There are many factors at play when it comes to optimal wellness. Two of the most significant contributors to a good quality of life is the symbiotic relationship between the foods we eat and how our gut biome reacts. Now, recent studies have unearthed that certain microbes work together, while others compete for specific dietary fibers…including within the same species! These findings open the door for research on microbiota-directed foods and how they may be the key to diversifying stomach bacteria in your gut biome.
What are Microbiota-Directed Foods?
Microbiota-directed foods is a more targeted way to describe prebiotics. As many members of the Thryve Gut Health Program can attest, we are big proponents of prebiotic-rich foods.
In a nutshell, prebiotics are carbs in our food sources that are indigestible for the human GI tract. Therefore, the beneficial stomach bacteria in our gut biome feast on those carbs for energy.
Prebiotics is a blanket term to describe several fruits, vegetables, and roots that can feed our intestinal flora. When we discuss microbiota-directed foods, it’s a bit more nuanced.
A diet surrounding microbiota-detected foods takes into consideration the following factors:
- Which stomach bacteria have colonized your gut biome
- Specific dietary fibers within individual food sources
Recent studies on microbiota-directed foods indicate that scientists may be able to diversify intestinal flora in a host who follows this diet plan. Let’s take a closer look at the study they conducted and what it could mean for gut health programs, such as Thryve Inside.
Microbiota-Directed Foods Study
The Food Science Revolution is upon us. At the heart of this operation is the gut. With an increasing number of microbiome studies taking place, science is starting to put an emphasis on nutrition and gut health. A recent study conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, added further credence to this notion .
These scientists used 34 different dietary fibers found in the atypical low-carbohydrate diet followed in the United States.
We mean “low carb” in a negative way. You need carbohydrates for energy. Instead of getting them from potato chips, you should be getting them from sweet potatoes!
The researchers played close attention to common human intestinal flora, Bacteroides. These bacteria species were chosen because they are common in the human system. Additionally, Bacteroides don’t have the same diet metabolization genes as humans. That way, scientists can see what happens to these microbes on a genetic level without preconceived bias.
Researchers were astonished to find that some strains of this bacteria species competed over polysaccharides (plant-based sugars) found in specific dietary fibers.
“Our approach, including the use of bead-based biosensors, defines nutrient-harvesting strategies that underlie, as well as alleviate, competition between Bacteroides and control the selectivity of MDF components.”– Cell
What makes this so fascinating is that doctors might be able to use microbiota-directed foods to get stomach bacteria to work in unison, rather than compete over prebiotics. Scientists theorize when these commensal stomach bacteria work together, they may improve the biodiversity of the gut biome.
Which Sugars are Microbiota-Directed Foods for Bacteroides?
There seemed to be two specific dietary fibers that caused dissension and growth among Bacteroides species. Both of these fibers came from two completely different plant sources.
Dietary fibers that stood out in this microbiota-directed foods study were:
- Arabinan – polysaccharide from pea protein
- Homogalacturonan – polysaccharide from pectin in citrus peel
Scientists witnessed that some Bacteroides species would fight over these polysaccharides. In some cases, strains of Bacteroides would assist their neighbor bacteria in getting more of these plant-based sugars. Researchers believe this is a breakthrough for food science advocates hoping to integrate microbiota-directed foods into their practice.
Dominance Among Stomach Bacteria Strains
The study was taken a step further when scientists fed a variety of fibers to subjects with varying degrees of Bacteroides strains in the system. Researchers noted that some strains would be more bully-like than others.
Dominant strains of Bacteroides included:
- B. thetaiotaomicron
- B. vulgatus
- B. caccae
- B. cellulosilyticus
Furthermore, subjects that had low levels of these strains, but higher levels of subordinate strains saw a more peaceful existence in their gut biome. Researchers noted that submissive bacteria strains would essentially wait in line to get their share of the polysaccharides.
The Future of Microbiota-Directed Foods
This study is exciting for the future of functional medicine and food science. Researchers hope they’ll discover which sugars will cause the greatest stomach bacteria diversity, without creating too much competition among intestinal flora. We’re personally excited to see what these future results bring!
At Thryve Inside, we are huge advocates of consuming microbiota-directed foods. We understand how unique each person’s microbiome truly is. That’s why we analyze our members’ microbiomes with our at-home gut test. With those results, we can craft personalized probiotics supplements for your gut biome.
Furthermore, we work with you on feeding that stomach bacteria. In our Thryve Gut Health Program, we help you find recipes chock full of microbiota-directed foods. Our program assists you by providing delicious prebiotic-rich food options that will feed the intestinal flora in your personalized supplement.
As the studies surrounding microbiota-derived foods continues to grow, our program will also evolve. We are excited to use the latest food science in helping you achieve your wellness goals.
 Patnode, Michael L., et al. “Interspecies Competition Impacts Targeted Manipulation of Human Gut Bacteria by Fiber-Derived Glycans.” Cell Magazine, VOLUME 179, ISSUE 1, P59-73.E13, SEPTEMBER 19, 2019, 11 Aug. 2019, www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(19)30899-2.