When fiber starved, friendly gut microbes go bad

Contributed by Azarene Foutouhi

A recent study conducted at the University of Michigan has shown that a low fiber diet results in a higher incidence of infections of the gut due to increased access to the cell wall by pathogenic bacteria. Germ-free mice (lacking a microbiome) were given a transplant of Human gut microbes in order to study the impact of fiber on the stability of the microbiome and its impact on the health of the gut. When given a normal fiber-rich diet the colon of mice appear healthy with a thick protective layer of mucus covering the lining of the colon. However, when the transplanted mice were fed a diet lacking all fiber the normally thick mucosal layer appeared thin. The thinness of the mucus layer atop the colon’s cell wall was due to the proliferation of bacteria able to digest it. Therefore the fiber starvation of bacteria that normally contributed to a healthy gut resulted in increased access of pathogenic bacteria to cells of the colon. The ability to non-invasively treat or prevent digestive tract disorders by the maintenance of a fiber-rich diet has great potential, especially in individuals suffering from inflammatory symptoms.


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