Fiber! It may be the most boring topic of conversation, but it’s literally what’s for dinner for your good bacteria. Or as Justin L. Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford University says,
“The interaction between fiber and microbes that consume it…is the fundamental keystone interaction that everything else is built on in the gut . . . It may lie at the heart of the symbiotic pact between microbes and humans.”
When we eat, we are not only feeding ourselves but, just as importantly, we are feeding our microbiome. We need to make good choices for both. Researchers have found that, when the body is given a diet high in protein and fat, bile tolerant bacteria start to grow within a day. While these bacteria are necessary to help the body properly digest protein and fat, at least one of those bacteria, Bilophila wadsworthia, is linked to inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, the Harvard study that reported the discovery said, “We can’t conclude from this study whether or not Bilophila might be causing colitis in humans, but our data does show that this colitis-associated bacteria can be enriched through diet.”
I’m not saying that you need to stop eating meat or fat. Good quality protein and healthy fats are really important to your body. But if your entire diet is made up of only those things, your system is going to be out of whack. Adding fiber — things like legumes, oats, low sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts — will help to balance out those bad bacteria because fiber feeds beneficial bacteria. Beneficial bacteria are so important because our bacteria can help switch on our genes. So if we are genetically predisposed to certain diseases, those diseases may be unlocked by having an unhealthy makeup of bacteria in our guts.
Get more fiber into your diet! In her book The Immune System Recovery Plan, Dr. Blum recommends eating at least 30 grams of fiber per day. Most of us get less than half of that, so it might take a little bit of work at first. Here are some tips to help you increase your fiber intake so you can increase your beneficial bacteria.
- Add more fiber into your diet. This list provides some great sources of fiber.
- Increase fiber slowly. Many people complain that eating vegetables and other types of fiber hurts their stomachs. I get that. It can take a while for your body to get used to eating more fiber. So spend a week observing how much fiber you are eating and then make a commitment to increasing it by 5 grams a week until you get to where you want to be with your overall consumption.
- Drink plenty of water. Fiber needs water to do its thing.
- Think half. When meal planning, create meals that are at least half vegetables. Or rather draw an imaginary line down your plate and make sure that one side is dedicated to vegetables.
- Try one new vegetable, nut, lentil, or grain a week. Most of the time we aren’t getting enough fiber because our go-to foods don’t have enough in them. Instead of supplementing with pills, think outside the box and find some fiber rich foods that you can make a staple.