We’ve long known the far-reaching benefits of a diet high in fiber, like increased bowel function, improved heart health, and balanced cholesterol and glucose levels. But, the fibrous foods that we eat do much more than keep us regular—they also feed our miraculous microbiome.
You see, we have trillions of bacteria living in and on our body, and collectively, they make up our microbiome, widely considered another “organ” by scientists who are discovering just how important these microscopic organisms are to our everyday health.
From regulating our immune system and improving our digestion to optimizing our metabolism and even balancing our moods, our body’s friendly microbes work hard to keep us healthy, and the only things they require in return are a safe place to live and plenty of nourishing prebiotics—soluble fibers that are our microbes’ perfect meal.
Much like fertilizer for a garden, prebiotics give our beneficial gut bacteria all they need to thrive in our digestive tract, so they can help us stay healthy and vibrant. Fortunately, many plant-based foods (like apples, oats, asparagus, and bananas) are excellent sources of prebiotics, but one special prebiotic—acacia fiber—might take the cake when it comes to your gut and overall health.
Also called acacia gum or gum arabic, acacia fiber is made from the sap of the Acacia senegal tree, a small, shrub-like species native to Africa. Packed with soluble fiber and brimming with health-promoting benefits, acacia fiber has been used medicinally by native cultures for centuries and is a “must-have” in your gut health toolbox.
Acacia fiber can help you feel your best day in and day out by:
1. Increasing Numbers of Beneficial Bacteria
A balanced, healthy microbiome consists of at least 85% helpful bacteria (called probiotics), and just 15% of the bad guys who can wreak havoc on your health. The problem is that our modern lifestyles often deplete the friendly flora that we depend on for so many life-supporting functions. Things like antibiotics in food and as medicine, overzealous hygiene habits, antibacterial cleaners, processed foods, and even stress can all take a big toll on your microbiome.
The good news is that, as a prebiotic, acacia fiber can dramatically increase your populations of good bacteria by giving them a hearty meal. In one study, a daily dose of gum arabic for just four weeks led to significantly higher numbers of intestinal superstars Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.1
2. Soothing Sensitive Stomachs
Unfortunately, some types of fiber supplements (and even high-fiber foods) can lead to uncomfortable gas and bloating. You see, the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract ferment the soluble fiber that you consume, breaking it down into a microbial food source and releasing gas in the process. Sometimes, this excess gas can lead to digestive discomfort.
Fortunately, acacia fiber ferments more slowly than other types of fiber. Studies show that gut bacteria ferment acacia fiber well into the distal (or last) part of the colon, while most other prebiotic fibers are fermented right away in the first section of the colon, leading to a sudden release of gas.2 For people prone to gas and bloating, acacia fiber proves to be incredibly well-tolerated, even at high doses.3
3. Promoting Weight Loss
As an excellent source of soluble fiber, acacia helps you feel full so you aren’t tempted to reach for unhealthy snacks in an effort to curb cravings. In fact, by absorbing water in the intestine and stomach to form a gel that slows digestion, acacia fiber can keep you feeling satiated until your next meal. And, acacia fiber slows glucose absorption into the bloodstream, helping to prevent rapid influxes of insulin that can lead to weight gain.
What’s more, by nourishing the good guys in your gut, acacia fiber can help to optimize your digestion and nutrient absorption, so you are actually benefitting from the healthy foods you eat and not reaching for empty calories to try to fill up. In one research trial, 60 female volunteers who ingested gum arabic for six weeks significantly reduced their BMI and decreased their body fat percentage by more than 2%!4
4. Reinforcing the Gut Barrier
A healthy gut barrier that blocks out toxins and harmful bacteria—while also allowing nutrients to pass through into the bloodstream—is crucial for your overall health, immunity, and well-being. Indeed, a barrier that is “leaky” or overly permeable can lead to overstimulation of your immune system and other health issues that can keep you from feeling your best.
Acacia fiber strengthens your all-important gut barrier by increasing numbers of specific strains of beneficial bacteria that produce gut-nourishing short-chain fatty acids.5 One such fatty acid, butyrate, nourishes intestinal cells lining the gut barrier and assists with the assembly of tight junctions that seal gaps between gut barrier cells.6
Boost Your Gut Health With Acacia Fiber
Gut health beings with a thriving microbiome booming with friendly flora, so acacia fiber’s role as prebiotic is arguably its most important when it comes to your overall health. However, in order to obtain maximum prebiotic benefit from acacia fiber, you first need a healthy population of probiotics living and working in your gut. Follow these simple steps to encourage (and maintain) a balanced microbiome:
• Start by supplementing with a multi-strain, time-released probiotic formula like PRO-15 that delivers live organisms deep into your digestive tract.
• Incorporate plenty of prebiotic foods into your daily meal plan, and supplement with a prebiotic powder that contains acacia fiber—this additional boost of soluble fiber will help your beneficial bacteria really thrive and set up shop in your gut.
• Live a gut-healthy life that supports your microbiome from the inside out by exercising, practicing mindfulness and relaxation, eating a whole foods diet rich in nourishing fruits and vegetables, and staying away from lifestyle factors that can deplete the good guys working so hard on your behalf.
Although fiber’s indigestibility can sometimes undermine its importance to your health, don’t be fooled—it’s a bona fide superhero for your body’s microbes and without it, the good guys wouldn’t be able to support you the way nature intended. So, as you make plans to eat well and nurture your gut this year, put acacia fiber at the top of your list so you can truly enjoy your healthiest days!
1. Calame, W., Weseler, A. R., Viebke, C., Flynn, C., & Siemensma, A. D. (2008). Gum arabic establishes prebiotic functionality in healthy human volunteers in a dose-dependent manner. British Journal of Nutrition,100(06), 1269. doi:10.1017/s0007114508981447
2. Terpend, K., Possemiers, S., Daguet, D., & Marzorati, M. (2013). Arabinogalactan and fructo-oligosaccharides have a different fermentation profile in the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME ® ). Environmental Microbiology Reports,5(4), 595-603. doi:10.1111/1758-2229.12056
3. Cherbut, C., Michel, C., Raison, V., Kravtchenko, T., & Severine, M. (2003). Acacia Gum is a Bifidogenic Dietary Fibre with High Digestive Tolerance in Healthy Humans. Microbial Ecology in Health & Disease,15(1), 43-50. doi:10.3402/mehd.v15i1.7977
4. Babiker, R., Merghani, T. H., Elmusharaf, K., Badi, R. M., Lang, F., & Saeed, A. M. (2012). Effects of gum Arabic ingestion on body mass index and body fat percentage in healthy adult females: two-arm randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind trial. Nutrition Journal,11(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-111
5. Michel, C., Kravtchenko, T., David, A., Gueneau, S., Kozlowski, F., & Cherbut, C. (1998). In Vitroprebiotic effects of Acacia gums onto the human intestinal microbiota depends on both botanical origin and environmental pH. Anaerobe,4(6), 257-266. doi:10.1006/anae.1998.0178
6. Vanhook, A. M. (2015). Butyrate benefits the intestinal barrier. Science Signaling, 8(378). doi:10.1126/scisignal.aac6198
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.