The connection between dietary fibre, digestion and illness

Updated: May 14

How does our diet and lifestyle impact our hormones and state of health, specifically in relation to the fibre rich plant based foods we eat? I have noticed when discussing with others that this question is one of slight confusion. They do not realise how important fibre actually is for our bodies.


Fibre is basically a carbohydrate which comes from plants, that we cannot digest and does not get broken down in to sugars, but this sounds silly right? Why eat something which we can’t digest, and this right here is why I am writing this - to encourage and help you understand the importance of including a range of plant-based fibre rich foods daily, and how to create great tasting meals too!

Including enough fibre into our day can reduce the risk of a wide range of potentially life-threatening conditions and illnesses, to include many cancers, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. It has become increasingly clearer over the years how important fibre is to our bodily processes and to keep everything running smoothly. (1)

“The effect of dietary fibre is far stronger than we ever thought to be protective against so many important diseases”

- Professor Jim Mann (University of Otago)


SO FIRSTLY, WHERE DOES THIS AMAZING FIBRE COME FROM?

Fibre can only be found in natural, real plant-based foods, such as beans, legumes and vegetables. A few examples being lentils, peas, beans, green leafy vegetables, berries, oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice and many more.

For more than 200 years the fibre in plant foods has been known by animal nutritionists to have significant effects on digestion, but is role in human nutrition only began to be investigated towards the end of the 19th century. (2) Many health professionals have known for a while that fibre is useful for preventing a range of health related conditions, but how do we share this with everyone else?

WHAT CAN FIBRE HELP WITH?

· controls the quantity of oestrogen in our bodies include

· it keeps our gut microbes happy,

· lowers cholesterol,

· helps with digestion and constipation,

· slows the rate sugar gets into the blood stream,

· reduces the risk heart disease and diabetes,

AND NEXT, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Fibre is specifically important in relation to oestrogen, we all have it, both men and woman, to develop and grow, but excess oestrogen can lead to out of control cell growth, which is essentially what all cancers are.


It all starts with our liver, 24/7 this amazing organ cleans us of excess substances from our bloodstream that may harm our body, and one of those excess substances is oestrogen. When oestrogen is noted as being too high, it’s pulled from the blood and sent down to the intestines. The intestines are where the importance of fibre comes in. When we consume enough fibre, this will be moving through our intestines where the excess oestrogen will be absorbed by the fibre we have eaten and then carried out of our bodies, by waste in the colon, in our poop. This sounds like fully functioning successful machine, yes?

So then, what happens when there is insufficient fibre to absorb this excess oestrogen that is sitting in our intestines waiting to be removed? Well, sadly the tiny villi that line our intestine will re-absorb the oestrogen back into our body and back into circulation.

Did you know that the recommend fibre intake daily ranges from 25g to 35g per day, and sadly many people are hardly reaching this? Studies from across Europe, Australia and America have shown the majority of modern day diets do not meet these marks, with an average of 12g fibre per person per day.(3) A few reasons include many tasty fast food restaurants that don’t include enough fibre rich vegetables, beans and legumes, many people don’t have the understanding of how important the food we eat is for our bodies? Some people may know a little information, but unclear of how much they should be including or what meals to prepare?


It has been found that many people do not include enough variation of foods into their day and therefore eat the same or similar foods every day. From the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, it showed Brits cite their daily routines and lack of time as the main culprits, with a study showing that 70% wish they could vary their diets easily. (4)

This is a very strong reason to the understanding as to why there is so much fast increasing cancer cases in this modern world, because of the large number of low fibre lifestyles, mixed with easily accessible processed meals and fast food, which leads to excess oestrogen levels building in our bodies and leading to the increase of disease.

WHAT IS NEXT THEN?

So, as we can understand, including more fibre into our day, leads to less oestrogen in our bodies which means less cancer growth is possible. This research is backed by Dr Tantamango-Bartley who published a study in 2012 in relation to cancer rates among women and men with a range of dietary lifestyle preferences, noting “A link has been suggested between specific plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, plant constituents such as fibre, antioxidants, other phytochemicals, maintaining a healthy weight, and a lower incidence of cancer.” (5) In fact, without enough fibre in our diets and moving through our intestines, this leads to not having enough fibre “sponges” to soak up excess oestrogen.

This is why I happily choose greens, beans and veggies for breakfast, starting your day with a bit of a good tasting meal that also includes fibre, as well as contributing to a more stable control of the blood sugar levels and the release of insulin, which allows me to retain constant energy and focus throughout the day.

Loving this huge veggie breakfast meal!


LAST POINT, DOES IT MATTER?

Research from Professor Mann’s team states that “it does not specifically matter where you get your fibre from, it looks as if fibre from any source is good, but that doesn't necessarily include fibre supplements.” Vary the ingredients you use across the day and across the week of your meals to ensure you are including a variation of ingredients and nutrients.

So, the best suggestion is starting with a few simple food swaps to include a range of colourful and exciting fibre rich foods into our lives. This honestly is easier than many realise to include into your meals, to ensure your dishes are not only delicious but also to know that they are providing you with the best health and nutrition for your body, mind and mood.

Don’t forget that what you eat plays an enormous role in the quality of our life, but simply increasing your fibre intake won’t negate the impact of drinking, smoking or lack of exercise. It’s the understanding and enjoyment of a well-rounded holistic lifestyle that will lead to you enjoying your life to its fullest potential.

Below is a very short list of a few options for fitting fibre into your day:

  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread with falafels made from chickpeas with salad vegetables (eg, spinach, peppers, lettuce, sweetcorn, grated carrot and beetroot)

  • 1 cup lentils and/or beans with mixed veggies and a range of flavourful sauce options

  • wholegrain cereal or oats fresh fruits, nuts and seeds

  • wholegrain pasta with vegetables, seeds and nuts


For ideas, help or advice on including more flavourful and nutritious fibre rich meals into your day feel free to contact me and book a free initial call, where we can discuss your goals, worries, current situation and the next steps forward!




















References:

1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28583217

3. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey

4. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3565018/



#fibre #vegetables #digestion #healthychoices #eatwell #eatfresh #realfood #nutrition #coach #wellness #health #nuts #beans #breakfast #plantbased #mealprep

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