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A hot topic of research in nutrition science is the gut microbiota, and the role it plays in our general health and wellbeing. The gut microbiota refers to the vast collection of bacteria that exists in the gastrointestinal tract, which forms their own kind of ecosystem[5] and varies greatly person to person. Scientific evidence has linked the balance of good versus bad bacteria within our gut to influencing immunity, and even cognition[5].

Fibre is a key nutrient in benefiting gut health, and three kinds exist: insoluble, soluble, and resistant starch. The first two are important for keeping our bowels regular, assisting in the prevention of serious diseases including diverticular and bowel cancer, as well as regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They are commonly found in fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans[4][7].

As the name suggests, the third kind is found in starchy vegetables, such as cooked and cooled potatoes, and legumes and wholegrains. It makes its way to the large intestine by resisting digestion, thus providing a fermentable fuel for the good bacteria/microbiome and promoting a healthy gut lining[4][7].

Unfortunately, research has indicated that for people following a gluten-free diet, the abundance of good bacteria in their GI tract is often more limited when compared to individuals on a balanced, non-restricted diet.[1][2]

Eating a combination of all three fibre types is vital for optimal gut health[7], however fibre often coexists with gluten in wheat containing foods, which may explain the state of unbalance for those who must cut gluten from their diets[1][2].

The good news is, there are plenty of other ways to ensure you are consuming enough fibre in order to boost your gut health while still avoiding gluten:

  • Making sure you’re eating enough fruit and vegetables, which are valuable sources of all 3 fibre types – the Australian Dietary Guidelines[4] recommend 2 serves of fruit & 5 serves of vegetables per day for adults
  • Leaving the skin on the fruit and vegetable on where possible[3]. The skin of many fresh fruits and vegetables is packed with fibre for an added boost
  • When selecting GF breads, pastas, cereals and snacks, opting for varieties that are fibre supplemented or are wholegrain or legume-based (i.e. brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, lentils, and nuts & seeds)[6]

For more information on ensuring a healthy, balanced gluten-free diet, read our previous community blog post for helpful hints and tips. If you have dietary concerns, visiting an Accredited Practicing Dietitian will give you the best individual advice for achieving the best health possible through your gluten-free diet.

References

[1] Lockyer, S. & Stanner, S. (2019). Pre-biotics – an added benefit of some fibre types. Nutrition Bulletin, 44, pp. 74-91

[2] Reddel, S., Putignani, L. & Del Chierico, F. (2019). The Impacts of Low-FODMAPS, Gluten-Free, and Pathological Conditions. Nutrients, 11(373), pp. 1-16

[3] National Health and Medical Research Council (2019). Eat For Health: Fibre – Why Do We Need It? Retrieved from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/frequently-asked-questions

[4] National Health and Medical Research Council (2015). Eat For Health: Recommended Number of Serves For Adults. Retrieved from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/recommended-number-serves-adults

[5] Lloyd-Price, J. Abu-Ali, G. & Huttenhower, C. (2016). The healthy human microbiome. Genome Medicine, 8(51), pp. 1-11

[6] Coeliac UK. Fibre: Tips for increasing fibre. Retrieved September 2019 from https://www.coeliac.org.uk/information-and-support/your-gluten-free-hub/home-of-gluten-free-recipes/healthy-eating/fibre/

[7] CSIRO (2019). Nutrition Facts: Resistant starch facts. Retrieved from https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/Health/Nutrition-science/Nutrition-facts/Resistant-starch

Author: Cass, Glutagen