Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber, formerly unrecognized for its health benefits, has received much attention in the past decade. It is widely accepted as playing a significant role in reducing total blood cholesterol, thereby decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease. It has also been credited in helping to alleviate numerous bowel disorders, including colon cancer.

Dietary fiber can be divided into two basic groups, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber, as the term describes, does not. Both soluble and insoluble fiber provide bulk in the large intestine and encourage bowel regularity. However, there are important differences between the two.

The job of soluble fiber is to absorb water in the intestinal tract and slow down the amount of time needed to empty the intestine. Eating these fibers makes you feel full and may help in weight loss. These are also the fibers, which are credited with helping to lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood. There are many types of food that contain soluble fiber, but remember that fruits and oats are primary sources of soluble fibers. Psyllium is the most convenient and readily available form of soluble fiber supplementation.

Insoluble fibers draw water into the intestinal tract, but rather than slowing down digestion, they actually speed it up and increase the amount and frequency of bowel movements. There are many kinds of food that has insoluble fiber, however just remember that vegetables and wheat bran are the primary sources of insoluble fiber.

Those over 50 years old are particularly affected by slowing motility of the gastrointestinal tract and resultant constipation. Taking soluble fiber two to three times a day is a simple way to solve this problem.

It is well known that fiber’s health enhancing activities is maximized in the presence of high volume of water, which acts to soften the bulk of the stool. It is also unclear in this study whether the participants have increased their water intake in conjunction with the soluble fiber intake.

If you can get all the fibers from diet alone, that is the best. The Mediterranean diet (with a heavy focus on dense vegetables) provides both soluble and insoluble fibers from whole food, not to mention antioxidants and other nutrients that have benefits of which are still undiscovered.

It is believed that dietary fibers help constipation, and somewhat colon cancer. However, diet with high fiber, either soluble or insoluble should be avoided if GI disease is in place. Patients should consult with physician or health practitioner first.


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