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Fibre for Microbiome Diversity
Fibre can change the landscape of our gut microbiome, which in turn can have a profound effect on our health.
Fibre is good for cardiovascular health, and reducing the risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. But, did you know Canadians are not getting enough fibre in their diets? The average person is still taking in less than what is considered adequate intake levels for fibre recommended by Health Canada.
A fresh perspective on an old issue might just be the ticket to motivating us all to consume more fibre from diverse sources for our health and to maintain the health of our microbiome.
What is Gut Microbiome and Why is it Hungry for Fibre?
The gut microbiome takes into account the vast array of microbes that reside in our whole digestive tract and importantly how they interact with their host – that would be us! As a host we must feed our microbiome in order to maintain a diverse population. The unique physical properties of fibre enable it to pass through the harsh environment of the stomach and reach the lower part of our digestive tract. Fibre is then broken down into short chain fatty acids by our resident gut microbes providing us with up to 10% of our daily caloric intake. These small molecules produced by our microbes mainly from fibre sources are important to genetic expression, cell signaling, and are a vital energy source for the cells lining the gut. Given that these colonic enterocyte cells replace themselves every three days makes short chain fatty acids from fibre sources very important in your digestive tract health.
Getting a Close-up with Microbes
Microbes need food. The problem arises from the fact that many of our favorite foods contain carbohydrates which are digested in the upper part of the small intestine. This leaves the microbes in the lower part of the small intestine and large intestine starving…literally. Why does this matter? Without a steady food source species of gut microbes will not survive and this decreases the diversity of species.
Why is Gut Microbe Species Diversity Important?
Diversity is good for the gut ecology as it builds in resilience for the many assaults on the digestive system such as illness, stress, and anti-microbial agents. Diversity also helps prevent pathogens from finding food sources and growing in our gut as those niches are filled already by our resident gut microbes. Lastly, reduced gut microbial population diversity has been associated with obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer.
So, support your environment within – choose diversity in your fruits, vegetables, and legumes eat them daily and show your love for your microbiome.
Angela Picot is a Nutritional and Nutraceutical Science Major, Microbiology Minor at the University of Guelph.
She loves innovation and nutrition. She has professional experience in healthcare settings, project management, customer relational database, teaching adult professional development courses, customer service and is a reflexologist. She has travelled extensively, lived abroad and enjoys exploring other countries, their food and culture.
1. Health Canada (2015). Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? [2015/7/04, 2012/3/15]. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/surveill/nutrition/commun/art-nutr-adult-eng.php#a323
2. Gill SR, Pop M, DeBoy RT, et al. (2006). Metagenomic Analysis of the Human Distal Gut Microbiome. Science 312, 1355-1359.
3. Kaczmarczyk MM, Miller MJ, & Freund, GG (2012). The health benefits of dietary fiber: beyond the usual suspects of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Metabolism 61(8), 1058–1066.
4. O’Keefe SJD, Li JV, Lahti L, et al. (2015). Fat, fibre and cancer risk in African Americans and rural Africans. Nature Communications 6, 6342.