April 18, 2016
We have long been told that fiber is very good for human health. For once a medical truth has survived the test of time as recent hard science has proven. A fantastic research review in Nutrients 2013 by J. Slavin at the University of Minnesota is the basis of this piece.
Reality check: American children and adults are woefully inadequate in their consumption of fiber. Does this matter?
What is fiber? It is a non digestible food source that has health promoting benefits when consumed by animals.
What is a prebiotic? "It is a non digestible food stuff that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thus improving host health."
Historically, humans consumed large volumes of fiber as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and root/tubers. The advent of refined and processed food has dramatically shifted the fiber intake to less than 10% of historical norms for many Americans.
Fiber is known to help bulk up stool, reduce hunger, increase colonic movement, reduce cardiovascular disease, reduce metabolic syndrome/diabetes, reduce cancer, reduce inflammation, feed healthy gut cells and so on.
All prebiotics are a fiber source, but not all fiber has prebiotic benefits. This is a key distinction for advancing the health of the gut micro biome.
Prebiotics, being microbe specific food, have the ability to advance human health in ways never thought possible in the past. They preferentially help promote the growth of
lactobacilli and bifidobacter bacteria that enter the newborn via vaginal passage and breast feeding respectively. Both bacteria are critical to good health.
Aside: We now test the stool of children with a cutting edge DNA micro biome analysis and find that children with multiple diseases at young ages have disrupted microbial communities. They have little to no lacto/bifido species which has poor health implications. Current evidence has shown that the less diverse your micro flora is the more disease risk you will have.
Prebiotics have the following health benefits via the selection of healthy microbes:
1) Reduce the prevalence and duration of infectious and antibiotic associated diarrhea
2) Reduce the inflammation and symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease
3) Exert protective effects to prevent colon cancer
4) Enhance the bioavailability and uptake of minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron.
5) Lower cardiac risk
6) Promote satiety, weight control and prevent obesity
7) Early evidence that there is a brain gut connection that prebiotics can help modify. Better mood and behavior.
The major distinction here between regular fiber and prebiotic fiber is the ability to preferentially select healthy microbes that confer health advantages to us. I cannot stress enough how important this distinction is turning out to be.
I lose sleep when I see the meals that children are consuming. Lunch processed "kid friendly" stuff, chips and candy is not a recipe for anything but disaster. As a parent in the year 2016, please pay attention to the data and shift away from convenience food that will cause disease and move toward a whole food anti inflammatory type diet. This is critical to avoiding unwanted disease, mood issues and general dysfunction.
My children have to eat what is prepared or wait until the next meal. We don't bargain with their health, just as we refuse to bargain with studying and honesty. These are the pillars of success in humans. It is too mentally taxing and expensive to fix disease, so we are avidly preventing it anyway we can.
The best way to fix an abnormal micro biome and dramatically improve health is through food! Everyday in clinic I see patients with a laundry list of chronic medical problems like headaches, constipation, mood swings, irritable bowel and .... When a child and their parent attacks the illness through diet, they have rapid and sustained recovery. When they refuse to make dietary changes, we are saddled with persistent symptoms and poor life quality. These children often chronically miss school and frustrate their parents.
It is never too late! Here is a recipe for success through food:
1) Your child's plate at dinner should be 50-75% vegetable and fruit, leaning towards more vegetables always.
2) Consume prebiotic foods daily - jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, onion, leek, garlic, wheat bran, unmodified potato starch, acacia gum, banana, psyllium, whole grain corn, cold potato. I eat unmodified potato starch daily as a powder.
3) Dramatically reduce the intake of refined flour and sugar which promote the growth of gram negative bacteria (bad players).
4) Increase all fiber foods in the diet. Work up to 30 - 50 grams of fiber a day. Especially good sources of fiber are beans and all berries. Check out the table of fiber on the Whole foods website about half way down the article.
5) Consume whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, wheat, faro, etc... No refining allowed.
6) Drink lots of water for stool function.
7) Always consume meat proteins with fiber to help sop up secondary bile salts that make it to the colon.
8) Limit the consumption of meat to 3-4 ounce portions.
9) Have your child's gut micro biome analyzed for risk assessment.
10) Practice cooking foods with lots of fiber. Check out great websites like food52, cooking light or books like nom nom paleo, or Dr. Weil's cookbook,
Prebiotics are key,