How To Heal Your Gut With Prebiotic Fibre
Let’s look at how to heal your gut using fibre as a prebiotic! A healthy gut is essential for general health and wellbeing, and poor gut health can contribute to many related health conditions down the road. In this post you’ll see how easy it can be to improve gut health, and even save money while getting well!
Why is a Healthy Gut Important?
General Health and wellness is a reflection of our whole lifestyle. This includes emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. Our physical health depends on the nutrients we consume on a daily basis, in the form of food and drink. All food and drink has the same purpose: to nourish every cell inside every organ so we can live…
Our gut plays an essential role in delivering nutrients to each cell! All foods must first pass the through our digestive system and be broken down into much smaller chemical nutrients in order to arrive at the body cell. According to the National Institute of Health, digestive diseases are a common consequence of western lifestyle, affecting 60-70 million Americans!
Proper digestion aids the absorption of nutrients, and boosts immune system function. A happy, healthy life depends on great immune function! Once our health is gone, life can be pretty miserable.
By taking simple, daily steps to improve your gut health now, you’ll reduce the risk of many diseases in the years to come. You may even be able to relieve some ailments you’re currently treating, just by taking control of your gut.
How To Use Fibre as a Prebiotic and Improve Gut Health Naturally
One way of promoting a healthy gut is by getting plenty of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is a form of carbohydrate, known as cellulose. All fiber passes through our intestinal tract undigested, because humans do not have the gastrointestinal enzymes to break fibre into nutrients which can be used as energy. The role of dietary fibre is to add bulk in our intestines which aids in the muscular actions of our gut, to keep things moving. While moving along our intestines, fibre sweeps through and clears out waste along the way. Natural dietary fibre is the very best way to naturally detox your gut each and every day.
An overview of Digestive Tract and Fibre Sweeping Through Large Intestines.
Fiber and Prebiotic Actions
Fibre is an essential nutrient because it feeds our microbiome. Microbiome is a fancy way of saying gut bacteria or microflora. Trillions of healthy bacteria live in our gastrointestinal tract. They need dietary fibre to live, among other things. Fibre is considered a prebiotic!
Prebiotics are the stuff your healthy gut flora will use for food. Imagine if you consumed many good sources of fibre to feed all those healthy gut bacteria everyday? In just a couple of months your gut would be healthy, your immune system would be functioning very well, and you’d reduce the risk of many diseases! All this from fibre!
Prebiotics and Probiotics For A Healthy Gut
Combining a good quality probiotic with dietary fibre will build up microflora in the gut rather quickly, and actually, by combining the two you’ll save money on probiotics in the future. You see, you won’t need to take probiotics all the time if you consistently include enough fibre into your daily diet. As the microflora feed on the fibre in your gut and reproduce, you’ll naturally build up the micrbiome numbers to support good gut health.
Using Fiber To Avoid Disease
As fibre sweeps through the intestinal tract it binding with some nutrients. When binding with certain nutrients, fibre will slow the absorption, and even inhibit absorption of some chemicals.
For example, fibre in your gut slows the absorption of sugars, and because sugar is absorbed more slowly from the intestines into the blood, it will help to control your blood sugars. Then because sugar is entering your blood at a slower rate, insulin is released at a slower rate and in smaller amounts. Controlled Insulin levels helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
When binding with cholesterol in the gut, fibre will help to decrease cholesterol levels and therefore keep LDL cholesterol at an optimal level. This can help prevent heart disease. Sodium can also bind with fibre in the gut and therefore naturally decrease blood pressure.
Benefits of High Fibre Diet
High fibre diet has several benefits, which include:
- Gastrointestinal Health – the regular consumption of high fibre diet regulates your bowel movements to prevent constipation. It also reduces the chance of developing colitis, haemorrhoids and as well as colon cancer.
- Natural Detox – Fibre absorbs water and therefore bulks up your stool making it easier to pass. Fibre sweeps through the entire intestinal tract taking waste with it. As we eliminate waste we’re naturally detoxifying our system.
- Controls & prevents Type 2 Diabetes – Fibre slows the absorption of sugar into our blood, therefore preventing sudden increase of blood sugar and insulin spikes after a meal.
- Protection against heart disease – the consumption of soluble fibre protects your body against heart diseases by decreasing low-density or “bad” cholesterol levels. It also lowers your blood pressure and reduces the risk of inflammation.
- Body weight – regular consumption of fibre in your diet creates a feeling of fullness. This decreases calorie intake which can help in treating or preventing obesity.
Recommended Daily Fibre Intake for Adults
Now that you know the significance of fibre in your daily diet, it’s also vital to know if you’re getting enough. Most Americans are not getting enough fibre, since the standard western diet is made up of readily available, highly processed foods.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it is recommended that an average adult woman needs about 25 grams of fibre daily. An average adult man needs about 38 grams of fiber daily.
Common Sense Approach to Dietary Fibre.
A good diet includes varied sources of fibre. In real life we’re not going to count grams of fibre, right? Balance is the key. Too much fibre isn’t good because it binds with certain nutrients, too little fibre isn’t good because you’ll develop poor gut health and lowered immunity.
To make your life as easy as possible, here are some basic guidelines to easily implement into your daily life.
Best sources of fibre:
All nuts and seeds are very high in fiber. A daily combination of nuts, seeds and vegetables will ensure that you’re getting plenty of dietary fibre. As an added bonus, you’ll also be getting more vitamins and minerals to support a healthy gut and feed your microflora!
Foods High In Fibre
Vegetables, nuts and seeds are perfect sources of fibre. Fruits, legumes, beans and whole grains are also good examples of fibre rich foods. Fibre is only found in plant foods and never in animal products! Meats, seafoods, dairy or poultry do not contribute to dietary fibre intake. However good nutrition depends on a variety of foods for adequate intake of protein, fats and complex carbohydrates. A great combination is a protein source such as meat or chicken combined with vegetables. This simple combination naturally contains fibre, protein fats and complex carbohydrates.
- Fruits and vegetables
- Eat at least 5 servings vegetable every day. Consume fresh fruits if possible since its fibre content is slightly higher that canned fruits.
- Instead of drinking juices, eat whole fruits! Juices do not have fiber and are full of simple sugars which raise insulin quickly.
All fruits or vegetables contain some fiber, but there are some which contain higher fiber than others.
The following fruits contain 3-4 grams of fiber per serve:
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup strawberries
- Also raspberries are rich in fiber containing 8 grams of fiber in just 1 cup
The following vegetables contains 3-4 grams of fiber
- ½ cup peas
- ½ cup cauliflower
- 1 cup carrots
- 1 medium sweet potato
- ½ cup squash
Grains and Cereals
Generally, I’m not a fan of grains as a fibre source because many of the grain and cereal products are now modified, highly processed and riddled with chemicals. I prefer to cook with nuts and seeds as an alternative to whole grains.
However if you want to include grains as a fibre source:
- When cooking or baking, use whole-wheat flour as it’s high in fiber
- Be wise in choosing the type of bread you eat. Always read the label and look for breads that have the highest amount of fiber per slice, preferably whole grain bread.
- For cereals, choose unprocessed cereals. Eg oats, bran etc
- Use brown rice, instead of white rice
- Include Legumes and Beans. Half cup of garbanzos or kidney beans contains approximately about 7-8 grams of fiber
Make it a habit to check the Nutrition Facts for the amount of fiber that’s available per serving. Be sure to choose unprocessed fibre sources to support microflora growth and healthy gut results!
Types of Dietary Fiber – Soluble and Insoluble Fibre
Fiber is categorized into two (2) types: soluble and insoluble fiber. Each type has distinct health benefits for the gut, however both play an important role in maintaining good digestion. It’s better to get fiber from whole foods because they’re highly concentrated in nutrients. However, if you’re unable to get enough natural Fiber through diet, you can also take fiber supplements.
Fibre supplements are functional fiber which has been extracted from natural sources, and then added to drinks, fortified foods or even supplements to enhance fiber content.
These are the most common type of dietary and functional type of fiber:
- Cellulose, some hemicellulose (Insoluble) – this fiber lowers the risk of diverticulitis. It also reduces constipation and helps in managing weight loss. It is naturally found in whole grains, bran, edible brown rice, nuts and whole wheat.
- Inulin oligofructose (Soluble) – responsible for improving the function of your immune system, and also increases the amount of good bacteria in your digestive tract. May be extracted from onions or byproducts of chicory roots or beets and is being added to foods which are being processed to boost fibre content. Inulin is one active ingredient in Benefibre, a fibre supplement.
- Lignin (Insoluble) – aside from improving your immune system, this fiber is also good for the health of your heart. But it should be taken cautiously, for individuals that are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. Naturally, these are found in rye, flax and some vegetables.
- Mucilage, beta-glucans (soluble) – this reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes. It also aids in lowering bad cholesterol (LDL). However, caution is advised for celiac disease or gluten intolerance. This can be found in oranges, apples, carrots, soybeans, berries, flaxseed, barley oats and bran.
- Pectin and gums (Soluble) – some pectins can also be insoluble. This is responsible for slowing the passage of food through your gastrointestinal tract and helps in lowering blood cholesterol. These fibres are originally extracted from citrus peel and other plants which are added to processed foods in order to boost fibre content. Pectin and gums can also be found in seeds, fruits and berries.
- Polydextrose polyols (Souble) – helps in preventing constipation by making the stool bulkier and easier to pass. However, high consumption may cause gas or bloating. Made from citric acid, sorbitol and dextrose. Is used as a bulking agent to processed foods.
- Psyllium (Soluble) – it inhibits constipation and helps in lowering cholesterol levels. Psyllium is extracted from seeds or husks of plantago ovate plant, and is used in supplements, drinks and foods. Psyllium is the active ingredient in Metamucil.
- Resistant Starch (Soluble) – Helps control blood sugars and increases sensitivity to insulin, thus reducing the risk of diabetes. Starch is great for weight management because it increases fullness, and decreases hunger.
- Wheat dextrin (Soluble) – this is responsible for lowering your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, therefore reducing the risks of coronary heart disease and diabetes. Caution is advised for celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Soluble Fiber Explained
Fiber is a carbohydrate but does not break down to provide energy. Dieteary fibre is only found in plant-based foods and can either be categorized as soluble or insoluble.
Soluble fiber is soft and sticky. It forms a gel-like substance from absorbing water inside the digestive system. It usually comes from avocados, fruits, barley, oats, peas and beans. It aids in softening the stool allowing it to easily glide through the gastrointestinal tract. Soluble fiber prevents or slows down absorption of certain nutrients into the blood, by binding to substances like sugar and cholesterol. Therefore soluble fibre regulates blood sugar level and lowers blood cholesterol. Soluble fiber increases the amount of good bacteria in your gut which helps in improving your immune system, providing anti-inflammatory effects, and even enhances mood.
Health Benefits Of Soluble Fiber Includes:
- Healthy Heart
In your digestive system, soluble fiber binds to cholesterol particles and flushes them out of your body. Managing and even reducing cholesterol levels and protecting against possible heart diseases. Oatmeal does a very good job in protecting your heart the most.
- Protection against diabetes
Soluble fiber helps controlling blood sugar levels in your body. Simple sugars not totally absorbed therefore it decreases blood sugar and risk for diabetes and heart diseases.
- Weight Management
Soluble fiber can help with weight management. It keeps you feeling full and satisfied without adding extra calories to your diet. Food obsession can become a thing of the past!
- Keeps your bowel movements healthy
Most fiber supplements contain soluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water as it passes through your digestive system, which bulks up stools and protects your body against diarrhoea and constipation.
Insoluble fiber Explained:
Insoluble fiber acts in opposition to soluble fiber by staying intact and making your digestion works rapidly. This type of fiber passes completely through your gastrointestinal tract and cleanses your intestines by creating bulk. Insoluble fibre is the rough “fibrous” part of plants that are hard to chew and does not absorb water. Notice, when you eat something like corn kernels, they often comes out intact in your stools. This is because human beings do not have the enzymes to digest or break down fiber. Insoluble fiber is made up of cellulose which is the primary component of cell walls in plants. It’s responsible for the firm structure which makes some plants difficult to chew and digest.
Health Benefits of Insoluble Fiber Include:
- Weight loss
Insoluble fiber works in the same way as soluble fiber when it comes to weight management. Delayed hunger, stable blood sugars and insulin levels are just some benefits.
2. Digestive health
Insoluble fiber improves bowel related conditions like constipation, fecal incontinence and hemorrhoids. Insoluble fibre keeps you regular!
3. Healthy Colon
The colon is slightly acidic. This prevents the growth of unwanted bacteria like Salmonella, Shigella and E. Coli in your colon. The best way to manage bacteria is to maintain the colon’s acidity levels. Insoluble fibre does this by speeding up the passage of waste throughs the GIT. Some insoluble fiber is fermentable by the bacteria in your colon, making your colon stay healthy. However, soluble fiber is more highly fermentable than insoluble fiber. A combination of both is important.
Natural Fiber Supplements
Fiber is known to have a wide array of health benefits which usually includes regulating your bowel movements and preventing constipation. Food offers the best sources of fiber rather than supplements. Supplements do not provide the essential vitamins, mineral and other nutrients found in natural foods. However, fiber supplements can contribute to daily intake, and is sometimes necessary.
There’s no evidence that taking natural fiber supplements is harmful to health, and actually common sense tells us, it may even help. But be warned! Taking too much can cause abdominal bloating. Fiber supplements can interact with certain medications, such as carbamazepine, aspirin and many others, therefore take any fibre supplements at least 4 hours away from medications.
If taking diabetic medications, be sure to monitor medication as decreased sugar absorption will likely decrease the need for diabetic mediations over time. Check with your doctor!
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Increased water intake is essential when taking fiber supplements. To avoid abdominal bloating and gas, make sure to start with small doses of fibre and work up over time.
Fiber supplements come in various forms such as chewable tablets, powder or capsules. Make sure to ask your doctor which type of supplement is suitable for your daily needs.
Natural fiber supplements include:
- Inulin– is a type of prebiotic fiber. Which means it is beneficial to the bacterial population of your colon.
- Methylcellulose (– a common soluble fiber which comes from cellulose. It is less likely to cause abdominal bloating, because it is non-fermentable. Methylcellulose only dissolves in cold liquid because of it chemical structure. A brand is Citrucel and is sometimes used as a laxative.
- Psyllium husk – also known as “ispaghula”. It comes from the seed husks of plantago ovate plant. It slows digestion and increases the feeling of fullness since it contains 70% of soluble fiber.
- Wheat Dextrin – this fiber is a byproduct of wheat plant. Like any other soluble fibers, it stabilizes blood sugar and regulates digestion.
- Polycarbophil – the most common type of supplement which is usually known as laxative. It is the most effective solution for constipation. Most people used this fiber to lose weight, however it can cause bloating.
If taking fibre supplements a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fibres are best. See this fibre supplement prescription in this post.
You can use this mixture daily or every couple of days to support gut health. Balance is key! Take note of how your gut feels when you start using fibre supplements, as you may need to decrease or increase the dose depending on how your body reacts. Start slowly and gradually increase the dose as needed. Generally speaking, most people don’t need more than three teaspoons of fibre supplement each day Fiber supplements increase your need for water! When taking fibre supplements increase your daily water intake by at least one litre ( 33 ounces). If you’re not getting enough water, dehydration is likely!