Theres been a lot in the media about our gut health and although we are becoming more familiar with the foods that we should be including in our diet, there seems to be a lack of information on the importance of fibre.
There is much evidence to show the benefits of fibre on our digestion as well as our gut microbiota, which can help to reduce some chronic diseases.
So what is fibre?
Fibre is the non digestible carbohydrates found in some foods.
There are two type of fibre:
Soluble fibre which dissolves in water and can be broken down by the good bacteria in the gut
Insoluble fibre that does not dissolve in water Andy is non fermentable by our gut bacteria
Although some foods do contain both of these fibres !
So what are the health benefits of these fibres?
Our bodies are packed full of bacteria in our gut, on our skin, in our mouths and most of these are commensal meaning that we have a mutual beneficial relationship. They ferment the foods we eat, produce some vitamins, they produce short chain fatty acids, they help to control the immune system, help control blood sugar levels, and help control brain function while we provide shelter and a habitat for them.
Although at the same time we also have non beneficial bacteria so it’s important that a good balance is found which all comes down to what we eat.
You see the bacteria needs energy to survive within our body and the intestinal bacteria have the enzymes to break down these fibres for their source of energy as our body lacks the enzymes to break down the fibre we eat.
Fibre can help to promote the growth of the good bacteria while foods such as sugar, refined carbohydrates feed the bad bacteria causing dysbiosis.
When we consume good sources of fibre, the good bacteria breaks it down and produces nutrients such as short chain fatty acids which feed the cells within our gut, reduce inflammation and can even improve symptoms of IBD, Crohns and colitis.
Have you ever wondered why some foods make you a bit gassy, well this would be to do with the amount of fibre in your food, you see flatulance is a by product of the fermentation process that the fibre undergoes when bacteria breaks it down. Of course if you were to introduce more fibre to your diet, it can cause more wind, but this normally subsides once your body becomes accustomed to the additional fibre.
Fibre is found in vegetables, fruit, whole grains etc and the addition of fibre in these foods helps to slow down the breakdown of the sugars within the food.
Say you drank a glass of orange juice, sure you’ll get a dose of vitamin C but the sugar content is very high and will cause a surge in blood sugar levels which gives a short term energy boost but the sugars are broken down and stored very quickly meaning that it provides a very short term energy fix. But if you were to eat a whole orange which will of course give you a good dose of vitamin C, it also contains the fibre within the fruit which slows down the breakdown of the sugars meaning it won’t produce such a rise in blood sugar levels.
This is also the case for whole grains. For instance if you were to eat a processed breakfast cereal or some white toast in the morning, the body breaks down the carbohydrates into its simple sugars very quickly which results in an energy slump mid morning, but say you ate some whole grain rolled oats, the fibre within the oats helps to slow the breakdown of the sugar resulting in prolonged energy.
Fibre can also help to make you feel fuller for longer, reducing the need to eat between meals or snack on processed sugary foods for get an energy fix.
Processed and sugary carbohydrates lack the fibre our body and our bacteria needs so including whole grains, whole vegetables and fruit can not only support blood sugar levels but also support our gut bacteria.
90% of our serotonin produced in our bodies is produced in the gut, 70% of our immune system is produced in our gut, so if we are not feeding the good bacteria with the foods they need to thrive, then we are ultimately effecting our health, and mental health.
Many studies have shown the a diet high in fibre can actually reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Remember when I mentioned that good bacteria produce short chain fatty acids, well these help to support the health of the cells in the colon as well as reduce inflammation.
So as you can see, fibre really does play a crucial role in our well-being and not just from a simple health point of view, but also long term.
Fibre is not only important but the benefits are huge but it’s not difficult to increase your fibre in take, as I always say, eat the rainbow, include whole grains in your diet and avoid processed refined carbohydrates such as white, bread, white pasta, sweets, sugary drinks, fruit juices etc and stick with whole unprocessed foods.
It really is that simple!