Innovations In | Published:

Your Microbes at Work: Fiber Fermenters Keep Us Healthy

Nature volume 518, page S9 (26 February 2015) | Download Citation

Image: Illustration by AXS Biomedical Animation Studio

The gut houses trillions of microbes. They eat what you eat. Many specialize in fermenting the soluble fiber in legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables. Certain microbial species are adept at colonizing the mucous layer of the gut. Mucus contains antimicrobial substances that keep the microbiota at a slight distance. But it also contains sugars such as those found in breast milk. Some microbes, often the same ones that specialize in fermenting fiber, can use these sugars as sustenance when other food is not available. The by-products of fiber fermentation nourish cells lining the colon. Some by-products pass into the circulation and may calibrate our immune system in a way that prevents inflammatory disorders such as asthma and Crohn's disease.

Image: Illustration by AXS Biomedical Animation Studio; Source: “Feed Your Tregs More Fiber,” by Julia Bollrath and Fiona Powrie, In Science, Vol. 341; August 2, 2013

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing