Antibiotic Resistance Is A Growing Concern. Could Fiber Be The Answer?

Antibiotics work in different ways – they kill bacteria, or they stop the growth of unwanted bacteria. The problem is that bacteria are smart and they are constantly multiplying and evolving, creating a race between modern medicine and germs (via Harvard Health).

This phenomenon is called antimicrobial resistance. According to the World Health Organization, this happens when bacteria, parasites, and fungi adapt (or grow) too much that they stop reacting to medicine. Harmful bacteria no longer respond to antibiotics, bringing forth more severe illnesses. While antibiotic resistance is a major health concern, recent studies show fiber may be a solution.

One recent 2022 study examined the role fiber plays in antibiotic resistance by studying antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in 290 participants. These participants consisted of healthy adults (mostly white) between the ages of 18 and 66. During the study, researchers collected blood, urine, and stool samples to assess the gut microbiome. They also tracked diet, and found that people with diverse, high-fiber diets had fewer antibiotic resistance genes.

Why is fiber important for the body?

The study suggests that increasing dietary fiber may decrease the risk of antibiotic resistance. Study author Dr. Danielle G. Lemay tells Medical News Today, "We found that people who consume more diverse diets with more soluble fiber have lower numbers of antimicrobial resistance genes in their gut microbiomes. Therefore, a diverse diet high in soluble fiber potentially reduces the risk of an antibiotic-resistant infection."

But that's not the only way dietary fiber supports the body. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration points out that fiber aids in digestion, supports a healthy gut, and reduces the chance of heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it also helps with managing weight and regulating blood sugar.

Fiber is a carbohydrate that's not easily digested due to its structure. In fact, there are two types — soluble and insoluble fiber. The biggest difference is soluble fiber contains nutrients and dissolves in water, whereas insoluble fiber has no nutrients and doesn't dissolve in water, according to Medical News Today. Both types are beneficial for our health.

Unfortunately, most Americans don't get enough fiber. The CDC recommends eating 22 to 34 grams of fiber daily for adults. Try to incorporate fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans.