Gut health, bugs & fibre

No doubt you’ve heard of the benefits of probiotics; in yoghurt, as capsules or in micro drinks of fermented milk. While evidence does exist that consuming living bugs can help improve immune and gut health, the status of our intestinal bugs (known as our individual microbiome) is thought to impact so much more, possibly even food cravings, mood and cancer risk.

Our individual microbiome is subject to change. While antibiotics are a known culprit for damaging a healthy microbiome and fibre a commonly cited friend of good bacteria; we still don’t know all the factors that may influence the bugs that thrive and those that don’t.  It is possible that certain preservatives, artificial sweeteners, environmental pollutants, dietary choices and stress can all influence the microbiome and these changes may alter metabolic and gastrointestinal health.

In a diet swap experiment, researches swapped the diets of 20 rural Africans eating a minimal processed foods and around 50g of fibre per day  with 20 African Americans eating a highly refined diet including around 10g of fibre per day (and with incidentally a >13 x increased risk colon cancer) for two weeks. Even after this short time, significant changes were seen in the microbiome of both groups. The rural Africans now showing greater signs of cancer risk and the African American’s changes consistent with decreased risk. Researches acknowledge the study time was short and dietary changes would need to be maintained to understand long term outcomes. However, the power of food is certainly noteworthy.

Another study suggested that people who added in daily a bar containing around 20g dietary fibre over a few weeks had a positive change to their microbiome when compared to placebo.

Overall, dietary fibre is an important part of health. Eating unrefined grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables help boost fibre intakes. Take care if suddenly making drastic changes to fibre intake as individuals can respond differently. Speak to one of our dietitians if you want advice to increase the fibre of your diet.

Resistant starch is a type of fibre found in greener bananas and precooked rice and is thought to be especially useful to promote good bacteria. If these foods aren’t on your go to list, it is also used in some cereals to boost fibre content.

CSIRO have discovered BARLEYmax ™ a GMO free grain that has twice the fibre and four times resistant starch as other grain and found in Goodness Superfoods products. A single serve of cereal contains 30% recommended daily fibre (9g).

-Tanya Lewis

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