Food facts: The secret of healthy digestion is fibre

If you want to look after your health amid the pandemic, the secret lies in adding fibre to your diet. It is the best way to support healthy digestion and keep diseases at bay
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Fibre, also known as roughage, is the part of plant-based foods that the body can't break down. It should be a part of your diet in order to keep you healthy. But did you know that there are many different types of fibre? Some may be helpful to you but some might make your symptoms worse. It is important to understand fibre before understanding how it will work for you.

What is fibre?

Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre

The best thing about fibre is that it is derived purely from plant foods. This means that no matter what your diet philosophy or choice is, you can bring in the right form of fibre to your meal to support healthy digestion and all other health problems. One of the greatest secrets of healthy digestion is fibre. With digestion at the root of all symptoms of disease, fibre is key.

Let me tell you about some areas in your body where fibre will really help your health.

How does fibre help you?

  • Elimination is a key part of healthy digestion. Without proper elimination, several challenges can arise in your body. Constipation can be chronic and debilitating to health. Fibre absorbs water and makes you eliminate easily. It allows digestion to speed up through your whole body. It might also make you reach out for more water. Conditions like hypothyroidism and IBS can also cause constipation and lower gut motility. Fibre becomes very important in such situations.
  • Haemorrhoids can be intensely painful and seem to be more prevalent than we think. Research shows that fibre is significantly integral to reducing these symptoms, including pain and bleeding. One day of low fibre can trigger inflammation, bleeding, pain and intense discomfort.

Fibrous foods can control cholesterol and protect you from disease

Elevated cholesterol markers such as high triglycerides and LDL can be a sign of inflammation which predispose you towards several health conditions. Research has shown that having adequate fibre can reduce LDL by 7% in eight weeks.
  • In women, constipation can trigger the buildup of estrogen and lead to estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is at the root of conditions like PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis and PMS challenges. Just having adequate fibre in your diet can improve the predisposition towards constipation, improve the metabolism of estrogen and reduce any challenges with the menstrual cycle.

Different kinds of fibre

Plan your meals by adding a healthy amount of fibre

Fibrous foods make stool softer, dilute toxins, improve transit time, remove pathogenic bacteria, help the metabolism of hormones and improve sleep.

If you find yourself having bloating and gas with increased fibre, it means that your body needs some healing and support. Fibre should always be increased slowly to give your body time to adjust. Just adding scoops of fibre outside of eating fresh fruits, vegetables and grains can actually deplete zinc. It is best to get your fibre from a range of fresh whole foods.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water and holds water as it moves through your digestive tract. It can help absorb toxins and cholesterol from the blood, help regulate blood sugar, soothe your gut especially if your gut is inflamed. You can get fibre from rolled oats, lentils, beans, apples, carrots, orange peels, psyllium husk and some vegetables. I don’t recommend instant oats at all.

Insoluble fibre does not hold water. It does help to speed up elimination, but can irritate your gut, especially if your gut is inflamed. But everyone needs some amount of insoluble fibre as it irritates the gut and improves the proliferation of beneficial bacteria. Most vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains are great sources of insoluble fibre. And most certainly, many foods are sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre.

Resistant starches are another kind of fibre, which are indigestible and inaccessible to enzymes and digestive secretions. They reach the colon and help feed the beneficial bacteria. They can be found in seeds, legumes, unprocessed whole grains, beans and plantains.

Plan diverse meals

Add a variety of fibrous foods to your diet to improve your health

If you struggle with symptoms and any health conditions, you can definitely feel the benefits of adding different forms of fibre.

But it is important that you do so very slowly, allowing your digestive system to adapt and make use of the fibre. In the beginning, you might do better with soluble fibre that is more soothing for your gut. Remember that simply adding big scoops of fibre like psyllium to your meals without focusing on a healthy diet can actually deplete zinc.

The best way to proceed is to always eat a meal that is as diverse as possible. The best place to get your fibre is from a wide range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils and whole grains. Increasing fibre also means that you increase colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet. This will allow your body to receive a wide range of vitamins and minerals that can support overall health and recovery from any symptoms of disease.

(Images credit: Shutterstock)

Edited by Asha Chowdary

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