Dietary Fiber and Gut Health
So what is fiber? Fiber is an indigestible structure that helps to feed the many different organisms living inside your gut, also known as the microbiome. The microbiome consists of millions of bacteria that help to break down and digest the foods that we eat. With little or no fiber in our diet, ultimately there is no food source for these microorganisms and they begin to starve. This can lead to a variety of issues such as: colonization of the microbiome by unhealthy bacteria and uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms like gas or bloating. Fiber is a critical component to a healthy diet in order to satisfy our microbiome and keep our natural flora healthy. With a startling recommendation of 28g of fiber per day by the FDA, it can seem both challenging and discouraging trying to hit the daily minimum and provide our bodies with the nutrients they need (1).
What should I be eating to get more fiber in my diet? One of the best ways to include more fiber in your daily diet is to increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Many of these naturally derived sources are quite high in fiber and provide far more nourishment than heavily processed foods. Another term for these fibrous food sources is prebiotics. Prebiotics are commonly confused with probiotics, but prebiotics (aka fiber) are the fuel source that keep our microbiome happy. Not only do prebiotics feed our gut, but increased dietary fiber is also linked to helping you feel fuller for longer periods of time and lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol! ((1) Another delicious plant-based source of dietary fiber is our O3 Superfoods Stoneground Flax Butter. Our unique flax butter has over 7g of fiber per single serving; that is just over 25% of the daily recommended intake! Make sure to check out our recipe page for some creative ways on how to incorporate more fiber into your daily diet!
If prebiotics are fiber and food for the microbiome, then what are probiotics? Probiotics consist of many different strains of microorganisms that can be introduced to the body to colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria. These varieties of different strains provide diversification to the microbiome and allow us to comfortably digest a wide array of foods. Probiotics can be taken in a supplement form and are found naturally in many different types of food. Probiotics are mostly found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, and even wine, among other fermented foods and beverages. Probiotics help to introduce healthy strains of bacteria to the gut, and this can be incredibly beneficial after a bout of illness like food poisoning or a round of antibiotics. Illnesses such as these tend to wipe out colonies of bacteria, and there is high potential for bad colonies of bacteria to colonize the gut and lead to more gastrointestinal discomfort. Probiotics offset the likelihood that bad bacteria can colonize by introducing favorable strains; these favorable strains are then more likely to take over and remain happily situated in the gut.
A mixture of both pre and probiotics is essential for every healthy diet as probiotics colonize our microbiome and prebiotics are the fuel that keep them happy and flourishing. Increased consumption of fiber and from a variety of sources, like fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains allow these microorganisms to thrive and helps to keep gastrointestinal discomfort to a minimum. Startlingly, only 5% of Americans eat enough daily fiber and may experience indigestion and increased LDL as a result (2). Are you part of that statistic?