You are sitting in the toilet and it has been 10 minutes since your last attempt to finish the job. Why is it so hard to empty your rectum? You are asking yourself and regret not having a rich fiber based diet. Why is fiber so important for your health? Fibers downward regulation of cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose intestinal absorption and their blood levels, with lower postprandial insulin levels, with promoting defecation, with slowing digestion, and with a feeling of fullness, thus promoting satiety and helping to curb overeating. The fiber found in fruits and legumes stimulates the growth of colonic flora which, in turn, increases the stool weight and the amount of bacteria in the stool. Having rich fiber diets encourage the growth of certain bacteria in the colon may promote a healthy intestine. Thus, you prevent or relieve hemorrhoids and decrease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
There are two different types of fibers: soluble and insoluble. Most foods contain both of these fiber types but the ratio within the food varies. The soluble fibers dissolve in water and attract with each other to form a viscous gel. On the other hand, insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water. Sources of these fibers include legumes, like beans and lentils; grains, like oats and barley; fruits; seeds, like flaxseed and psyllium; vegetables, like cabbage and cucumber. Fibers include pectin, inulin, gums, dextrins and resistant starches.
Moreover, new evidence based experiments on mice suggest that fiber may be of benefit in decreasing inflammation, pain and tissue damage associated with gout (most likely by promoting the death of neutrophils). Mice placed on a high fiber diet did not show an inflammatory response to an injection of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals into the knees. In addition to the death of neutrophils, fiber may promote the removal of the dying and dead cell debris from the affected joints.
But what essentially is fiber and its function? A fiber is a type of carbohydrate which the body can not digest on its own. Fiber passes through the body and helps regulate the body’s use of sugar, keeping hunger at bay. Fiber also plays an essential role in digestion. Without enough fiber, the body can not produce the healthy stool needed for the body to pass. It is recommended that children and adults get at least twenty to thirty grams of fiber per day for good health; in this regard, Americans need more fiber PSAs as studies have found that the average American gets only about fifteen grams instead (2). Some easy ways to increase your fiber intake include switching from fruit juices to whole fruits, replacing white rice with brown rice, eating cereals with whole grains, etc.
There are a whole host of benefits to increasing your fiber intake. These benefits range from reduced risk of heart disease and constipation to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and breast cancer. As pharmacy students we need to be able to educate patients on the benefits of fiber and encourage them to look at nutrition and diet from a perspective of health and not solely on taste.
Partula V, Deschasaux M, Druesne-Pecollo N. Associations between consumption of dietary fibers and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, type 2 diabetes, and mortality in the prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Jul 1;112(1):195-207.