Today we talk about fiber.
It’s an essential, food-based way to literally extend your life because it’s the most natural, healthy way to eliminate toxins from the body on a daily basis.
Let me ask you something personal….if you had to “weigh” the amount of toxins you release on a daily basis, how much do you think they would weigh?
New research suggests that due to our toxin exposure and all the excess estrogens we’re receiving, that a healthy body should be eliminating a whopping 2.2 pounds of toxins/day.
Um, for that to happen (unless you sit in an infrared sauna for 40 minutes/day), you’re going to have to increase your dietary fiber to eliminate the majority of those toxins via the bowels.
Constipated people, I’m especially talking to you. Forget all the herbal laxatives and focus on your fiber for a week and see what happens.
My SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) folks, stay with me as I’ve got a type of fiber that might work for you too.
Let’s start by defining what fiber actually is.
Dietary fiber refers to nutrients in the diet that cannot be digested by gastrointestinal enzymes. It is the indigestible part of plant foods that push through our digestive system, absorbing water along the way, helping to invite peristalsis for healthy bowel function.
We agree that it’s essential, but most of us still don’t get enough. We need 25-40g/day, which would be the equivalent to 1 bunch of asparagus, an organic apple, ½ cup raw almonds, and 1 cup of either oatmeal or brown rice.
Types of Fiber
There are actually three types of fiber (the third is a very new and hot topic right now), soluble, insoluble, and resistant.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber does not.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water (insoluble does not) and becomes a gel-like substance. It changes as it goes through the digestive tract, where bacteria ferment it. In a healthy digestive system, soluble fiber could quite possibly eliminate the need for probiotics altogether because once you’ve built good digestive health, soluble fiber, acts like a pre-biotic, or food for your already established good bacteria.
This means your digestive system in already informed with what it needs to shepherd out bad bacteria and potential pathogens from your body that would otherwise make you sick and compromise your immune system. Besides improving intestinal health, soluble fiber helps prevents heart disease by lowering LDL (pulls out toxins, which lowers inflammation, which lowers LDL).
Research shows that increasing soluble fiber by 5 to 10g a day reduces LDL cholesterol by about five percent.
One of the ways soluble fiber may lower blood cholesterol is through its ability to reduce the amount of bile reabsorbed in the intestines. When fiber interferes with the absorption of bile in the intestines, the bile is excreted in the feces. To make up for this loss of bile, the liver makes more bile salts. The body uses cholesterol to make bile salts. So in order to obtain the cholesterol necessary to make more bile salts, the liver must increase its production of LDL receptors.
These receptors are responsible for pulling cholesterol out of LDL molecules in the bloodstream. Therefore, the more bile salts are made from the liver, the more LDL cholesterol is pulled from the blood.
Pretty cool human body, huh?
It also helps prevent some cancers, and reduces blood pressure.
Fruits and vegetables provide great sources of soluble fiber, but so do legumes (peas and beans), barley, oat bran, and chia seeds (my personal favorite added to my morning smoothie at least 3x/week).
Next, there’s insoluble fiber, which is very helpful to scour those obscure pockets of your intestines like a sponge. Insoluble fiber goes through the digestive tract without changing its forms.
Insoluble fiber can be found in whole-grain foods such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, bran, many vegetables, and fruit with skin. Insoluble fiber’s real claim to fame is regulating appetite, blood sugar, and aiding in weight control because it makes you feel full for hours after consumption.
But what about when fiber is NOT good for you?
While typically both types of fiber are a great preventative for constipation and wonderful contributors to long-term health, they can sometimes be contraindicated for major digestive issues like IBS or SIBO.
SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a hot topic these days because so many people have it. And this is tricky because in this situation fiber can feed the bacterial overgrowth, making it worse, and also cause extreme bloating and pain.
I like to identify that SIBO is actually the issue and then slash inflammation with food and enzymes, clear out the overgrowth and other pathogens, heal the leaky gut it caused and then ONLY when I know the course is clear and the ileocecal valve is closed – (the ileocecal valve is the sphincter muscle valve that separates the small and large intestine that when closed, limits the reflux of colon contents, thus reducing overgrowth – many SIBO folks have it open), then I add in the fiber and voila! Hello to the birth of good digestive health.
But what if you are in the above-mentioned category like many folks and want to jump on the fiber bandwagon WHILE you are healing?
There’s a solace fiber for you called resistant fiber.
Resistant fiber or resistant starch is the least aggravating type of fiber to SIBO and IBS because of its delayed digestive reaction. It’s digested many hours later and only by the good bacteria – making it still a prebiotic, but also much less SIBO-aggravating than your regular soluble fiber.
This new fiber on the block is becoming famous in adrenal fatigue circles as well because it also gives you the benefits of insoluble fiber since it creates little to no insulin response, unlike any other carbohydrate. Thus it will help to stabilize your blood sugar without adding sugar.
NMD Dr. Alan Christianson says in his new book The Adrenal Reset Diet that resistant fiber can even produce less of an insulin response than many non-carbohydrate foods like meat, poultry, and eggs. Whoa!
Sources include green (unripe) bananas (they work, I’ve been adding them to my am smoothie with glowing results and can go hours without food afterward compared to a ripe banana), boiled potatoes, cannellini beans (new hummus, anyone?) great white northern beans, some types of peas, and navy beans.
In an eight-week study of sixteen obese men and women with insulin resistance, resistant starch decreased blood sugar, decreased insulin, and increased the ability of the muscles to utilize glucose by 65%. The results occurred without other dietary or exercise changes.