The Power of Fiber – by Robert Ball, BA
The most commonly known aspect of fiber is that it helps with constipation issues. While this is true, fiber also possesses many other health benefits. These include:
- Aiding with digestion
- Ridding the body of toxins
- Reducing the glycemic load of a meal containing carbohydrates
- Supporting colon health
- Improving cholesterol levels
Ingesting recommended levels of fiber can also provide a safe avenue toward weight loss.
Adults should aim for consumption of 20-35 grams of fiber per day. On average, adults only reach 10-15 grams per day. (Interestingly enough, studies show our ancestral diet contained as much as 100 grams of fiber per day.) This can be remedied quite easily if you know what to look for when supplementing your diet. More on this later, but first, we will examine a couple of different types of soluble fiber and how they work in harmony with your system.
Dextrin is a low-molecular-weight carbohydrate that is derived from glucose. Inulin is a type of fructan most commonly extracted from the chicory root. Indigestible versions of both are used as supplements. You may ask, “If they are indigestible, what good are they to me?”. The power of dextrin and inulin is that they ferment in the gut rather than being absorbed. The fermentation feature is important due to the fact that this feeds the ‘good’ bacteria in the stomach. These bacteria are known as probiotics, thus making dextrin and inulin prebiotics. More ‘good’ bacteria in the system is extremely conducive to proper digestion and helps to balance out the ratio between ‘bad’ bacteria. ‘Bad’ bacteria is ever-present in our systems with some examples being Escherichia coli (E Coli) or Staphylococcus (staph). When trying to grasp the big picture of fiber fermentation and why it’s important, remember that it relates to balance in the body. Pathogenic bacteria, ‘bad’ bacteria, must be balanced with the ‘good’ to prevent the opportunistic nature of unfriendly bacteria from taking advantage of a weakened system.
Dextrin and inulin are soluble. When ingested, soluble fiber dissolves to form a gel-like substance in the gut. This creates an ideal environment for relieving constipation as it lubricates the digestive system. You must ensure that you take dextrin and inulin with plenty of water. Without proper hydration, fiber will be unable to pass through the system efficiently and may compound constipation issues. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, increases the mechanical stimulation of the gut mucosa; in other words, the mucous membrane, which consists of glands and gastric pits. When this occurs, material is passed more quickly through the gut and stool bulk expands. Insoluble fiber is the ‘roughage’ in food, and it’s especially concentrated in a WFPB diet.
When beginning a supplemental fiber routine, it is critical that you introduce dextrin or inulin to the body incrementally. A good starting amount is ½ a teaspoon or less of fiber mixed with a drink or smoothie. This can be increased to one teaspoon, then up to two teaspoons per day over several weeks. Consuming more than the recommended dose when starting a regimen may have uncomfortable side effects such as cramping, bloating and gas. If you experience any of these, simply lower your dose to where the symptoms are non-existent.
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Traci Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC is the founder of Vibrant Health Company LLC
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