Fermentable Fiber and Gut Health
Fiber affects the health of our gut and most Americans do not eat enough fiber.
Fiber used to be categorized as soluble and insoluble. Now we are looking more at fiber that is fermentable. Inulin (not insulin) and oligofructose are 2 types of insoluble fiber that ferment in your gut.
As fiber ferments it release gases and acids that produce health benefits:
- feeds good gut bacteria
- helps stabilize blood sugar
- suppresses LDL and triglycerides
- lowers gut pH which protects against polyps and helps absorb minerals
- lowers inflammation
- produces short chain fatty acids which boosts the immune system
Gut health tidbits:
- Our gastrointestinal tract houses 100 trillion microorganisms (that’s a LOT!).
- 90% of our cells are microbial, non-human cells (so we are mostly bacteria!).
- Our microbial cells are directly affected by the food we eat.
- The bacteria lining our intestines are our gut flora (and they love plant based foods).
- Healthy gut flora helps us: digest food, absorb nutrients, make some vitamins,
- fight off bad bacteria/germs/carcinogens, regulate metabolism, and makes up about 75% of our immune system. Good gut bacteria also helps us combat obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and some cancers.
- Fiber can affect your gut flora in just 2 weeks.
- Gut bacteria may affect how we store fat, balance blood sugar levels and respond to appetite hormones.
- Obese people have less diverse gut bacteria.
- A processed diet is linked to less gut flora diversity.
- Our immune system is based in our gut.
- Many of our neurotransmitters (brain chemicals affecting anxiety, depression, reward center) are made in our gut.
- Antibiotic use (as in livestock) enters our food chain and wipes out good bacteria.
- Our gut flora can be ruined by birth control pills, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, refined diets, stress, and diets low in fermentable fiber.
Foods with fermentable fiber include:
- Jerusalem artichokes (tubers from a plant related to the sunflower family and not the same as regular artichokes)
- Sweet potatoes/yams
- Chicory root
- Beans/legumes release short chain fatty acids which strengthen intestinal cells, help with weight loss, are important for nutrient absorption, and help feed the good microbes.
- Fermented plant foods (tempeh, soy sauce, kimchi, sauerkraut) directly add good microbes to the gut.
How can you help your gut health?