Eat more fibre. You’ve probably heard it before. You are wondering or asking “what’s in it for me eating fibre?” Well, we have always been told by healthcare professionals and nutritionists that fibre is important for a healthy you. But do you know why fibre is so good for your health? One of such reasons is that the gut microbiota plays a crucial role in maintaining our body’s overall health. In fact, new research shows what happens if we do not feed our gut microbes with the fibre they need to survive.
Dietary fibre or roughage according to Wikipedia is the indigestible portion of food derived from plants. Dietary fibres can act by changing the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract and by changing how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed. It has two main components:
Soluble fibre, which dissolves in water, is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active byproducts and can be prebiotic and viscous. Good sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits and pears.
Insoluble fibre, which does not dissolve in water, is metabolically inert and provides bulking or it can be prebiotic and metabolically fermented in the large intestine. Bulking fibres absorb water as they move through the digestive system, easing defecation. It’s found in whole grains, wheat cereals and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
According to medicalnewstoday.com, our gut microbiota contains at least 1,000 different species of known bacteria, summing up 3 million genes.
We share one third of our gut bacteria with other people, while the composition in our other two thirds is unique to each one of us.
Gut microbiota is important to our health because it contributes to a healthy immune system by acting as a barrier against other harmful microorganisms.
It also helps with digesting foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest, as well as producing some vitamins.
But new research examines exactly what happens if our intestinal microbes do not receive the appropriate amount of fibre. Researchers infected mice with a strain of bacteria that is the equivalent of E. coli in humans. Then they examined the impact of diets with varying amounts of fibre, as well as a diet with no fibre at all. They found out that a lack of fibre triggered a higher production of such mucus-degrading enzymes. Examining the gut tissue of infected mice, researchers were able to see inflammation across a wide area of thinning, and even patchy tissue. It was observed that infected mice that received a diet rich in fibre also displayed inflammation but across a much smaller area.
“While this work was in mice, the take-home message for humans amplifies everything that doctors and nutritionists have been telling us for decades: Eat a lot of fibre from diverse natural sources.
Your diet directly influences your microbiota, and from there, it may influence the status of your gut’s mucus layer and tendency toward disease. But it’s an open question of whether we can cure our cultural lack of fibre with something more purified and easy to ingest than a lot of broccoli.”
Mayoclinic highlights why you should eat a fibre-rich diet. A high-fibre diet:
● Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fibre increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fibre may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.
● Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fibre diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fibre is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
● Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fibre foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
● Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fibre, particularly soluble fibre can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fibre may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
● Aids in achieving healthy weight. High-fibre foods tend to be more filling than low-fibre foods, so you’re likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. And high-fibre foods tend to take longer to eat and to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
Another benefit attributed to dietary fibre is prevention of colorectal cancer. However, the evidence that fibre reduces colorectal cancer is mixed.
If you aren’t getting enough fibre each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include: Whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and other legumes, nuts and seeds.
Refined or processed foods such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals are lower in fibre. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fibre content. Enriched foods have some of the B vitamins and iron back after processing, but not the fibre.
Another way to get more fibre is to eat foods such as cereal, granola bars, yogurt, and ice cream, with fibre added. The added fibre usually is labeled as “inulin” or “chicory root.” Some people complain of gassiness after eating foods with added fibre.
However, some people may still need a fibre supplement if dietary changes aren’t sufficient or if they have certain medical conditions such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Check with your doctor before taking fibre supplements.
For better benefit of fibre; choose a high fibre breakfast cereal for breakfast, switch to whole grains, eat more fruit and vegetables because they are rich in fibre as well as vitamins and minerals (try to eat five or more servings daily) and occasionally add handful of nuts or dried fruits as high fibre snack.
High-fibre foods are good for your health. But adding too much fibre too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Increase fibre in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.
Also, drink plenty of water. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.