This article is a short follow-up to my recent article Fiber is a Double-Edged Sword. If you have uncomfortable digestive issues, read this article first.
Prebiotic fiber is essential for health. You should consume about 30 grams of fiber a day to boost your good gut bacteria. It is not an easy task yet it can be done. If you simply make a point of increasing your fiber intake your microbiome will benefit.
Prebiotic fiber and Probiotics for Gut Health
What is gut bacteria, and why does it depend on prebiotic fiber?
Gut bacteria 101
The various names for gut bacteria are gut microbiome, microorganisms, microbiota, gut flora, and beneficial bacteria.
The gut microbiome is the microbial population in your intestinal tract – mostly in your large intestines. It aids in the digestion and absorption of food, supports your immune system, and assists resistance to some pathogenic infections.
You have about 100 trillion bacteria (both good and bad) living in your digestive system. The term gut bacteria commonly refers to the kind of bacteria that we want in our gut, not the harmful type. Harmful bacteria have adverse effects on your body. They can promote aging and cause disease.
We want to feed the good bacteria the right food so that they can multiply and prosper. The more, the better.
The more good bacteria you have, the better because, among other benefits, it protects against harmful bacteria that cause painful digestive problems and chronic diseases.
How to Feed Your Gut Bacteria for Best Results
Gut bacteria feed on the fiber you eat. That sounds simple – eat more fiber. Well, that is only partially true. Not all fiber is created equal. Eating lots of vegetables and some whole grains and fruit is a great start.
There is a specific class of fiber called prebiotics that targets gut bacteria.
Prebiotics and Probiotics for Gut Health
You have probably heard the terms prebiotic and probiotic a lot lately. But do you know what they are and why they are essential for your health?
If you have any digestive issues or any health issues at all, you will benefit from understanding the importance of boosting your gut bacteria and then following through!
Prebiotics are the non-digestible fiber-rich foods that your gut bacteria consume and metabolize, giving off by-products such as short-chain fatty acids essential for your health. (2,3)
Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt and pickles. Probiotics are helpful and work well together with prebiotics.
Prebiotics are the subject of many studies. Although there is still much to be learned, there is good evidence that eating prebiotic foods can positively impact your gut bacteria.
I could go on and on about different kinds of prebiotics, but I will keep it simple so you can get started without too much information overload. When I finish a more in-depth article about prebiotics, I will link to it here.
The non-digestible fiber in prebiotics is what feeds your gut bacteria.
Humans can’t digest this type of fiber because we don’t have the enzymes to break it down, so our bacteria do it for us.
Upon fermenting prebiotic fiber in our colon, bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) essential for your health.
If you eat a wide variety of fibrous food, you are doing yourself a favor. Yet, to up your game, you should focus on prebiotic foods, not just fiber.
All prebiotic foods are fiber, but not all fiber is prebiotic.
To be classified as a prebiotic, a fibrous food must have specific characteristics. It should be resistant to stomach acid, indigestable, and fermentable by gut bacteria.
Some healthful prebiotic foods:
(*Resistant starch is in many foods – such as rice and potatoes, but after cooking the starch is broken down and is no longer resistant. To restore the resistant starch, put it in the refrigerator for a few hours until it is cold. Then the starch is resistant again. You can reheat it before eating.)
My latest email covers more details on how resistant starch can benefit you with weight loss, blood sugar, and digestive problems. (If you are not on my mailing list you can sign up at the top of this page.
All of the above foods are excellent sources of fiber that will feed your gut bacteria. I suggest you eat a wide variety of all of the above foods regularly. Switch it up for ultimate success!
Inulin is a Prebiotic Superhero
Inulin is a natural food fiber. It is a prebiotic and does a great job of feeding your good gut bacteria.
In addition to its effects on gut bacteria, Inulin has also shown some effectiveness for improving immune function, lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. My personal experience with patients indicates that it regulates constipation and diarrhea and helps with weight loss. (7,8)
Inulin is found naturally in certain plant foods and is available as a supplement.
Inulin food list:
Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes
Some of these foods are not the most common foods, yet do the best you can in eating a wide variety each week.
If you decide Inulin is suitable for you, I suggest adding an inulin supplement to your diet because it is hard to get enough through food alone.
As for an Inulin supplement, I suggest using the powder form. It is tasteless when added to water.
The dosage is condition-dependent. I suggest staying under 10 g per day until you see how you respond. Too much can cause flatulence. I add it to my water bottle and drink it throughout the day to reduce gas.
Too much inulin at once can cause flatulence. Add it to your water bottle and drink it throughout the day to reduce gas.
How to Measure Gut Bacteria
If you are interested in getting serious about your health and understanding your gut bacteria’s role, there are tests for that. Everyone’s gut bacteria is different because our diets vary. And your gut bacteria is dependent on what you eat.
There are stool tests that measure and classify your gut bacteria. More and more companies are offering tests. Just be careful because some of them are not quality tests, and you will waste your money and get bad advice.
I can help you decide what test to use. I can also order the test for you.
Contact me if you are interested in finding out the state of your gut health.
My goal is to give you the information and inspiration you need to make choices that improve your gut health and your life. It takes consistency and commitment, yet in the end, it is well worth your time and effort. If you suffer from gut pain, gastrointestinal problems, and abdominal pain contact me.
YOU are well worth your time and effort.
Stay focused. Your results will be a great reward.
I am available if you need additional help.
- https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.4517 – Current understanding of the human microbiome | Nature Medicine
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463098/ – Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications
- Walker A.W., Ince J., Duncan S.H., Webster L.M., Holtrop G., Ze X., Brown D., Stares M.D., Scott P., Bergerat A. Dominant and diet-responsive groups of bacteria within the human colonic microbiota. ISME J. 2011;5:220–230. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.118. [PMC free article][PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
- Tsai Y.-L., Lin T.-L., Chang C.-J., Wu T.-R., Lai W.-F., Lu C.-C., Lai H.-C. Probiotics, prebiotics and amelioration of diseases. Biomed. Sci. 2019;26:3. doi: 10.1186/s12929-018-0493-6. [PMC free article][PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4619305/ – A randomized controlled trial: The effect of Inulin on weight management and ectopic fat in subjects with prediabetes
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041804/ – Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber
Disclaimer for liznewmanwellness.com and Liz Newman LAc: This content is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If there is something suggested on this site that you want to apply for your healthcare, please make an appointment with your doctor or with Liz Newman LAc.