Beneficial Bacteria: A Focus on Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

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!

Typically, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (F. prausnitzii) represents between 5 to 15% of the bacteria in our intestine.¹ Even if its a major microbial inhabitant of our gut, F. 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, it’s really down to us to support ourselves by offering the right nutritional tools to optimise our levels of this and other species. Let’s delve into what makes F. prausnitzii such a powerhouse!

What is Faecalibacterium prausnitzii?

F. 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 F. prausnitzii!

Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Benefits

This microbial powerhouse helps to keep the gut healthy and influences several physiological processes. Here are some of the benefits of F. prausnitzii:

  1. Anti-inflammatory Properties: F. prausnitzii helps to reduce inflammation in the gut by producing a molecule called butyrate. Butyrate helps to supply energy to cells lining the colon and suppresses the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This is particularly helpful in conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).3 
  2. Maintenance of Intestinal Barrier Function: F. prausnitzii helps in protecting the gut from harmful substances and pathogens. It does this by promoting the production of tight junction proteins and enhancing mucus production which helps to strengthen the intestinal barrier. This is important for preventing leaky gut syndrome and reducing the risk of systemic inflammation.4 
  3. Improve Immune Responses: F. prausnitzii helps to maintain a balanced immune response in the gut by influencing the activity of immune cells. It does this by inducing regulatory T cells (Tregs,) which help to prevent excessive immune responses. This reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions.5 
  4. Prevent Allergies & Autoimmune Diseases: F. prausnitzii could help prevent allergic and autoimmune diseases by regulating immune responses. People with allergic conditions and autoimmune diseases have shown reduced levels of F. prausnitzii.6 By promoting the balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory immune pathways, F. prausnitzii can help prevent the development and progression of these immune-mediated disorders.7
  5. Longevity: Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria including F. prausnitzii may play a role in promoting longevity. Age-related changes in the gut microbiota have been implicated in the aging process and age-related diseases.8 F. prausnitzii’s anti-inflammatory and metabolic effects may help mitigate age-related inflammation, oxidative stress and metabolic dysfunction reducing the risk of age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders and frailty.9,10,11
  6. Good Mood: The gut-brain axis plays an important role in regulating mood and mental health. Alterations in the gut microbiota composition – including reduced levels of F. prausnitzii – may be associated with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.12 F. prausnitzii derived metabolites like butyrate13 may help regulate neurotransmitter levels, reduce neuroinflammation and promote neuroplasticity.14 This means that maintaining ideal levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii in the gut microbiome can have positive effects on mental well-being and neurological resilience.

What Does Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Do?

F. prausnitzii is important for maintaining gut health. It does this by performing various functions within the gastrointestinal tract. 

These are the top 3 key roles and functions of F. prausnitzii: 

  1. Producing short-chain fatty acids: F. prausnitzii makes an abundance of butyrate – a short-chain fatty acid that has many benefits for gut health. Butyrate is a primary energy source for the cells lining the colon and helps support the intestinal barrier function. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which contribute to overall gastrointestinal homeostasis.15
  2. Anti-inflammatory effects: F. prausnitzii helps regulate immune responses within the gut environment. It does this by suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This is important for maintaining immune tolerance, preventing excessive inflammation and reducing the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and other inflammatory conditions.16 
  3. Maintaining intestinal barrier function: F. prausnitzii helps strengthen the intestinal barrier by improving the expression of tight junction proteins and promoting mucus production.10 This protective barrier prevents harmful substances and pathogens from entering the body.

F. prausnitzii plays an important role in promoting gut health, modulating immune responses and influencing metabolic processes within the body. 

Modulating Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Can be Beneficial for Various Diseases

Low levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

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.

The high amount of F. 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 F. prausnitzii might be beneficial for these conditions, that’s why it is considered as a biomarker of human health and diagnosis of certain diseases.17

How To Increase Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

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.18 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, cooperatating with the C. coccoides group and Bacteroidetes in the gut². It essentially relies on cross-feeding interactions with Bifidobacteria.

What Foods Contain Faecalibacterium prausnitzii?

No foods contain F. prausnitzii, but certain foods can help F. prausnitzii to grow in the gut. F. prausnitzii prospers on dietary fiber, which is a fermentable carbohydrate. 

To increase F. prausnitzii, eat foods that are rich in dietary fiber20, 21, including:

  • Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, oranges, pears 
  • Vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
  • Whole grains: oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat 
  • Legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas 
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts
  • Seeds: flaxseeds, chia seeds
  • Prebiotic foods: chicory root, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, oats
  • Polyphenol-rich foods: berries, apples, citrus fruits, grapes, green tea, cocoa
  • Fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha

Kiwifruit for Constipation & More Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

Golden kiwifruit for Faecalibacterium prausni

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.22, 23

Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Probiotic

F. prausnitzii has probiotic potential, owing to its capacity to improve gut health and help with certain diseases. It has anti-inflammatory properties, can help the intestinal barrier function and maintain healthy metabolism.24 

Probiotics that contain F. prausnitzii may help with inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic disorders and other gastrointestinal issues.25 However, there are some challenges associated with developing and administering F. prausnitzii probiotics. 

Cultivating F. prausnitzii is difficult because it needs strict anaerobic requirements and particular growth conditions.

Cultivating F. prausnitzii is difficult because it needs strict anaerobic requirements and particular growth conditions. Additionally, ensuring the viability and stability of F. prausnitzii during production, storage and transit is challenging.26 Ongoing research efforts are aimed at overcoming barriers to F. prausnitzii probiotic development and establishing its role in clinical practice.27

Where Can I Buy Faecalibacterium prausnitzii?

F. prausnitzii is a type of bacteria found in the human gut. Researchers are still studying its potential therapeutic applications therefore it’s still not available for purchase as a supplement or probiotic alone as there is no agreement on whether F. prausnitzii supplements are effective or even available.

Eating foods that are rich in fiber, prebiotics and polyphenols is the best way to obtain F. prausnitzii.20 This is because it is naturally present in the gut and can be influenced by dietary factors. A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fermented foods can promote the growth and activity of F. prausnitzii and other beneficial gut bacteria.20

Eating foods that are rich in fiber, prebiotics and polyphenols is the best way to obtain F. prausnitzii.

There are some probiotic supplements containing F. prausnitzii and other beneficial bacteria available in the market. Nevertheless, it’s important to mention that obtaining F. prausnitzii through food sources is considered the most natural and beneficial approach. When choosing a probiotic supplement, it’s recommended to look for products from reputable brands that have undergone a lot of testing.

While probiotic supplements may offer convenience and targeted delivery of specific bacterial strains,28 they should not replace a healthy whole-foods diet, rich in fiber, prebiotics and polyphenols. Including a variety of plant-based foods in your diet provides multiple health benefits beyond just supporting F. prausnitzii, since plant-based diets support the growth of a community of beneficial bacteria in the gut.29 

Take Home Message

All in all, the number one thing to do to increase F. prausnitzii is to increase your fiber intake. Variety is very important, since different types of fiber feed different bacteria. Remember: it’s important to consider your entire microbial ecosystem – not merely a single species – because they all work together to support your health and wellbeing.


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