"Unknown," a mysterious, reclusive commenter, sent me a link to a brand new research paper on gut health yesterday. Actually a MedicalXpress article, it sounded interesting.
It sounds like the plot of a 1950s science fiction movie: normal, helpful bacteria that begin to eat their host from within, because they don't get what they want.
But new research shows that's exactly what happens when microbes inside the digestive system don't get the natural fiber that they rely on for food.
Starved, they begin to munch on the natural layer of mucus that lines the gut, eroding it to the point where dangerous invading bacteria can infect the colon wall.
"Unkown" was asking about a blurb in the abstract:
- Low-fiber diet promotes expansion and activity of colonic mucus-degrading bacteria
- Purified prebiotic fibers do not alleviate degradation of the mucus layer
- Fiber-deprived gut microbiota promotes aggressive colitis by an enteric pathogen
What are "purified prebiotic fibers?" Well, as we like to recommend around here, raw potato starch, inulin, Hi-Maize, PHGG, etc. are isolated prebiotic fibers...could this be what the researchers are talking about?
In this research paper, the scientists from Luxembourg describe an experiment that involves:
- Germ-free mice, implanted with 14 species of human gut bacteria
- Three dietary interventions: Fiber-rich, fiber-free, and a prebiotic-rich diet
- Analysis of the mucus layer after a stint on each diet
Fiber-rich (FR) - This diet was a specially formulated mouse-chow used in numerous mouse studies. It's sterilized so that it can be fed to "germ-free" mice. The ingredients in the FR food pellets:
Ground corn, dehulled soybean meal, wheat middlings, fish meal, whole wheat, wheat germ, brewers dried yeast, ground oats, dehydrated alfalfa meal, porcine animal fat preserved with BHA and citric acid, ground soybean hulls, calcium carbonate, dried beet pulp, salt, soybean oil, DL- methionine, pyridoxine hydrochloride, choline chloride, menadione dimethylpyrimidinol bisulfite (source of vitamin K), thiamine mononitrate, cholecalciferol, dicalcium phosphate, silicon dioxide, vitamin A acetate, folic acid, biotin, dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate, (form of vitamin E) calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, nicotinic acid, vitamin B 12 supplement, manganous oxide, zinc oxide, ferrous carbonate, copper sulfate, zinc sulfate, calcium iodate, cobalt carbonate.
Also known as Laboratory Autoclavable Rodent Diet 5010, this is considered a complete food for mice, and developed to give maximum nutrition to lab mice. It's mouse-food with a bunch of added vitamins and minerals, in other words.
If you read through the ingredients, it kind of looks like a standard supplement-filled "paleo" or "Perfect Health" diet. I had to chuckle making this connection to a Paleo, because the manufacturer of the mouse food mentions, "It is formulated for life-cycle nutrition; however, it is not designed for maximizing production in mouse breeding colonies. Please consult us for mouse breeding diet options."
Fiber-free diet (FF) - The FF diet was provided as a specially formulated pellet designed to mimic the Western Diet. It contained:
- Sucrose 34%
- Milkfat 21%
- Casein (for protein) 20%
- Glucose 12%
- Vitamin/Mineral Mix 5%
- Cellulose 5%
- Soybean Oil 2%
- L-Cystine .3%
- Choline .2%
- Green Food Color
As far as a mouse is concerned, this is a standard junk-food diet. Quite similar to what is eaten across the world by humans, maybe even a little better as it does not contain artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, emulsifiers, and refined wheat. But it's green, so it probably looks healthy, lol.
- Wheat arabinoxylan
- Barley β-glucan
- Chondroitin sulfate
- Guar gum
- Konjac glucomannan
- Potato pectic galactan
- Larch arabinogalactan
- Polygalacturonic acid
- Rhamnogalacturonic acid
- Tamarind xyloglucan
- Sugar beet arabinan
- Dextran Alginate
- Corn starch / amylopectin
Yum! Right? It's like the who's-who of prebiotic fibers...well, they missed raw potato starch, but we'll let it slide, haha.
The mice were divided into groups, fed the different diets, and after a while, examined to see what the diets did to their gut bacteria and mucus layer. Also, they infected the groups with a pathogen (C. rodentium), a nasty bacteria that causes infections ("colitis") similar to what humans get when exposed to certain E. coli strains and viruses.
As expected, the mice fed the fiber-rich (FR) diet had a nice, thick mucus layer, and it protected the mice from C. rodentium's damaging infections. The fiber-free (FF) fed mice had sickly, thin mucus that provided no protection against C. rodentium.
And what of the prebiotic-rich (PRE) diet? Oooops. It was just like the FF diet! No protection at all. Who would have guessed?
Real Life Lessons
I have been hammering you all for years to eat more fiber. Even recommending things like raw potato starch, inulin, or crazy mixtures as faithful commenter "Wilbur" has taken to a whole new level. I hear from people on a near-daily basis saying that since adding these fibers and prebiotics to their diets, they are feeling better, losing weight, and seeing many benefits.
I've also railed against the SAD, the Westernized diet lacking fresh fruit and vegetables, fiber, resistant starch, and myriad unpronounceable nutrients like polyphenols and flavonoids.
Many people have been using things like raw potato starch and inulin to negate any problems caused from the lack of fiber in popular low-carb or ketogenic diets. But what this paper shows, taking a couple spoonfuls of powder is probably not gonna cut it!
For people who want to eat low carb or keto diets, you'd be well-advised to start adding lots of low carb plants along with your steak and eggs. Spinach, crucifers, garlic, onions, etc.
And now think about the rest of the Western world...the people not even thinking about what they eat...sorry, hate to say it, but Metamucil and VitaCrave Gummies are probably not doing a darn thing to help your gut. You gotta start eating more plants and less processed food!
Is there still a place for powder?
Yes! I am still a huge fan and I'd have loved to see an arm in this study where they gave the "purified prebiotic" formula to the mice eating the fiber-rich (FR) diet. My guess is that they would have had an even thicker and healthier mucus layer and more robust immune system.
My recommendations have not changed, and in fact I am even more resolved to keep spreading the word of a high fiber diet.
The three fibers that I highly recommend you purchase and consume a couple spoonfuls daily:
Elixa and Richard Nikoley at Free the Animal are unleashing a "Purified Prebiotic" blend on the world. I'm eager to see what the final formulation contains, and I'll let you all know when it's available.
But also, keep in mind, none of this makes a bit of a difference unless you are also eating lots of real plants and staying away from processed foods, cooking oils, refined sugars and refined grains. Eat as much real food as you can and take a spoonful or two of powder...simple. If you eat lots and lots of plants, forget the powders, it's only needed to make up for a deficit in real food.
If you are new to all this, and trying to implement a new way of adding fibers, we discussed a while back a smoothie made of blueberries, oat bran, and prebiotic powders. You can add whatever else you like, too. Turmeric, cocoa powder, honey, flaxseed, etc. The sky is the limit. Or search this blog for "fiber." Lots of great posts filled with amazing comments!
Here's the full text of the paper I've been discussing today...have a look and let me know what you think. I thought it was very thorough research. Here's another cool graphic from the paper: