You probably know how important probiotics are for the good bacteria in your gut. But there's something else that could be just as important. After all, it doesn't do you a lot of good to keep adding bacteria, even good bacteria, to your gut if you don't give them anything to eat. Without the right food, they'll just die off. Fortunately, what's good for them is good for us too – but many of us aren't eating enough of it.
So what is this gourmet meal for bacteria that we're skimping on? It's fiber. What we typically think of as mere roughage that bulks up our food and then passes unnoticed through our digestive system is actually a feast for our gut bacteria. In fact, it's their number-one source of nutrition, and without it, they die off or are unable to function properly. And when bacteria aren't doing their jobs, several of our key physiological systems, including our immune system, don't get the fermentation end-products that they need.
A number of studies have shown how detrimental a lack of fiber is to the diversity of our microbiomes. Conversely, consuming more fiber can promote diversity, leading to better health outcomes. In fact, one study of African Americans who consumed 55 grams of fiber a day experienced improved markers for colon cancer in just two weeks. Other researchers suggest that simply increasing the fiber in our diets could result in substantial decreases in healthcare expenditures.
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I agree. The more we learn about gut bacteria and the microbiome, the more we see their effects on every aspect of our health. And it's important to keep the microbiome not just populated, but healthy. So if you're taking a probiotic or eating fermented foods to supply good bacteria but you're skimping on your fiber intake, you're not actually doing your body much good. You need to address both parts of the equation.
Part of the problem is that many people don't realize how much fiber they need to consume. Men should aim for at least 38 grams per day, while women need at least 25 grams. On average, people consume about half of those required amounts. You can make sure you hit your target by eating several servings of fruit and vegetables a day, along with whole-grain products. You can also try Super Immune QuickStart, which has 8 grams of fiber per serving, or Advanced Greens Formula, which has 3 grams of fiber per serving, to help supplement your total. And if you're still struggling to meet your goal, you can add in some whole husk psyllium seed. It may not taste like much to you, but to your gut bacteria, it will be a five-star meal.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD