A healthy gut is part of our pets’ overall wellbeing. Gut health has been linked not only to digestion, but to immune system function, skin and coat condition, and even behaviour. There is a large microbial population in the gut that is key to overall health.
There are levels of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the large intestine, and a healthy gut has a significantly larger population of “good” or beneficial bacteria than “bad” or undesirable bacteria. In order to maintain a healthy balance, the beneficial bacteria need to be supported and nourished, and the intestinal environment needs to be effectively cleared of waste.
Fibre is important for maintaining a healthy gut. It isn’t the amount of fibre that is most important, but rather the type of fibre. Quality pre-biotic fibre is readily fermentable by beneficial bacteria and comes from foods like chicory root, beet pulp, flaxseed, lentils, oatmeal and apples. Insoluble fibre is not fermentable, and does not support the microbial population in the gut. Some insoluble fibre is beneficial for gut health because it helps to clean the intestines.
While the right kind of fibre is essential for maintaining the gut microbiome, there are aspects of other nutrients that are important as well.
Other nutrients, while not directly related to gut health, are important to consider. Unlike fibre, these are nutrients we don’t want in the large intestine since they can have a negative impact on gut health. When high levels of these nutrients pass through into the large intestine, they can inhibit beneficial bacteria or support undesirable bacteria. These nutrients must be highly digestible so that they are almost entirely broken down before entering the large intestine.