Fibre is an indigestible form of carbohydrate found in foods of plant origin. There are two main types of fibre - soluble and insoluble.
All plants contain some or both kinds of fibre – some however have more soluble and some have more insoluble. Both forms are essential for our health as they perform different tasks in the body. Insoluble fibre - Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is not broken down by our digestive system so passes through our intestines undigested and provides bulk to stools and keeps them regular. Insoluble fibre is mainly found in wheat bran, other whole grains and some vegetable and fruit skins. Soluble fibre – Soluble fibre dissolves in water and absorbs water. In the digestive system it is broken down into a soft smooth mass. Soluble fibre is mainly found in legumes, vegetables, fruits, oats, barley, rye and seeds. Soluble fibre helps to remove hardened faecal matter (stools) from the lining of the colon wall. It may also be beneficial in lowering overall blood cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol. It also slows the rate at which glucose enters the blood so helps blood sugar control.
Good sources of fibre: Almonds Apples Apricots Asparagus Bananas Barley Beetroot Beans Berries Broccoli Brown rice Brussels sprouts Cabbage Carrots Celery Courgettes Figs Lentils Linseeds Nuts Oats Peaches Pears Peas Potatoes Prunes Pulses Raisins Rye Seeds Spinach Sweet potato
Why is fibre so important?
Fibre is vital for proper digestion and for preventing constipation.
The waste products of digestion in your colon contain many harmful toxins and old hormones that need to be eliminated. If your diet is lacking in fibre it can lead to constipation (i.e. less than one bowel movement a day), which means your stools are taking too long to travel the length of the colon. This can result in some of the toxins being re-absorbed into the body instead of being eliminated, and so increasing the toxic load in the body. This can have a very detrimental effect upon the balance of organisms (good and bad bacteria, yeast etc.) that inhabit the colon.
If levels of toxins become elevated due to constipation many health problems can arise such as an overtaxed liver and lymphatic system, poor skin health, arthritis, fatigue, mental sluggishness, headaches, abdominal pain, etc. Fibre also helps to eliminate excess cholesterol and so is essential for helping to prevent heart disease. In addition, fibre binds to and deactivates carcinogens therefore helping reduce the risk of colon cancer, It does the same thing with hormones that have been used and need to be eliminated and it helps balance blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood. Fibre is therefore a critical part of our diet to prevent disease and premature ageing.
Tips for keeping your bowel movements regular:
Eat naturally fibre-rich foods – as listed above.
Aim for 60% of your meal to be made up of a variety of different coloured vegetables, at least twice per day.
Drink at least 1.5 - 2 litres of water per day. On rising have a mug of hot water with lemon juice.
Include foods rich in essential fats – nuts, seeds and oily fish. These fats are essential to lubricate the bowel.
Sprinkle linseeds (flaxseeds) on to foods, or soak 2 teaspoons in a small amount of water overnight and drink first thing in the morning.
Avoid high bran foods in excess, such as wheat bran as these can irritate the bowel and make it lazy or cause diarrhoea.
Avoid white flour products, dairy and red meat as these can all produce excess mucus in the colon. White flour and water can be used for wallpaper paste, this glue-like effect is certainly not what you want in your bowel!
Consider going gluten free.Gluten is what makes dough sticky and stretchy. It has the same sticky effect on your colon walls and hinders your colons movement and microbiome.
Avoid sugar. Sugar is dehydrating and will leave your colon with less water to help soften your stools. It can also cause a dysbiosis in the gut, leaving you with constipation.
Regular exercise is vital for muscle tone of the digestive system - it really helps to keep things moving and is a great release for stress and anger!
Thrive Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathic Health Eve Morley N.T AMNNA FNTP NFPTA