With the dramatic increase in prevalence of IBS, Crohns and Colitis in our generation, we must examine the causes behind this epidemic. Digestive illnesses generally do not begin overnight. Chronic constipation and/or chronic diarrhea should be taken seriously before serious harm is caused to the digestive system. Thankfully there is a solution to this common problem: Fiber. Fiber is an essential part of a well rounded diet and should not be underestimated.
There are two major kinds of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both of these fibers are crucial for maintaining health. Soluble fiber slows down digestion, thereby giving people a "full" feeling. It also slows down and regulates sugar absorption. This is why soluble fiber is known to lower blood sugar levels and keep it under control. Soluble fiber also lowers LDL cholesterol levels, thereby improving heart health. In fact, studies have shown that eating a high-fiber diet decreases your risk of heart disease by 40%. Studies also showed that for every seven grams of fiber you consume, you reduce your risk of stroke by 7%. Consuming soluble fiber reduces the risk of developing gallstones and kidney stones, most likely because it lowers blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber also absorbs excess water in the colon thereby reducing the risk of diarrhea.
Insoluble fiber speeds up transit time in the colon, quickly moving food through the intestines, thereby preventing the development of bacterial and yeast overgrowth. It also controls pH in the intestines. Insoluble fiber helps prevent colon cancer and diverticulitis because it prevents toxic buildup in the digestive tract.
An interesting study was conducted at Harvard University on nearly 400,000 people who consumed various amounts of fiber daily over a nine year period. The results were shocking. The researchers found that those eating the highest amount of fiber from grains specifically (29g for men, 26g for women), had a 22% lower chance of dying from disease than participants who ate the least amount of fiber (13g for men, 11g for women). This study demonstrates that grains, not fruits and vegetables, are in fact the best source of fiber. (Obviously, Fruits and vegetables are also very important due to their high vitamin and antioxidant content). In fact, the study shows that not only do grains provide dietary fiber but they also reduce the risk of death.
Many people realize that their daily fiber intake is very low. In fact, studies have shown that the average American eats no more than 14 grams of fiber per day. The proper intake should be 34 grams of fiber per day. To fix this problem, people take fiber supplements. However, you may unknowingly suffer from some of the side effects of fiber supplementation. One of the major side effects is surprisingly chronic constipation. According to a study conducted by the Cancer Treatment Center of America, if one consumes dietary fiber supplements without drinking enough water, the fiber will lodge in your intestines causing chronic constipation and intestinal blockage. According to studies conducted in Colorado State University, fiber supplements containing insoluble fiber will deplete the body of many important minerals, including calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium.
But don't think that you can just stop at your local supermarket and buy bread with high "fiber" listed in the nutrition facts. Many of the "fibers" in processed foods, such as bread and cereals, are not naturally occurring at all, they are actually added fibrous emulsifiers like cellulose. Cellulose is a nice term for wood pulp, a damaging fiber agent used to bind foods. Cellulose, or wood pulp, acts like mini splinters in the intestines, poking holes in the intestinal lining and causing leaky gut. Fiber should be consumed in its natural form, from food that actually contains fiber. Fiber should not be added into foods.