What is fibre, anyhow? Fibre comes from the cellular structure of a plant. So if you’re talking fibre, you’re talking plants.
Nutritionally, fibre is a complex carbohydrate. If you were to look under a microscope, you would see multiple sugar molecules linked together. But fibre is very different to refined sugar. If you eat refined sugar, the digestive process begins in your mouth. After around 20 minutes, it has been entirely absorbed in the small intestine.
Fibre, on the other hand, remains intact as it passes through your mouth, stomach and around 20 feet of small intestine. By the time it reaches your large intestine, which houses the trillions of bacteria that make up your “gut microbiome”, it’s still the same molecule that you put into your mouth.
But just because you can’t digest it – doesn’t mean that it is not important. In fact, science is now showing us that eating enough of the right kind of fibre is one of the most powerful things you can do to maintain your overall health. So let’s bust some myths:
Myth 1: Fiber just passes through us.
Common knowledge holds that fibre goes in one end, out the other, and does very little in between beside “keeping you regular.” Nothing could be further from the truth! There’s a lot going on with that fibre – but it’s just not our “human cells” that are doing the work.
Humans aren’t very good at breaking down complex carbs. We do have a meager 17 enzymes called glycoside hydrolases1 that help us break down carbohydrates, but none of these were designed for breaking down the larger molecules like fiber. In other words, we are literally incapable of processing fiber on our own.
So, we cleverly teamed up with trillions of helper bacteria, who can process the stuff we can’t – and gave them a guaranteed living space and food for life, in exchange. Basically, we outsourced the fibre-digestion process. The bacteria that live inside your gut microbiome love fibre – they need it – they live off the things we don’t need, and they have a whopping 60,000 enzymes to help them do it. It’s a clever symbiotic relationship that has developed over hundreds of thousands of years. Everyone wins!
Myth 2: All fiber is the same.
But if you think that you can chomp a few weetabix for your fibre and consider the job done, think again! Every single plant, every single type of fiber, requires a unique team of microbes working in concert to get the job done. And every microbe needs a separate type of fibre for its food!2
You need to give your gut bugs the specific fibres they require, because they do something really cool with it – they ferment the fibre, and use it to produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate, which are absolutely essential for reducing inflammation inside your system.3
So the source of the fiber you eat is critically important. The fibre in your weetabix is not the same as the fibre in your quinoa.
Like a tank of exotic fish – your gut bugs all need their different specialist kinds of food. As we began working with the science that came out of the Microbiome Test by Atlas, we discovered that there are around twenty different types of fibre required to feed the really beneficial bugs inside your gut: Arabinan, Arabinogalactan, Arabinoxylan, Beta-Glucan…the list goes on.
It makes sense; if you were feeding a tank of exotic fish, you wouldn’t just chuck in some goldfish food, and consider your job done. Each organism needs its own type of food.
Some of your fibre can be sourced through commonly available food items like wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye, fruit such as berries, pears, melon and oranges, vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn, peas, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, and potatoes with skin.
However, some of the beneficial fibres you need are found in exotic things like tamarind seed or cassava root – which can be lacking in the average British diet. These foods can be tough to source, buy and cook. That’s why we’ve combined all possible natural sources of these fibres (18 in all) into our Complete Prebiotic powder, to make it easier to get the essential diversity of fibre you need into your diet.
Myth 3: You’re probably already getting enough fibre from your diet.
Chances are, you’re not getting enough fibre. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends 30 grams per day for an adult.4 But in the UK, the average fibre intake for adults is only 18 grams – just 60% of what it should be.5 So expanding your diet to include a wide variety of different whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and then adding in 10 g per day of Complete Prebiotic, should take you up to the amount and type of fibre your microbiome craves for full, vibrant health.
Why does it matter? Because as well as feeding your gut bugs, fibre also acts as a filtration system for your body.6 Insoluble fibre sits at the end of the digestive tract, absorbing all the toxins that your body needs to get rid of. When the filter is full of toxins, it is released in a bowel movement. Then (in a perfect world) you eat more fibre, form a new filter, and the system begins again in an elegant and seamless process.
However if you’re not eating enough fibre – you’re not allowing your body to get rid of toxins. Your poor body will then create desperate work-arounds – pushing toxins out through your sweat glands, (which you may notice if your sweat has an unpleasant odour) or dumping it through your urine (which can quickly overwork your kidneys) or as a last resort, pushing it into the fat cells around your liver. Hello, middle age spread!
Your health is determined by the health of your gut bugs. So one of the best things you can do for your overall wellness is to increase the amount and diversity of the fibre in your diet, and feed your gut bugs the fibre they need. Look after your gut bugs, and they’ll look after you!