There is striking evidence that a low fiber diet perpetuates chronic disease. Sadly, the average American is only getting 10 grams of fiber per day. While the current daily recommendation for fiber is 25 – 38 grams per day, studies show significant benefits from higher fiber diets. The impact of a low fiber diet is disastrous, to say the least. Just another attestation to the fact that the American diet is killing us.
In my Peeling the Pounds blogs, we discussed the importance of replacing refined grains (that have been stripped of their essential nutrients and fiber), with whole grains or complex carbohydrates. Refer back to the weight management blogs for an overview of the different types of carbohydrates and the impact they have on blood sugar control. But it doesn’t end here – let’s take this a step further, as the impact of a low fiber diet has additional profound consequences.
More than 70% of Americans have some sort of gastrointestinal issue. Current research suggests that chronic gastrointestinal issues can lead to inflammation in the lining of the gut, which in turn, impacts the absorption of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Again, this is primarily being fueled by the types of food we consume. To further compound the problem, impaired integrity of the colon can cause toxins to leak into our blood stream and create an imbalance in our immune system. This in turn, leads to increased free radical formation and inflammation, which we now recognize as a major contributor to chronic disease. Do you see how this is starting to come together? Scary isn’t it?
Dietary fiber comes from the thick cell wall of plants that cannot be digested by the enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract. Fiber is divided into two general categories – water soluble and water insoluble. Fiber is found in a large variety of whole foods and supplements.
There are three different types of fiber important to our health:
Absolutely yes! Multiple studies have demonstrated the health benefits of fiber. High intake of dietary fiber has been linked with lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke and death from heart attack. In multiple clinical studies, soluble fiber has been shown to decrease total cholesterol and triglycerides. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of blood sugar and has been shown to improve glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity. In fact, studies suggest that higher levels of fiber may reduce the progression of prediabetes to diabetes by up to 62%. Fiber has been shown to enhance weight loss in obese individuals. Recent research has shown that certain types of fiber help to turn off the hunger hormones and give a sense of fullness. Studies in obese individuals have shown that they have an imbalance in the bacterial makeup of the colon. Lastly, there is abundant evidence to show the favorable impact that fiber has on specific gastrointestinal disorders such as; constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Many scientists also believe that whole grains, containing high amounts of insoluble fiber, are protective against several types of cancer. Studies show that individuals that eat high amounts of whole grains may have a lower risk of lymphomas and cancers of the stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, breast, uterus, throat, liver and thyroid.
It is very clear that increasing your dietary fiber is essential in the maintenance of health and the prevention of chronic disease. While it is important to get the right amount of fiber in your diet (at leat 25 – 40 grams per day) you should increase it slowly to avoid unpleasant side effects (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation) and be sure to drink adequate water to help the insoluble fibers pass normally. How did I start? I converted my simple carbs to complex high fiber carbs and slowly added a supplement Biobasics to further enhance my fiber intake.
Photo compliments of earlycj5′s Photostream