Increase Gut Bacteria, Registered Dietitian in Orange County

Truth: you can have low levels of gut bacteria even if you've been taking probiotics for years.

We live in a world where digestive issues are becoming more problematic and also, the new normal. As someone who has been working with clients who have a multitude of digestive issues  — bloating, poor absorption of nutrients, food intolerances, H. pylori, the list goes on — I know a thing or two about digestion both personally and professionally. Poor digestion can be caused by many factors that affect gut bacteria, including a poor diet (i.e. lack of whole foods, fiber, nutrients), repeated and frequent use of antibiotics and some prescription medications, stress, genetics, and underlying medical issues.

Until recently, scientists believed that taking probiotics was the best way to increase the levels of healthy gut bacteria. Yes, it is a magical pill filled with little bacteria that has the ability to regulate your gut health, however...

recent research has shown that while probiotics have numerous benefits, they don’t quantitatively increase beneficial gut microbes over the long term.

If not probiotics, then what does?

Fiber.

We have enzymes in our gut to break down large molecules, such as protein, carbohydrates and fat. That does not happen with fiber. Instead, it passes through our stomach, drawing out waste, and remains completely intact before entering the colon, where it becomes “food” for the beneficial microorganisms that live there. 

Studies have shown that fiber has the incredible ability to increase levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Fiber is a “prebiotic,” which is defined as a nutrient that is not digestible by humans but that increases the levels of beneficial gut bacteria.

So, if you have low levels of beneficial bacteria, don’t forget to include fiber/prebiotics in your strategy, along with your probiotics.

They support each other: the probiotics are the beneficial bacteria themselves, and the prebiotics are the food these bacteria need to thrive.