Fibre is Your Best Friend
This is the third in a series of articles written by our Hormone Health Associate, Nigel Denby on the challenges of IBS.
Fibre is one of our favourite topics and we want to make sure that you are getting enough in your diet. Why? Your gut health is important and affects your physical well-being. Your gut is home to good bacteria which we want to maintain and these bacteria feed on the fibre in your diet to produce beneficial substances including short-chain fatty acids.
What is fibre?
Fibre is a carbohydrate, but it is non-digestible, meaning, unlike with nutrients, it is not broken down in the small intestine but travels onto the large intestine which is where it performs its important job.
The benefit of fibre
The most commonly understood benefit of fibre is that it helps to prevent constipation, although too much fibre can also cause this. Fibre bulks out your stools which eases your stool movements through your bowel. This is partly because one type of fibre called soluble fibre forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water, which softens your stools.
Whole grains are a great source of fibre and oats also contain beta-glucans which have been linked to reducing cholesterol levels, which in turn helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Specifically, research has shown that for each 8g increase in your daily fibre intake, you reduce your likelihood of heart disease by 19% and type 2 diabetes by 15%.
The fibre in our diet means we feel fuller for longer as it takes longer to digest than “simple” carbohydrates and so can aid weight management. For the same reason, fibre also helps prevent sharp increases in your blood sugar levels.
Finally, research has shown a reduced risk of bowel cancer linked to a high fibre diet.
How much fibre do we need?
In the UK the daily recommendation for an adult is 30g of fibre per day. On average adults are eating 18g per day which is much less than this recommendation and so there is lots of room for improvement.
Where can I find fibre?
High fibre foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You can increase your fibre intake by making a few easy substitutions, swapping white rice for brown rice, and switching to whole grain bread. Increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds will also make a difference.
As you increase your fibre intake, also take care to increase your water consumption as fibre soaks up a lot of water.
A small word of warning that making drastic changes to your fibre intake could make you feel gassy and so it would be sensible to make small changes over a period of time. Allow yourself to develop new long-term habits to ensure a high fibre diet becomes your norm.
Article was written by Nigel Denby, BSc Hons, RD Registered Dietitian