Introduction: The bacteria received upon birth are the start of colonization of the approximately 1014 bacteria that are present in the mature human gastrointestinal tract, better known as the microbiota. The gut microbiota is implicated in gastrointestinal health, nutrient metabolism and benefits such as prevention of infection. Dietary fiber, including prebiotics, escape digestion in the small intestine and reach the colon intact, where they are partially or completely fermented by the gut microbiota. Areas covered: The possible interactions between dietary fiber, prebiotics and microbiota are discussed as well as how this relates to functional gastrointestinal disorders. During the first years of life the microbiota have not yet reached a stable state and is sensitive to disturbance by environmental factors. An imbalance in the microbiota early in life is found to be associated with several functional gastrointestinal disorders such as colic, functional abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. Expert commentary: A better understanding of how gut microbial changes in early-life can impact gastrointestinal health might lead to new treatments or disease prevention. Nutritional strategies with fiber or prebiotics may support health due to modification of colonic microbiota composition and metabolic activity, for example by growth stimulation of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
- dietary fiber
- functional gastrointestinal disorders
- Gut microbiota