Supplementing With Fiber
Written by Fritz Nugent
Research on dietary fiber has consistently shown that it offers numerous health benefits. Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts that the human body cannot fully digest. When these foods pass into the stomach where human-digestible carbohydrates are broken down, these non-digestible carbohydrates pass through to the colon where bacteria compete for these nutrients! In return, from a multi-million year relationship with our species, our gut bacteria metabolize those carbohydrates, gaining sustenance, and often they excrete molecules which are beneficial to our health.
What does fiber help improve?
Here are some key findings of research on fiber consumption:
Improved Digestive Health
Fiber adds bulk to stools, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.
High-fiber diets have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Fiber helps lower LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) and regulates blood pressure.
High-fiber foods tend to be more filling and promote satiety which helps reduce overall calorie intake, a perfect combination for people who desire to lose body weight or body fat.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Soluble fiber can slow down the absorption of sugar, leading to better blood sugar control. This is beneficial for people with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition.
Fiber acts as a prebiotic, supporting the proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to various aspects of overall health.
Diets high in fiber have been associated with lower levels of inflammation, supporting the next bullet point:
Lower Risk of Chronic Diseases
High-fiber diets have been associated with a reduced risk of various chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
Recommended Daily Fiber Intake
The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber varies by age and gender, but in general, adults should aim for around 25-35 grams per day. It’s essential to consume a variety of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, to maximize the health benefits.
The microbes in our gut are a beautiful example of symbiotic relationships, meaning that both organisms (the human and the bacteria) gain benefits from their relationship.
Supplementing With Fiber
My mom recently wrote me an email saying that she has begun supplementing with fiber. Here is my response to her:
“Keep in mind that psyllium is only one kind of fiber and is metabolized by specific types of bacteria, and not all of them. There are many different bacteria in our gut and they require a diversity of fiber sources from fruits, vegetables, and other foods. While eating psyllium may increase your total fiber intake, in my opinion total fiber intake is not as useful or important as fiber diversity. Sure, reaching a daily fiber target is helpful, but it’s not the only consideration. Research suggests that people who eat 30+ different fruits and vegetables each month have the greatest diversity and quantity of microbiota species, and with that comes protective health benefits. And perhaps the best part of this research also suggests we only need to eat specific foods about once a month. We don’t need to eat 30 different fruits/veggies each week! This lends much support to a habit of rotating fruits and vegetables weekly, and also seasonally.”
So in summary, yes, use psyllium, but don’t rely solely on it. Other fiber sources are necessary.
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