When it comes to our gut bacteria, some could be called our heroes. Faecalibaterium prausnitzii is one of them. One of the most ubiquitous, present across all ethnicities, this powerhouse is linked with everything from weight loss to relieving IBS. Read on to find out how raising your levels can help you feel your best!

By Tea Vuckovic

Typically, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii represents between 5 to 15% of the bacteria in our intestine.¹ Even if its a major microbial inhabitant of our gut, Faecalibaterium prausnitzii is reported to have numerous health benefits, which go even beyond digestive health. Given how our microbiome works in symbiosis with other parts of our body, its really down to us to support ourselves by offering the right nutritional tools to optimise our levels of this and other species. Here, lets delve into what makes F. prausnitzii such a powerhouse! 

Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is one of the main butyrate producers

Our gut bacteria break down dietary fiber because the human body can’t. Through fermentation, our little gut bugs are producing butyrate, an organic compound that belongs to the group of short-chain fatty acids. These molecules are an important energy source for the body, providing between 5 to 15% of a person’s daily caloric needs. They have many benefits, such as inducing immune responses and anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, butyrate is a fuel source for the cells in the colon called colonocytes.² Luckily, one of the main butyrate producers is Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

This microbial powerhouse has numerous benefits, including: 

  • Anti-inflammatory effects – increasing the level of anti-inflammatory cytokines
  • Empowering intestinal barrier function
  • Influencing mucus production in the gut

Modulating F. prausnitzii can be beneficial for various diseases

Observationally, scientists have noted a decrease in this microbe in individuals that have chronic constipation, Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, including Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Furthermore, lower levels of F. prausnitzii are seen in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, colorectal cancer and psoriasis.

Furthermore, lower levels of F. prausnitzii are seen in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, colorectal cancer, and psoriasis.

The high amount of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii might contribute to a successful pregnancy due to the production of butyrate. As mentioned, butyrate is one of the main anti-inflammatory metabolites. These observations show that Faecalibacterium prausnitzii might be beneficial for these conditions, that’s why it is considered as a biomarker of human health and diagnosis of certain diseases.³

How can you raise F. prausnitzii in your gut?

The typical bacteria added to yogurts or sold as supplements are able to survive when exposed to air. However, F. prausnitzii are “oxygen-sensitive,” such that they die within minutes of exposure to air. This means there is no way to take a probiotic supplement containing F. prausnitzii.  Instead, we have to turn to food!

F. prausnitzii readily ferments soluble fiber and polyphenolic compounds, as evidenced following dietary interventions in humans. Moreover, red wine polyphenols have been shown to significantly increase the number of fecal Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus and butyrate-producing bacteria: Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Roseburia.⁴ Notably, prebiotics such as inulin-type fructans and arabinoxylans increase the number of F. prausnitzii. 

Prebiotics such as inulin-type fructans and arabinoxylans increase the number of F. prausnitzii.

Inulin naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables such as chicory roots, wheat, onion, banana, garlic, and leek. Meawhile arabinoxylans are in wheat, rye, rice, barley, oat, and sorghum. Notably, F. prausnitzii often works in teams, co-operatating with the C. coccoides group and Bacteroidetes in the gut². It essentially relies on cross-feeding interactions with Bifidobacteria

Kiwifruit for constipation and more Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

Did you know, a new functional food ingredient was invented in New Zealand from gold kiwifruit? This type of kiwifruit has a mild and sweeter taste than green kiwifruit. Typically, green kiwifruits are used as gentle, safe, and effective nutritional interventions for constipation. In contrast, consumption of gold kiwifruit has been linked to:

  • Improved immunity in healthy older people
  • Increased antioxidant status in healthy people
  • Reduction of oxidative damage in healthy people
  • Improved iron status in women with reduced iron stores
  • Mood improvement in young men with mood disturbance⁵

Pectin and related molecules give excellent hydration properties to the kiwifruit fibers.

They reduce mixing in bowel and may add to fecal bulking. In a recent study, it was shown that kiwifruit capsules stimulate the increase of the  F. prausnitzii in participants with low F. prausnitzii concentrations.⁶

All in all, the number one thing to do to increase F. prausnitzii is to increase fiber intake. Variety is very important. Different types of fiber are feeding different bacteria. Bear in mind: F. prausnitzii is an important bacteria in the gut, but it is not the only one with beneficial effects. 


References:

  1. Heinken, A., Khan, M. T., Paglia, G., Rodionov, D. A., Harmsen, H. J. M., & Thiele, I. (2014). Functional Metabolic Map of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, a Beneficial Human Gut Microbe. Journal of Bacteriology, 196(18), 3289–3302. doi:10.1128/jb.01780-14
  2. Rivière, A., Selak, M., Lantin, D., Leroy, F., & De Vuyst, L. (2016). Bifidobacteria and Butyrate-Producing Colon Bacteria: Importance and Strategies for Their Stimulation in the Human Gut. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00979
  3. Lopez-Siles, M., Duncan, S. H., Garcia-Gil, L. J., & Martinez-Medina, M. (2017). Faecalibacterium prausnitzii: from microbiology to diagnostics and prognostics. The ISME Journal, 11(4), 841–852. doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.176
  4. Moreno-Indias, I., Sánchez-Alcoholado, L., Pérez-Martínez, P., Andrés-Lacueva, C., Cardona, F., Tinahones, F., & Queipo-Ortuño, M. I. (2016). Red wine polyphenols modulate fecal microbiota and reduce markers of the metabolic syndrome in obese patients. Food & Function, 7(4), 1775–1787. doi:10.1039/c5fo00886g
  5. Richardson, D. P., Ansell, J., & Drummond, L. N. (2018). The nutritional and health attributes of kiwifruit: a review. European Journal of Nutrition. doi:10.1007/s00394-018-1627-z
  6. Blatchford, P., Stoklosinski, H., Eady, S., Wallace, A., Butts, C., Gearry, R., … Ansell, J. (2017). Consumption of kiwifruit capsules increases Faecalibacterium prausnitzii abundance in functionally constipated individuals: a randomized controlled human trial. Journal of Nutritional Science, 6. doi:10.1017/jns.2017.52