Research has shown eating a variety of fiber-rich foods diversifies your microbiome. Gut microbiome is collection of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses located in the gastrointestinal tract, a hotel for trillions of little critters. These bacteria, yeast and fungi increase your ability to metabolize a variety of substances you couldn’t otherwise without the enzymes they provide. The thing is, it somewhat depends on you to control your gut microbes. Diet, lifestyle, exercise, stress, and your environment can all impact the composition of your microbiome.
Dietary fiber helps support the natural protection and healthy absorption in your gut. A lack of fiber may negatively impact the natural intestinal barrier. Fermentable dietary fiber provides increased protection by increase of the number of cells and cells having to perform a specific job. 80 percent of your body’s immune cells are in your gut meaning, healthy gut = healthy immune system. Feeding the growth of beneficial microbes with dietary fiber also supports a healthy endocrine (hormone) response, nitrogen metabolism, and cell signalling between the gut, liver, and kidneys. Enhanced gut-barrier function protects your detox organs (liver and kidneys) from the spread of bacteria that stimulate inflammation, freeing them to focus on their jobs of metabolism and detoxification.
Dietary fiber is often associated with “old people”. But the truth is everyone needs it. Prevention of age-related problems and chronic disease are worth starting early. In fact, in relation to all of the above are the ways you will see the benefits of Dietary Fiber:
- Helps control body weight
- Helps control and possibly prevent high blood pressure – hypertension
- Helps balance cholesterol levels in blood
- Helps regulate bowel movements and prevent hemorrhoids
- Helps regulate blood sugar
- Helps regulate your body’s satiation, or when you’re full
- Helps lower risk of colon cancer
- Helps lower risk of breast cancer
- Helps lower risk of diabetes
- Helps with digestion as it requires more chewing, which slows down your meals
Dietary fiber comes in 2 forms, insoluble and soluble. It is categorized as non-digestible carbohydrates – the part of the plant that cannot be absorbed. Most plants contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but in different amounts. It can be found in all plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.
Soluble fiber includes plant pectin and gums. It is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits, vegetables and psyllium husks. This fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that helps form stool and smooth passage through the bowels. A type of soluble fiber you may be familiar with are prebiotics. Prebiotics aid in maintenance of a healthy gut by increasing the number of good bacteria in the large intestine. Unfortunately, it is also where gas is created, causing flatulence. This form of fiber is associated with reducing blood cholesterol and sugar, improving blood glucose control, reducing your risk for diabetes and obesity.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It includes plant cellulose and hemicellulose. It is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains. This fiber bulks up your stool and acts like a brush. It sweeps through the bowels to get everything out and keep things moving.
Fiber for thought – By increasing your intake of dietary fiber by just two servings of whole-grain products each day might lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 21 %!
The recommendation is 25g per day for women and 35g per day for men.
Kieffer DA, Martin RJ, Adams SH. Impact of Dietary Fibers on Nutrient Management and Detoxification Organs: Gut, Liver, and Kidneys. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(6):1111-1121.