The Importance of Fibre & Why It May Not Agree With You
Posted on 7th June 2016 at 20:15
In today’s article we will look at the different types of fibre, where you can get them from and why some people can’t handle fibre and should avoid it all together.
Eat more fibre! You’ve probably heard it before. Most people in the western world consume around 8–10g of fibre a day – if they are lucky. Unfortunately recent studies have stated that we should be aiming to eat between 20-35 grams a day!
Dietary fibre is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes — and is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fibre can provide other health benefits as well, such as:
Reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Lowering the risk of several forms of cancer
Improving cholesterol and blood pressure
Helping regulate your digestion by hydrating and moving waste through the intestines
Helping control pH levels in the intestines
Helping prevent and relieve constipation by keeping bowel movements regular
And helping you feel fuller for longer
Dietary fibre includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. However, unlike fats, proteins or carbohydrates (which your body breaks down and absorbs) fibre isn’t digested by your body but instead it passes relatively intact through your stomach and small intestine. Once it reaches the large intestine and colon it acts as a fertilizer to the bacterial inhabitants and allows them to feed and flourish before it is ultimately excreted out your body along with any other unwanted waste that the bacteria can’t use.
Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fibre (it doesn’t dissolve), but what’s the difference?
This type of fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels along with helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fibre may help with weight control. Soluble fibre is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and phylum.
This is found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and nuts, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stools. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Insoluble fibre is actually what makes up most prebiotics which is what feeds the bacteria in your gut (both good and bad). I talked a lot about this during the series I wrote about the gut and digestive issues.
So why is it then that some people (including myself at one point) can’t actually handle fibre if it’s so beneficial to health?
Well if you suffer from chronic digestive symptoms like diarrhoea, flatulence, stomach pains, reflux, leaky gut syndrome, food allergies, or intolerance you probably have some form of dysbiosis (gut bacterial imbalance). As we just learned the human digestive system is not designed to break down fibre. Instead, it ends up undigested in your bowel, where the majority of your gut flora resides. If your gut flora is healthy, i.e. dominated by beneficial, probiotic species, then these microbes will feed on the fibre and proliferate.
However, if your gut is filled with pathogenic bacteria and/or yeast and fungi, fibre will actually make your symptoms worse, as it is a non-specific growth factor for intestinal bacteria, and does not discriminate between pathogenic and beneficial bacteria. If your bowel is predominantly dominated by pathogenic microbes they will feed on fibre and proliferate, making whatever health problems you have worse.
The simplest way to see if fibre is the root cause of your digestive discomfort is to simply eliminate it from your diet for 2 weeks and see if your symptoms disappear. If they do then there is a good chance that you have some form of bacterial imbalance or overgrowth, and I’d recommend working with a professional to get this rectified. I highly recommend getting Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, (GAPS) which provides all the necessary details about what might be going on so that you can educate yourself and help get yourself feeling better sooner.
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