Gut health is currently a very hot topic for discussion and an active area of research. We have never known more about the gut and how it functions than we currently do, though there is still so much more to be discovered about the workings of one of the largest organs in the body and how we can have a healthy microbiome. Gut health can link to other systems in the body like the immune system and our mood.
Probiotics and prebiotics have become very popular for their perceived benefits to gut health, and research is showing the impact that these may have, which is expected to grow in the coming years. Probiotics are products containing beneficial gut bacteria, found in various forms on the market and are classed as a food supplements. For safety reasons, probiotics may not always be labelled as such. The way in which probiotics work is not fully understood, though it is known that by consuming probiotics you can change the balance of gut bacteria in the body to provide a more beneficial effect. There is also some early research showing some benefits to those with IBS, and common bowel-related symptoms such as bloating, wind, diarrhoea and constipation.
What do we mean by prebiotics?
Prebiotics do not contain any bacteria and act like a food source to boost the gut bacteria that are already present. Prebiotics are often found naturally in foods and are sometimes added to probiotic products, sometimes called synbiotics which contain both pre and probiotics. Food sources of prebiotics include vegetables such as onion, garlic, leeks, artichokes and bananas. Foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas and nuts. The prebiotic component is often a type of fibre. It is widely known that fibre is beneficial for the digestive system and it is often under-consumed in the UK population. The recommendation for daily fibre intake is 30 grams for adults, and research has shown that many do not reach even 12 grams per day. Increase your fibre with our nutritionist's gut-healthy tips.
Fibre water - a new way to increase your fibre intake?
As part of our corporate nutrition services, we were kindly given some samples of IO fibre water to try along with some information on these new drinks. IO fibrewater is still mineral water which has been flavoured and has added fibre from the chicory root which is a known source of prebiotic fibre.
The IO fibrewater comes in lemon & lime and strawberry flavours and contains no added sugar. Each 500ml bottle contains 20% of daily fibre requirements (6g per bottle) containing fibre sourced from the chicory root also known as inulin. Each individual bottle does list the beneficial effect that will be obtained with a daily intake of 12 grams of chicory root fibre which is equivalent to 2.75 bottles of bio-fibre water per day. The added fibre in each drink does not affect the viscosity of the water or the flavour.
IO recommend drinking one bottle per day for the first two weeks as it is important to increase the intake of fibre gradually. Thereafter increasing to 2-3 bottles to get the benefit stated by the brand. The drinks also came with an information sheet describing what to expect when drinking IO fibre water. Of note, between days one to three you may initially notice what they describe as a ‘bubbly’ tummy, this is often due to the change in diet which is also observed with making dietary changes. IO state from days 4-7 of consuming the drinks you may notice your digestive system working faster and the regularity of bowel movements has increased. They explained this is due to the gut microbiome starting to reset. (As the prebiotic starts to provide a food source for the beneficial gut bacteria).
From days 8 to 12 IO explain your microbiome will change for the better with the fibrewater feeding your good gut bacteria. They mention you may see improvements in sleep quality and mood. Consuming from day 12 onwards, IO recommends consuming fibrewater as part of your daily routine in order to maintain any positive effect, so it is worth noting that taking the odd drink on an odd day will not leave you feeling any different, nor will it create a sustained effect in the gut.
There may be a beneficial effect to taking fibrewater if you are concerned that your diet does not contain enough fibre or you are interested in the prebiotic effect. It may be important to be cautious if you suffer from any bowel-related symptoms like those of IBS as often the fibre found in prebiotic foods and the chicory root fibre found in the IO drinks can often worsen symptoms of IBS. Furthermore, both flavours of the drinks contain erythritol which is a natural polyol sweetener (sugar alcohol) that people with IBS may also find they are sensitive to. Polyol sweeteners can produce a laxative effect if consumed in large enough quantities.
Having the fibre added to a bottle of water is a great idea as any increase in fibre should be alongside an increase in fluid intake in the body. Some fibre is soluble which means it will dissolve in water in the body so if the body is dehydrated and there is not enough water this can also cause uncomfortable symptoms. Many consumers may also like the dual benefits of being able to increase their fluid intake and increase their fibre intake together in a convenient drink that does not need any prior preparation or any special storage.
Overall the IO fibrewater drinks may be good to increase both fibre intake and provide beneficial prebiotics to the gut. Both flavours were enjoyable and the addition of fibre does not affect the taste or texture of the drink.
However, if you do suffer from any IBS like symptoms or have a diagnosis of IBS then the IO fibrewater containing prebiotics may not be suitable for you and may worsen bowel symptoms. Remember, aim to increase fibre in the gut gradually so you do not overwhelm your body, and be sure to drink enough water to support this change! Of course, as with any other product, IO fibrewater is a food supplement and should not be used to replace a balanced diet and lifestyle.
If you are looking for nutrition advice for a gut-related symptom, please reach out to us for a free complimentary discovery call to see how a registered dietitian or registered nutritionist can help you. Complete our free nutrition assessment to get started.
his article is written by Chloe a registered dietitian that can help you manage your relationship with food. Contact us to book Chloe's expertise.