Feeding Our Gut Bacteria Feeds Ourselves

The typical western diet is lacking in fiber, and it can cause our helpful bacteria to die off.

This video was originally published on NutritionFacts.org and republished with permission. NutritionFacts.org

Our bodies are not just our own. The typical human body contains as much as ten times as many bacteria cells as there are human cells. This mind boggling statistic should illustrate how important it is that we take care of microscopic passengers. When we promote beneficial bacteria growth by following a plant-based diet and using probiotics, we help to keep our gut bacteria strong and healthy. In turn, the microflora in our digestive system helps to make sure everything we eat is metabolized as efficiently and fully as possible.

The problem is that the typical diet in the United States lacks fiber. Though it contains far more than enough processed meats and sugar, the fact that we as a country eat so few vegetables and fruits means that we aren’t properly feeding out gut flora. The good bacteria that lives in our large intestine feeds on the fiber that we ourselves cannot digest. They then convert the fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which our own cells then use as energy.

By adopting a diet that lacks in fiber, we are essentially starving out the good bacteria, and the wrong sort of food (such as the ones found in the typical American diet) can actually allow bacteria to grow that works against us rather than for us. Dysbiosis is the term used to describe this phenomenon, and it unfortunately can be a precursor to diseases like cancer, metabolic issues, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  So even if you feel fine, consider adding more fiber in your diet. Though you might not be sick now, if your gut bacteria is not well-fed, you can rest assured that you will eventually get sick later down the line.

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