What is dietary fiber and why is it important?

Dietary fiber is the part of a plant which is not digested by the stomach or small intestine.  Rather, it arrives unchanged in the colon.  There, it does two things: It provides bulk or roughage and thereby helps promote regularity.  Far more important, many of these fibers are a food and nourishment source for the myriad numbers of bacteria that normally reside in the colon.  When adequate fiber is consumed, 25-35 grams per day, many amazing health benefits occur in the colon and body.

Function of the Colon

One job of the colon is to complete the digestive process.  This occurs by removing excess water from food wastes entering from the small intestine.  When wastes pass through the intestines too quickly, not enough water is absorbed.  Watery stools and diarrhea are the result.  In contrast, if the passage of waste is too slow, too much water is absorbed.  This results in hard stools and constipation, which often leads to constipation and straining. These above facts have long been known.  What is now known is that the huge numbers and the great diversity of bacteria within the colon play a vital role in promoting and maintaining good health.  These benefits include producing vitamins and enzymes, enhancing the immune system, controlling cholesterol and triglyceride levels, even in the prevention of certain cancers.

Bacteria in the Colon

Dietary FiberThe huge numbers of bacteria in the colon and the consumed fiber that reaches it are intimately tied together.
There are trillions upon trillions of bacteria in the human colon, more than 10 times the human cells in the body.  There is a reason for this.  The total number of genes in all these bacteria is 100 times greater than the genes in a person’s body.  There is a reason for this as well.
Each person has their own particular make up of bacteria in his or her colon, much like a fingerprint.  The only way to change this is to make a permanent change in the fiber intake.
The bacteria in the colon have been called “super organisms” because of all the wonderful healthful outcomes they can produce.
The bacteria are your friends.  Protect and grow the good ones.  Get rid of the bad ones.

The Importance of Dietary Fiber

While there are many types of fiber that interest food chemists, there are only a few that need concern the public:

Insoluble Fiber

This fiber does not dissolve in water, nor is it fermented by the bacteria in the gut.  Rather, it retains water and in so doing helps to promote a softer, bulkier stool.  This, in turn, may be of importance in sweeping out certain toxins and cancer-causing carcinogens.

Soluble Fiber

These fibers are fermented by colon bacteria.  These bacteria need their own nourishment and food source.  The health benefits these bugs provide is strictly dependent on the amounts of soluble fiber.

Prebiotic Soluble Fiber

There are specialized types of soluble fibers which have been demonstrated to have the most positive health benefits, as found in established medical research centers.  The three that have been definitively proven are inulin, oligofrustose and galacto-oligosaccharide.  In summary, all plant fiber has both insoluble and soluble fiber in it.  However, the amount varies.  Wheat and corn fiber are 90% insoluble, while oats is about 50/50.  Artichokes are very high in soluble fiber.  Eating 25-35 grams per day of varied plant-based food will provide a well-balanced amount of fiber inulin.

Health Benefits of Prebiotic Fibers

It is remarkable to know the health benefits that are provided when adequate amounts of prebiotic plant fibers, yet each of these below is supported by medical research in medical research centers and by peer-reviewed medical journals.

Health Benefits of Prebiotic Fibers
Increase Good Colon Bacteria
Increase Calcium Absorption
Enhance Immune System
Reduce Triglycerides Level
Control Appetite and Weight
Reduce Colon Polyp and Cancer Factors
Increase Satiety and Weight Loss
Improve Bowel Regularity
Increase Bone Density
Decrease Bad Colon Bacteria
Reduce Allergies and Asthma
Improve Colon and Body Health
Decrease Flatus Smell

Adding fiber to your diet too quickly can cause gas and bloating. Fiber works best when you drink plenty of liquids. If you are not drinking plenty of liquids, you may have constipation.

Foods high in dietary fiber

This entry was posted in Food.