A low-fiber diet is a significant factor contributing to the depletion of the diversity of our good gut flora, also known as the microbiome. With over a hundred trillion microorganisms living in our gut, a Western lifestyle characterized by a high consumption of animal products, sugar, preservatives, and low intake of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has led to significant microbial changes, potentially contributing to chronic disease epidemics.
When we consume excess protein, microbial fermentation can produce potentially toxic and carcinogenic metabolites that are implicated in colon cancer. On the other hand, the consumption of fiber-rich, plant-based foods can promote the formation of beneficial short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, contributing to a balanced and healthy gut microbiome.
Studies have shown that shifting to a plant-based, minimally-processed, and high-fiber diet can quickly reverse the effects of a meat-based diet on the gut microbiome. The lack of accessible carbohydrates to the microbiota due to low-fiber diets in the Western world has led to the loss of microbial diversity and the reduction of beneficial fermentation byproducts. This „fiber gap“ has starving our microbial selves.
Functional foods, supplements, and medications like prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics are being marketed as solutions to the harmful effects of low-fiber diets. However, eating as our bodies are designed to, with a plant-based, high-fiber diet, is a more holistic and natural approach to nurturing a healthy gut microbiome and preventing chronic diseases.
While vegan diets have shown the potential to promote the production of beneficial microbial metabolites, the impact on the composition of the gut microbiome has been surprisingly modest. This is likely due to the availability of processed and low-fiber vegan foods, showing that it’s not just about being vegan, but about consuming whole, fiber-rich, and plant-based foods.
The minimum daily fiber intake has been shown to be crucial in preventing colon cancer, with estimates indicating that our bodies need about 100 grams per day, significantly higher than the average intake in the Western world. Embracing a diet focused on whole plant-based foods and high fiber is key in sustaining a healthy gut microbiome and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.