garden
How Different Kinds of Fiber Affect The Microbiome

You’re probably already familiar with the health benefits of a high fiber diet – healthy weight maintenance, reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer – but did you know that fiber is also a superfood for the gut? And just as it’s important to have a variety of foods in your diet, it’s equally important to have a variety of fibers in your diet. Let’s take a look at how different kinds of fiber affect the microbiome:

How Different Kinds of Fiber Affect The Microbiome

Cellulose

Cellulose is a part of the cell wall of plants like cauliflower and cabbage and a distinct form of indigestible "roughage" in its own right. Evidence suggests that when mice eat a high-cellulose diet, the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease declines. Furthermore, studies of cellulose supplementation in adolescents suggest that it may help decrease certain types of unfriendly bacteria associated with colitis and Crohn's disease.

Resistant Starch and Inulin

Inulin is a type of water-soluble fiber found in garlic, onion, and bananas, while resistant starch is a type of fiber that "resists" digestion and provides food for bacteria in the colon. High intakes of both of these fibers have a prebiotic effect, meaning that they increase the number and variety of bacteria found in stools.

Researchers reporting in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition undertook a meta-analysis of individual studies investigating the effects of various inulin fiber interventions on healthy adults' gut flora composition and compiled them into a single report. They found that it increased the volume of fecal flora in line with expectations. Other studies find that inulin and resistant starch increase the production of desirable bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium.

Pectins

Pectins are found in high quantities in apples and strawberries (as well as many other fruits) and reduce GI response. Evidence suggests that this type of fiber may beneficially support the growth of helpful bacteria. Furthermore, it may help develop bacterial species known to produce health-promoting short-chain fatty acids and derivatives, like propionate and butyrate.

Beta-Glucans

Beta-glucans, mainly found in grains like oats, may benefit both the gut microbiota and the way the colon maintains gut flora balance. Evidence suggests that beta-glucans support beneficial gram-positive bacteria in the colon while suppressing gram-negative saprophytic bacteria. It may also improve the regulation of gut flora by increasing the secretion of an antibody that maintains the bowel's mucus membrane function.

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