How gut bacteria and dietary fiber promote human health
The human gut microbiome is the community of bacteria and other microbes that live inside our digestive tracts. The hundreds of species in each person’s gut help to fight off pathogens (microbes that cause disease) and digest dietary fiber for us. Unlike other carbohydrates we eat, the human body cannot digest fiber on its own. Instead, fiber reaches the intestines mostly intact, where it is consumed by bacteria that produce health-beneficial chemicals like butyrate (a type of short-chain fatty acid, or SCFA) that are absorbed by large intestine cells (colonocytes). Health-beneficial types of fiber that increase the number of good bacteria (such as Bifidonbacteria and Lactobacilli) are called prebiotics.
My research in the David Lab is focused on two main questions:
- How do these hundreds of species work together to coordinate the multi-step process of converting prebiotics to SCFAs?
- How does bacterial prebiotic metabolism effect health benefits in the human body?
For more information on the gut microbiome, check out:
Kurzgesagt’s animated YouTube video on the subject
Healthline’s very digestible review of the microbiome’s role in human health.