Today’s food environment is saturated with highly processed, high glycemic, low fiber foods. At the time that these foods were invented, it was mistakenly assumed that saturated fats (or any fats for that matter) were bad and caused heart disease. As a way of making these low fat, low fiber foods palatable, food manufacturers turned to the only substances they could, namely, sugar and salt. These highly processed foods also ended up loosing their fiber content as well.
Dietary fiber comes in 2 forms, water-soluble and water-insoluble. Water-soluble kinds come from fruits, oats, barley and legumes in the forms of pectins, gums and hemicelluloses. Water insoluble kinds are found in vegetables and most grains in the forms of cellulose and lignins. Both kinds of fiber hold water and make stools softer and bulkier and can ease their passage through the intestines. In addition to relieving both diarrhea and constipation, fiber has some other interesting functions as well. Both forms of fiber tend to delay gastric emptying, making us feel fuller quicker, resulting in less over eating. Fiber also tends to reduce the glycemic load in our food, meaning we will secrete less insulin to deal with the glucose liberated from it, which helps prevent diabetes. Dietary fiber also tends to bind up carcinogens such as nitrites and pesticide residues, rendering them less likely to cause bowel cancers.
However, too much of a good thing is just as bad as not enough. One of the downsides to consuming too much fiber is that trace minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc can become depleted, as well as Vitamins A and B12. Another disadvantage to consuming too much fiber would be an increased chance of developing a bowel obstruction. The safest way to consume dietary fiber is the natural way, by increasing the amounts of vegetables in our diets (excluding potatoes). If taking a fiber supplement, ensure you consume enough water and extra amounts of the vitamins and minerals mentioned above.
Tune in next week when we’ll talk about GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Be Well and Be Zen
Gaby., Dietary Fiber., Nutritional Medicine (2011)., Ch. 57., ps.211-14, ISBN13: 978-0-9828850-0-0. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Concord, NH.