Dietary fibres are fermented by microscopic organisms, or microbes, that typically promote gut health. But for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, eating fibre often worsens their symptoms. Dr. Heather Armstrong, Canada Research Chair in Integrative Bioscience, has already shown that select unfermented fibres can induce pro-inflammatory and cancer-promoting pathways that are mediated by microbes. These pathways are associated with microbe function, luminal metabolites, barrier integrity and avoidance of dietary fibre by patients.
Now, Armstrong and her research team are defining the molecular mechanisms underlying the link between diet, microbes, microenvironment and inflammatory responses. They are using national patient cohorts to develop tailored dietary and microbe-altering interventions that are safe and affordable to mitigate the detrimental health effects of eating fibre.