Diving Into Digestion: Breaking down fibre
In my humble opinion, there are many basic health habits that are extremely under valued. Yes, you need to drink water. No, you can’t expect to function off of 4 hours of sleep. You get the idea. Ignoring these necessities of life for long enough usually ends with someone in my office with low energy, frequent headaches, and hormones levels everywhere. Luckily, I do love educating my patients on the importance of the basics. So today we’re going to give some high praise to a nutrient that is commonly underrated. Snap your fingers for fibre. *snap snap*
Fibre is the part of a plant that our body isn’t able to break down. Dietary recommendations of fibre are 38 g/day for men and 25 g/day for women. However, most people only eat about half that amount leading to chronic constipation, energy crashes, and high cholesterol (we’ll talk more about this later). There are two kinds; soluble fibre which dissolves in water, and insoluble that does not. Both kinds of fibre are essential for regulating digestion so it’s recommended to consume fibre from a variety of sources. Here are some examples:
1 apple = 3.7 g fibre
1 oz almonds = 3.1 g fibre
1 dry oz oatmeal = 2.9 g fibre
1 slice white bread = 1.0 g fibre
1 slice brown bread = 2.0 g fibre
One concern I often hear when talking about starting a gluten free diet or reducing someone’s carbohydrate intake, is getting enough fibre. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, or cereal are not a great source of fibre contrary to popular belief. If you look above white bread only has about 1.0 g of fibre per slice, meaning you’d have to eat at least TWO LOAVES of bread to reach your dietary fibre requirement. Switching to brown bread is slightly better, considering it has double the amount of fibre content. However, as you can see refined carbohydrates are pretty much at the bottom of the list when it comes to fibre content and therefore reducing these in your diet won’t result in a nutrient deficiency.
Now what is so good about fibre?
This is a PSA for people struggling with regular bowel movements, blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular disease.
1. Bulking Laxative
If you are suffering from constipation or hemorrhoids, consider fibre. Fibre gives you the right consistency for a regular bathroom visit! It’s called a bulking laxative because it draws water into the stool, making it easier to pass. If you are taking a fibre supplement, make sure to pair this with lots of WATER. Not drinking enough water might actually make matters worse and cause bowel blockages.
2. Regulating Blood Sugar
Fibre slows down the absorption of glucose (aka sugar) and decreases fasting insulin levels. In a normal person, this will regulate energy levels and reduce sugar cravings. Fibre regulates blood sugar levels so well that high fibre diets have been found correlational to decreasing the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
3. Lowers “Bad” Cholesterol
Fibre also slows down the absorption of dietary cholesterol which then lowers the risk of heart disease. In fact, Rimm et. al found with a 1g/day increase in dietary fibre there was a 3.3% decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. That is huge when considering people are put on medications to reduce cholesterol levels all the time and levels are largely impacted by diet.
Honourable mention: there is some research that suggests that fibre intake also reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
BTW Fibre isn’t always everyone’s friend. Those who have IBS and react to FODMAPs might find fibre aggravating and gas producing.
Up Your Intake
If you are inspired to incorporate more fibre in your diet here are some areas that you can make some simple switches to boost your fibre intake.
1 cup corn flakes 0.7 g TO 1 cup corn bran 6.1 g
1 slice white toast 1 g TO 1 slice whole grain toast 3.2 g
1 slice cheese 0.0 g TO TO ¼ cup of almonds 4.1 g
1 cup of white rice 1.7 g TO 1 cup quinoa 2.8 g
To put this into perspective, the person on the left had a total of 3.4 g of fibre and the person on the right had 16.2 g. Not so challenging now is it?!
Are you constipated? Many people use stomach pain to alert them when it’s been a few days since their last BM. Stomach pain should not be your cue to go pooh. Book your free 15 min consult to find out how resolving your constipation issues can lead to more energy, clear skin and regulated hormones. Book here.