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J Nutr. 1999 Jul;129(7 Suppl):1446S-50S.

The application of ecological principles and fermentable fibers to manage the gastrointestinal tract ecosystem.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA.


Because diet can influence the structure and functions of the gastrointestinal tract, there are opportunities for using diet as a "management tool" to affect the resident microbiota. Fermentable fibers increase the densities of beneficial bacteria and stimulate growth and functions of the healthy intestine. Recent findings show that after acute diarrhea, the use of an oral electrolyte solution with the fermentable fiber oligofructose accelerates recovery of beneficial bacteria, reduces the relative abundance of detrimental bacteria, stimulates mucosal growth and enhances digestive and immune functions. This review will focus on how the principles of stream ecology can be applied to better understand the distribution of bacteria along the length of the gastrointestinal tract, the effect of diarrhea on the gastrointestinal ecosystem and how fermentable fibers can be used as a "management tool" to promote gastrointestinal health in normal states and during recovery from diarrhea.

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