A study suggests that eating a fibre-rich diet, including fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains, can be beneficial for gut health.
The consumption of fibre leads to digestion by gut microbes, with by-products of this used as fuel for the intestinal cells. Researchers believe that they have found a way of rebalancing the gut microbiota.
“Our research suggests that one of the best approaches to maintaining gut health might be to feed the beneficial microbes in our intestines dietary fibre, their preferred source of sustenance,” said Andreas Bäumler, senior author of the study and professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of California.
“While it is known that the gut is the site of constant turf wars between microbes, our research suggests that signals generated by beneficial microbes drive the intestinal tract to limit resources that could lead to an expansion of potentially harmful microbes.”
It was discovered that indigestible fibre is used to produce short-chain fatty acids, which then send signals to the cells that make up the lining of the large bowel, in order to maximise oxygen consumption. This would then reduce the amount of oxygen dispersing into the gut lumen, which is located in the intestine in contact with digested food.
“Interestingly, the beneficial gut bacteria that are able to breakdown fibre don’t survive in an environment rich in oxygen, which means that our microbiota and intestinal cells work together to promote a virtuous cycle that maintains gut health,” said Mariana X Byndloss, assistant project scientist and first study author.
The researchers discovered that peroxisome proliferator receptor gamma, a host receptor, regulated this cycle.
Bäumler said: “When this host signalling pathway malfunctions, it leads to increased oxygen levels in the gut lumen.
“These higher oxygen levels make us more susceptible to aerobic enteric pathogens such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli, which use oxygen to edge out competing beneficial microbes.”