“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is an old adage that still speaks the truth about what we eat and how we manage our eating habits can save us the hassle of meeting with our doctors due to health concerns.
Promoting your digestive health comes a long way in maintaining your overall health and wellness. You may be unaware of this, but keeping your gut safe and sound, shields you from the dire risks of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart illnesses, and even cancer. So, when it feels like there is something wrong with your digestion, you might want to take a further look. And while doing so, it might be best to bring in more fiber to your diet.
WHAT IS DIETARY FIBER?
When you get nasty stuff going on with your stomach, constipation perhaps, one of the most common advice you will get from your doctor is to eat more fiber. But, what is fiber, though?
Dietary fiber is an unbreakable carbohydrate. Foods that the body’s enzymes couldn’t break down; hence they pass through our digestive tracts almost intact – until they come out of the body. Nasty as that may sound, fiber actually helps maintain our gut’s health and even extend its benefit to protecting the body from developing chronic diseases that commonly cause death among most adults. Fiber usually comes in two types: soluble, which dissolves in water, and insoluble, which does not.
Soluble fiber is a gel-like substance that, when consumed, assists the body in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose (sugar) levels. Foods like apple, citrus, carrots, beans, peas, barley, oats, and psyllium are popular sources of soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber gained from eating whole-wheat flour, nuts, beans, and veggies, including cauliflower, potatoes, and green beans, helps improve stool bulk and retaining water; hence, relieving annoying conditions like constipation and irregular bowel syndrome (IBS).
HOW CAN FIBER BENEFIT DIGESTION?
Fiber deserves a spot on our everyday meal. As adults, we need to pay more attention to how we plan our daily dishes. Choosing and finding fiber-rich foods isn’t even a challenge, as we can find fiber in almost every food group. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds are all excellent sources of fiber. Eating a variety of these foods assures us of the many digestion benefits that fiber promises.
Here’s how fiber helps improve our digestive health:
A high-fiber diet normalizes bowel movement. Constipation, diarrhea, and loose bowel movement (LBM) caused by irregular bowel syndrome(IBS) are probably the worst circumstances that can happen to you, especially if you maintain a relatively active and outgoing lifestyle. Your solution: dietary fiber. Fiber increases stool bulk and absorbs water, so the waste is easier to pass, avoiding constipation. When your stool is way too loose and watery, fiber also helps solidify it, thus saving you from unconscious, unsuspected release.
Fiber consumption maintains colorectal health. Since fiber helps increase stool bulk, it also assists in the smooth, healthy bowel movement. When this happens, the chances of getting hemorrhoids or swollen veins in the rectal area are dramatically reduced. In addition, having enough fiber in the body lowers the chance of developing small pouches in the colon, known as diverticular disease.
Fiber reduces weight gain. Eating fiber-rich foods also helps keep the body weight in check, as it helps the body achieve what experts call ‘satiety’ or the feeling of fullness after a meal. We eat to satisfy our hunger, and until we get that satisfaction, we continue to do so, letting us take in more food than we should. Consuming fiber allows us to reach said satisfaction without overeating – a precursor to weight gain and obesity.
Dietary fiber helps control blood sugar levels. Fiber, particularly the soluble ones, allows the body to slow down its sugar absorption process, thus lowering the blood sugar level. In addition, eating insoluble fiber helps you avoid developing type 2 diabetes.
A fiber diet minimizes cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a waxy substance residing in the blood. The body needs this substance to build healthy cells, but it can cause severe complications, including heart attack or stroke if left unchecked. Eating fiber-rich beans, oats, seeds, and oat bran help tone down the bad cholesterol levels, also known as Low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
HOW MUCH FIBER DO WE NEED?
Now that we learn about the many benefits of consuming fiber, does that mean we get to eat every fiber-rich that we can get our hands on? Well, the answer is not exactly.
Although experts suggest a high-fiber diet to achieve all its enormous health benefits, everything too much is bad. Too much and irresponsible fiber consumption may result in bloating, loose stools, and dreaded diarrhea. The fact that fiber is present in many different types of food hints that we can prepare various dishes to regulate our consumption of the nutrient. Dieticians recommend that men ages 50 or below must consume at least 30 to 38 grams of fiber a day. On the other hand, for women of the same age bracket, 21 to 25 grams of fiber every day would suffice.
Hydration through water and juices is also essential in a high-fiber diet as it allows for easy absorption and passing of said nutrients through the gut.