Peggy Smith: It's A Party - Bring the Fiber!
What comes to mind when you think of fiber? For me, it used to be the image of an apple and flashbacks to supplement commercials and folks with bathroom problems. Now what comes to mind are happy gut bacteria throwing a party when I send them their very favorite food source - fiber!
More and more research supports the idea that the most powerful approach to building a super microbial community, even more so than adding probiotics, is to feed fiber to the good bacteria we already have. One study found that adding more fiber can trigger a shift from a microbial profile linked to obesity to one correlated with a leaner physique. Other studies show that when the microbes don't get enough fiber they start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut. This causes a breakdown of the gut lining which has been linked to inflammation and disease.
According to Justin Sonneburg, a biologist at Stanford University, "diet is one of the most powerful tools we have for changing the microbiota." He also says that "low fiber diets can cause low-level inflammation not only in the gut, but throughout the body." Because inflammation is linked to so many diseases we want to eliminate it as much as possible.
So where do we get fiber? It comes from various vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other foods that aren't fully digested prior to reaching the large intestine (where the bacteria are throwing the party). Foods that reach the large intestine, not fully broken down, give our microbes a true feast to enjoy! They thank us by producing nutrients, vitamins and other compounds we need. Of particular interest are the short chain fatty acids derived from fiber because these have been directly linked to improved immune function, decreased inflammation and protection against obesity.
Experts have historically claimed there is a direct correlation between weight control and eating a healthy amount of fiber. Now we understand this connection so much better. Our gut microbes need to be fed the food that makes them perform optimally. Arguably the most critical reason to feed our microbes the fiber they need is so they don't get desperate for nutrients and start looking at the mucus lining of our gut wall as dinner! Keeping our gut wall thick and intact is critical for keeping our body free from inflammation and infection.
At a glance:
* Women need 25 grams of fiber per day (21 if over 50 years of age)
* Men need 38 grams of fiber per day (30 if over 50 years of age)
* If you aren't eating much fiber now, gradually get to these numbers so you don't overwhelm your system and end up bloated and feeling yucky
* You need to eat fiber every day to reap the full gut bacteria benefits
* Whenever possible skip the supplements and seek out fiber in whole foods
* Juicing removes the fiber from the food thereby removing the gut bacteria benefit
* Some food ideas to incorporate or increase: vegetables, fruits, beans, oat bran, barley, flaxseed, split peas, lima beans and black beans.
* Please keep in mind that some health conditions dictate a lower amount of fiber intake than the standard guidelines. Get your doctors’ advice whenever you aren't certain about a new dietary plan.
* Soluble Fiber (and its kissing cousin Insoluble Fiber) - Both come from plants and are forms of carbohydrates. But unlike other carbs, fiber can’t be broken down and absorbed by your digestive system. Instead, as it moves through your body it slows digestion and makes your stools softer and easier to pass. Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel when it dissolves. This gel helps you to feel like you are full even after consuming a small amount of food. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract. Both are critical to our health.
* Microbiota - This term and microbiome are often used interchangeably. The human microbiota is made up of trillions of cells, including bacteria, viruses and funguses (they outnumber our human cells tenfold!) with the biggest population living in the gut.
*Short Chain Fatty Acids - Produced when friendly gut bacteria ferment fiber. They are the main source of energy for the cells lining the large intestine. They are involved in the metabolism of carbs and fats.
My name is Peggy Smith and I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach with an emphasis on gut health. I received my certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York. Drawing on this knowledge, and with a profound respect for your personal journey, I’d love to work with you to create a road-map to health that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences and goals!
Schedule a free 30 minute consultation with me, or pass this offer along to someone you care about.