Is fibre essential for brain health?

Fibre is widely acknowledged as an essential factor in a healthy diet, with fibre-rich foods such as pulses and vegetables lauded as one of the most effective ways to promote good gut health. But is it also crucial for healthy brain function?

Communications between the central and enteric nervous systems, more commonly referred to as the brain and the gut or collectively as the brain-gut axis, are believed to be improved when the gut is healthy and strong, highlighting the importance of the health of the gut microbiome in influencing these interactions. 

Multiple studies have been published by scientists across the globe investigating the importance of a healthy gut on the brain. One such study, titled ‘The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems’, published on the National Institute of Health, found that the brain-gut axis reveals “a complex communication system that not only ensures the proper maintenance of gastrointestinal homeostasis, but is likely to have multiple effects on affect, motivation, and higher cognitive functions.” In short, the function of the brain is believed to be strengthened by a healthy gut and the messages it receives are believed to be sharpened. The brain is often described as the control room of the body, so this relationship is essential. So how can fibre help create a strong, healthy gut to support a strong, healthy brain?

What is fibre and why is it good for gut health?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found naturally in plant foods such as wholegrains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables. The body cannot break fibre down, meaning it passes through the stomach and into the large intestine, making it the perfect nutrient source for gut bacteria. Foods which provide nutrients to the gut’s microbiome are referred to as prebiotics and are defined as a non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a number of bacteria in the colon, thus improving health of the host.