Super Gut is the latest book by Dr William Davis, author of the internationally bestselling book Wheat Belly. In Super Gut, he takes his research and findings from Wheat Belly a step further to show how the human microbiome is evolving, potentially wrecking our health and gives suggestions as to how we can fix it.
It’s a dense read, best digested in small quantities, and while there’s a lot of extremisms (as is almost always the case in books of this nature) and you may not agree with everything, there’s a lot of useful information you can apply to your life to improve your health.
In a nutshell, Super Gut explains that modern diets which have become full of highly processed foods, antibiotics, and pesticides, have negatively affected our gut microbiome, reducing and in some cases killing off the good gut bacteria. The result of this is increased cases of SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and SIFO (Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth), and there has even been shown to be a correlation with anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Before telling you how to fix your broken gut, he explains why it is broken, the signs of SIBO and SIFO, and why mucus matters (and why most people’s mucus lining in the GI tract has been disrupted causing microbial chaos).
Dr Davis’s solution to improving your microbiome and achieving a super gut is a 4-week program which includes removing the usual suspects like sugars, wheat, highly processed foods and NSAIDs, and introducing foods with probiotics and prebiotics. He also includes a complete meal plan with recipes that include a handful of his homemade yogurts, that apparently improve mood, sleep, weight loss and overall health.
Part of the 4-week plan involves adding foods with prebiotic fiber to your diet. Probiotic foods have gotten lots of attention for their health benefits, but prebiotics are equally important and once you know what they are and what they do, easy enough to add into your daily diet.
What are Prebiotics?
Dr Davis explains that prebiotics are “nutritional constituents of plants that microbes themselves consume and process. Prebiotics include various fibers, such as inulin (the galactooligosacharides in lentils and kidney beans) and sugars, such as lactose in dairy products. Microbes turn prebiotics into metabolites that are important for human health.”
Why is prebiotic fiber important to include in your diet?
Prebiotic fiber can help rebuild your bowel and overall health in the following ways:
1. They feed healthy bacterial species.
2. They encourage bowel flora to produce metabolites that yield a range of health benefits, including, weight loss, reduction of triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure, reduction of inflammation and fatty liver, and better bowel habits.
How much Prebiotic Fiber do you need to eat per day?
Dr Davis recommends including at least one prebiotic fiber containing food in every meal. He goes on to say that measurable health-results begin at a prebiotic fiber intake of 8 grams per day, and maximum benefits occur at an intake of 20 grams per day. Like with most things, it’s best to start small and slowly add in more prebiotic fibers until you reach 20 grams and above (you cannot overdo them).
Foods Rich in Prebiotic Fiber
Just like it’s important to eat a variety of different foods, it’s also important to vary your intake of prebiotic fiber. If you don’t, you won’t cultivate the diversity in the bacterial species that you would want. Furthermore, it can over-cultivate one or more bacterial species that can outgrow others and become unfriendly.
The following foods are rich in prebiotic fibers and adding some to each meal will help you reach your daily target and feed your friendly microbes
Legumes: kidney beans, black beans, white beans, other starchy beans, chickpeas, hummus, lentils and peas, are rich sources of galactooligosacharides (a form of prebiotic fibers).
Green bananas and plantains: green bananas and plantains have no sweetness to them and are generally tough to peel. Bananas stay green for four to five days in the fridge. Here’s how to make plantain chips, which are a delicious way to eat green plantains.
Potatoes: cooked potatoes are high in sugar and low in fiber, but when raw, they are rich in prebiotic fiber (there is 10-12 grams per half a medium-sized potato). Avoid potatoes with green skin as this represents fungal growth. His eating recommendation is to add raw potatoes into a smoothie, eat it as you would an apple, or chop it up and add it to a salad.
Fruit: while fruit is a rich source of the prebiotic fiber, pectin, it is also high in sugar. The richest fruit sources of pectin are avocados, pomegranate, raspberries, blackberries, and apples.
Chia seeds and flaxseed: both provide a mixture of fibers, some prebiotic, as well as other compounds with beneficial effects on bowel flora.
Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and pistachios are rich in polyphenol compounds with prebiotic fiber. Meaningful prebiotic effects begin with 60 grams of nuts and the skins should be included. Raw and dry roasted are optimal.
Mushrooms: mushrooms are a good source of polysaccharides with prebiotic fiber properties, beta-glucan, mannan, galactans and polyphenaps, which all nourish microbes.
Shirataki noodles: shirataki noodles are made from glucomannan, sourced from Asian yams which are a rich source of prebiotic fiber.
Other foods which have prebiotic fibers in smaller quantities are:
Garlic and shallots
Food should be your primary source of prebiotic fiber. However, if you need to, you can supplement with prebiotic powders like inulin powder, acacia powder and glucomannan powder, which can be added to drinks, yogurt and smoothies.
If you do suffer from IBS, SIBO or SIFO, Super Gut is a good resource to help you understand what is going on and how you can fix it. Super Gut is published by Yellow Kite and distributed in South Africa by Jonathan Ball Publishers. It is available from most bookstores and online here.