Keeping your digestive health in check… and more by boosting your Short Chain Fatty Acids
Do you sometimes get abdominal cramps even when it’s not time for your period?
Do you sometimes get loose stools and wonder whether it’s food poisoning?
Are you so bloated that you find it hard to button up your shirt? What can you do about this? The answer may surprise you!
An Imbalance of Bacteria in Your Gut
Your gut contains an abundance of bacteria, collectively known as your gut microbiome. The majority of your microbiome does (or should) consist of beneficial bacteria. They help to keep your immune system healthy, support mood swings, make vitamins and minerals, and help with the release of various hormones throughout the body.
What many people don’t realise is that, even in a healthy gut, the microbiome also naturally consists of bad bacteria. You don’t have to worry about these bad bugs because they are kept in check by your good bacteria – usually. This is why it is important to maintain a good population of healthy gut bugs.
When your gut is out of sync
What causes our gut bugs populations to change for the worse?
Researchers have been looking into number of factors – for instance, using antibiotics which wipe out large portions of the microbiome, or even, consuming a “typical” western diet that is low in fibre, and packed with unhealthy fats and sugars. These factors both kill off existing bacteria, while also failing to provide the necessary components to support the growth of beneficial bacterial colonies.
Although it may seem scary that something as simple as dietary fibre can cause so much issues… well, on the bright side, it can be just this easy to improve your bacterial balance, as well!
Consuming a high fibre diet is actually one of the best ways to support a healthy gut microbial composition. One of the main reasons is because your good bacteria produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) when they digest fibre.
What the heck is a short chain fatty acid and why are they important, you ask?
Well, let me explain…
What are short chain fatty acids?
Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are substances which are released when your good bacteria digests fibre in your gut. SCFAs make your gut more acidic, which in turn promotes the growth of good bacteria, thereby, supporting healthy gut microbial composition.
Your gut bacteria mainly produce the SCFAs acetate, butyrate and propionate. These SCFAs have other health benefits, besides balancing bacterial levels within the gut, such as:
Maintaining health digestive functions
Believe it or not, studies have shown that consuming sufficient daily fibre helps maintaining healthy digestive functions, through mechanisms involving increased production of the SCFA, butyrate.
Healthy weight management and blood sugar balance
As you’ve seen, having a well-balanced bacteria produces a healthy variety of SCFAs – and, one of the wonderful results is maintaining a healthy weight. SCFAs have shown to support both healthy blood sugar stability and the balance of hunger and satiety hormones. Healthy blood sugar stability is a major determinant of healthy weight status, while the added effect of helping you to feel fuller for longer. In fact, one study demonstrated that increasing SCFAs through daily prebiotic fibre consumption resulted in a direct improvement in appetite along with maintaining a normal energy consumption.
Research has shown that increased SCFA levels, such as acetate, are correlated with healthful markers of heart health, such as blood lipids.
How to Balance Gut Bacteria and Boost Your SCFAs!
As mentioned earlier, a high fibre diet is one of the best ways to balance gut bacteria and boost SCFA production. However, according to statistics, the majority of people are not getting enough fibre!
Today, let’s get specific… because, not only should you be increasing overall fibre intake, but focusing on a particular group of fibres called prebiotics is the health hack you’ve been looking for to balance bacteria and boost SCFA production!
Prebiotic fibres are carbohydrates that do not get digested or absorbed in your gut for your personal use. Instead, they are digested and used by the good bacteria in your gut to produce SCFAs.
Let me put it this way, we need food to survive, right? Well – so do our bacteria! Think of prebiotics as the food supporting the growth of your good bacteria. Not only do prebiotics help the bacteria to grow – but, during the digestion of these fibres, the bacteria produce SCFAs in the process! The result? Healthier bacteria, more SCFAs in your body, and better overall health for you and your bacteria!
Now – where can you find these prebiotics to start improving your health? Let’s find out…
Prebiotic fibres: the best sources
Two types of prebiotic fibres include inulin and fructooligosaccharide (FOS). You can either take these as a supplement – or, for a more gentle and well-tolerated approach, get them through food!
Consuming natural sources of prebiotic fibres has shown to enhance SCFA production to a greater degree than using prebiotic supplements. And luckily, there are many great natural sources of prebiotic fibres, with one of the best ones out there being yacon root.
Yacon is originally from the Andes, and contains both inulin and FOS, making it a concentrated source of prebiotic fibres to manage your microbiome, weight and overall health!
Aiming to consume a rich source of prebiotics daily, such as yacon, is a great strategy for keeping your gut in tip-top shape, ensuring your SCFA production is high, and providing a great strategy for supporting your overall health.
Now that you know the benefits of SCFAs for your body, why not begin upping your fibre to start reaping the benefits?