Balancing Gut Microbiome With Dragon Fruit

  • Sharaf AhammedGraduate in MSc Microbiome in health and disease, King's College London
  • Linda NkrumahBiological Sciences with International Year, University of Birmingham, UK


In recent years, there has been an increasing level of literature regarding the gut microbiome, often associated with many buzzwords such as ‘prebiotics’ or ‘probiotics’. However, with so much information regarding different types of diet, there can certainly be a lot of confusion surrounding it. Learning to maintain a healthy gut should not be complicated or overwhelming. The answer is to simply maintain a healthy diet which can be done in a variety of different ways. The truth is there is hardly a one-size-fits-all. Read on to find out more! 

Understanding gut microbiome

The human gut is made up of a variety of different microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi .1 The gut microbiome specifically refers to the full set of genes made up of all the microorganisms found in the gut.2 In other words, it indicates the different microbes present which are unique to each individual. These microbes form a large ecosystem with complex relationships between the microorganisms and often play a crucial role in maintaining not only a healthy gut but also a healthy body and mind.3

This makes it extremely important to maintain a healthy microbiome as a microbial imbalance in the gut has been known to contribute to different diseases. For example, the gut microbiome has been associated with mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, autism as well as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.4 It has also been associated with other diseases including but not limited to, cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and more.5 It is often found that patients suffering from these conditions have a low diversity of microorganisms in the gut.6,7

Generally, a healthy microbiome is diverse and high in beneficial bacteria. The bacterial relationships in the gut are complex as they can interact and communicate with each other in different reactions. They can also communicate with other cells in the body. For example, the gut microbiome has been shown to modulate the immune response by interacting with the cells involved in the immunity.8

Therefore, it plays a role in protecting the body against different diseases. The gut microbiome is affected by a variety of different factors including age, genes, diet and the environment.9 Therefore, it is natural for the microbiome to fluctuate with time. However, an unhealthy diet can severely damage the gut microbiome. One way a healthy microbiome can be maintained is through the consumption of dragon fruit. Incorporating dragon fruit into the diet, along with a balance of other nutrients, can impact the microbiome in a positive way.10 

Nutritional benefits of dragon fruit

There are two common species of dragon fruit. This includes Hylocereus undatus which has a pink or yellow skin with white flesh and black seeds, and Hylocereus costaricensis which is red in appearance with black seeds.11 Dragon fruit contains many antioxidant properties which protect the body cells fromh harmful free radicals and contain anti-ageing effects.12 They are particularly rich in vitamin C, important for healthy skin, and immune function and are high in fibre which is essential for digestion.13

These properties of dragon fruit make it a potential prebiotic, even though more research must be done in this area. Prebiotics are considered to be non-digestible carbohydrates that modulate the gut microbiome in a positive way for the individual consuming it.14 They are essentially food for the bacteria and are known to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Some studies have considered the possibility of using dragon fruit as a prebiotic to balance the gut microbiome. 

Studies and research 

Previous studies have shown that using dragon fruit-derived oligosaccharides (DFO) has prebiotic effects.15 These are short-chain carbohydrates that get fermented by microorganisms in the gut which encourages the growth of many beneficial bacteria. Once fermented, various short-chain fatty acids are released that are beneficial to the human body. For example, dragon fruit encourages the production of acetate which is used by muscles and propionate which is involved in ATP synthesis.16 Butyrate is also produced which protects against colon cancer.16

Other studies have also showed that the fruit encourage the growth of Lactobacilli bacteria which are considered good bacteria for the gut. The study has shown that consuming a low dose of 4g/day of dragon fruit alters the gut microbiome by reducing levels of harmful bacteria such as Escherichia and Clostridium while also maintaining a healthy immune system.15 It is recommended to consume 4g/day for a healthy immune system or an optional 8g/day for an increase in Bifidobacteria and Faecalibacteria in the gut, all of which are beneficial for the microbiome.15 

This is significant because a key role of the gut microbiome is aiding in the digestion of food, and maintaining a healthy digestion system. It does this by assisting in the metabolism of nutrients and food compounds.17 Food is broken down in the mouth by enzymes and further broken down by microorganisms in the gut. Therefore, one way of modulating the gut microbiome is through the consumption of prebiotics as they act as a food source for microorganisms in the gut. Different prebiotics can encourage the growth of different bacteria and have different beneficial effects on the gut. Many fruit and vegetables act as a natural prebiotic, including dragon fruit. 

Incorporating dragon fruit into your diet 

There are a variety of different ways of incorporating dragon fruit into one’s diet.18 It is a versatile fruit that can be used as an ingredient for different dishes. Some of these include smoothies, juices or tea and lemonade with dragon fruit flavour. These juices can be made with other fruits and can be eaten with other nutritious meals. These fruits can also be turned into popsicles, sorbets and ice cream for sweeter flavours.

For a combination of sweeter and savoury flavours, dragon fruit can also be used with shrimp, salsa or avocadoes for a sweeter twist. By incorporating dragon fruit into a salsa, it can be served with chicken and fish as a refreshing sauce. Other snacks include using dragon fruit with yoghurt and a choice of cereal or granola for a light breakfast. Therefore, dragon fruit can be eaten for different meals throughout the day depending on preference. However, eating the fruit on its own for a simple snack is equally sufficient and works wonders. 


In conclusion, dragon fruit can maintain a healthy and diverse microbiome when eaten in moderation. It also causes other positive effects, such as contributing to a healthier immune system. It acts as a natural prebiotic by aiding in digestion and releasing a variety of natural compounds with anti-cancer effects. They also encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria while reducing the harmful ones associated with diseases. It is easy to include dragon fruit in the diet by for example, adding it into smoothies and juices.

However, one must exercise caution in case of dragon fruit allergies and also maintain a balanced diet to sustain a healthy gut microbiome. More research must be done to understand exactly how dragon fruit interacts with the gut microbiome at a cellular level. This can then be used to create more prebiotics that incorporate dragon fruit extracts. It is important to note that to achieve a healthy gut, a fruit alone is not enough, rather a combination of different nutrients is necessary. So, a balanced diet is a must and dragon fruit can be incorporated into such a diet to achieve a healthy gut. 


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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Sharaf Ahammed

Graduate in MSc Microbiome in health and disease, King's College London

I have a strong background in microbiology and an immense love for writing. I have many years of experience in science communication through writing and editing blogs as well as content creation. I am also fond of creative writing, with two published books of poetry which are currently sold online. I wish to share my passion for science through writing.

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