The Role Of Fibre In Digestive Health


When focusing on health and maintaining a healthy body, protein often takes the spotlight. While protein is indeed vital for weight loss, muscle growth, and other aspects like hair care, there's another crucial element, fibre.

Fibre plays a significant role in promoting healthy digestion and is essential for maintaining good gut health. Additionally, it aids in weight management, regulates blood sugar levels, and contributes to heart health. Let's explore further to understand the importance of fibre in ensuring digestive health and regularity.

What Exactly Is Fibre And Why Do We Need It? 

Fibre, also known as dietary fibre, is a type of carbohydrate found in foods, mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It's known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. Unlike fats, proteins, or carbohydrates, which are broken down and absorbed by the body, fibre passes through the stomach, small intestine, and colon without being digested. Soluble and insoluble are the two main types of fibre. 

Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance, aiding in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Whereas insoluble fibre promotes the movement of food through the digestive system, increasing stool bulk. 

Adding to this, Azza Aljneibi, Nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says, "Fibre is the structural part of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains that our bodies can’t digest and absorb. Fibre is associated with many digestive and other health benefits such as preventing intestinal cancer and constipation, lowering cholesterol levels, and regulating blood sugar levels."

Highlighting its importance for digestive health, Ms Janani Satchithanantham, Specialist Dietetics, Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, adds, "Fibre plays a crucial role in digestive health by regulating bowel movements, preventing constipation, and reducing the risk of developing digestive disorders such as diverticulosis and haemorrhoids. Additionally, fibre helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes."

What Are The Key Benefits Of Including Fibre In Your Daily Diet?

Including fibre in your daily diet comes with tons of benefits, some of which include: 

- Helps With Bowel Movements: Adding enough dietary fibre to your diet increases stool weight and size, making it easier to pass and reducing constipation risk. Fibre regulates bowel movements by drawing water into the colon, resulting in softer, bulkier stools that reduce harmful substance build-up. Additionally, it's crucial to drink plenty of fluids when consuming high-fibre foods.

- Helps With Cholesterol Levels: Soluble fibre, found in foods like beans, oats, flaxseed, and oat bran, can lower total blood cholesterol levels by reducing 'bad' cholesterol levels. Furthermore, some studies also indicate that high-fibre foods may offer additional heart-health advantages, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.

- Keeps You Full For Longer Duration: Fibre has incredible filling power because it takes longer to digest compared to other nutrients. Including fibre in meals and snacks helps you feel full for longer periods, potentially reducing overeating habits. 

- Helps With Gut Health: Fibre acts as a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria in our gut and producing short-chain fatty acids, which serve as an energy source for colon cells. This helps maintain a healthy gut environment, reduces gut inflammation, increases microbial diversity, and lowers the risk of chronic diseases.

Adding to this, Ms Janani Satchithanantham, Specialist Dietetics, Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, explains, "A healthy gut microbiome is essential for proper digestion, and bowel movements, to help regulate blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol levels. Increasing fibre intake can therefore promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and contribute to overall gut health."

- Prevents Sugar Spikes: Soluble fibre also aids in regulating blood sugar levels. When consumed as part of a meal, soluble fibre slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar levels after eating.

- Helps With Constipation And Diarrhoea: Explaining this, Ms Janani Satchithanantham, Specialist Dietetics, Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, says, "Increasing fibre intake can help alleviate symptoms of both constipation and diarrhoea. For constipation, increasing fibre intake can soften stool and promote regular bowel movements. For diarrhoea, soluble fibre can help in mild to moderate cases to absorb excess water in the colon and add bulk to stool, which can help firm up loose stools." 

How Much Fibre Should You Consume Daily? 

As per Azza Aljneibi, Nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabiit’s recommended a person should take about 25g to 35g per day. It also depends on age, height, weight, gender and other factors. Irrespective, it's advisable to have fibre-rich food with every meal for all overall well-being. 

What Are Good Sources Of Fibre? 

As per Azza Aljneibi, Nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, "Some beneficial dietary fibre resources include whole wheat bread, rye, whole bran, barley, brown rice, quinoa, all legumes such as beans and lentils, potato, corn, all nuts, all fruits with skin, all vegetables. Any food that contains five grams or more per serving of fibre is a good source of fibre. Food labels should be reviewed to check the amount of fibre content."

For optimal fibre intake, include grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet.

- Avocados, berries, and apples are fibre-rich fruits packed with vitamins and antioxidants, aiding in digestion and weight management. 

- Vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, corn, carrots, and green peas are excellent sources of fibre. Almonds and chia seeds provide fibre along with healthy fats, vitamin E, and protein. Chia seeds are also rich in magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. 

- Lentils and beans are superb fibre sources and are abundant in protein, making them essential additions to your diet.

Incorporating these fibre-rich foods into your meals ensures a balanced diet and promotes overall health and well-being.

What Happens When You Consume Too Much Fibre? 

Increasing fibre intake suddenly can cause bloating, cramping, and constipation. It's crucial to drink plenty of fluids when adding fibre to your diet to prevent constipation. Fibre supplements can be an option if dietary fibre isn't sufficient, but consulting a physician beforehand is advisable. 

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