Today’s blog post is all about fiber, and I’ve got four fiber facts for you. Some of these things you may already be familiar with, but hopefully, there’s something new here for you.
The first fact is that there are many different types of fiber. These different types of fibers can be broadly categorized into two types of fiber. One is soluble fiber, and one is insoluble fiber. Basically, soluble fiber is the type of fiber that will attract water, and insoluble fiber does not. The insoluble fiber remains unchanged as it passes through your digestive tract, while the soluble fiber absorbs water. The soluble fiber is what keeps your stool soft. If you’re having a lot of constipation, it may be because you’re not getting enough fiber. Now, here’s the caveat. Once you take in that fiber, you’ve got to be drinking water, otherwise, your stool may end up very hard. But, the fiber brings in water, it bulks it up, it makes it soft as long as you’re drinking enough water with that fiber. The insoluble fiber is important because it passes through and it cleans everything out as it passes through. So think of it like a chimney sweep, with those fibers going up and it’s cleaning everything out as it passes through.
There are other categories of fiber that can be further broken down, but they will all fit into that soluble or insoluble category. That discussion is a little bit outside of the scope of what I wanted to present to you now. So basically, the fiber is separated into soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber is what attracts the water, insoluble fiber doesn’t change as it passes through the GI tract.
Fact number two: There are many benefits to fiber. And one of the biggest benefits is it improves digestion. When we have good digestion, everything else works better. Another benefit of fiber: it can improve your blood sugar. If you have sugar handling issues, fiber is an important part of your diet, so make sure that you’re getting enough fiber in your diet. It also decreases your risk of colon cancer. That’s a big one. Colon cancer is on the rise, and so this is an important health issue that should be addressed. Believe it or not, consuming the proper amount of fiber decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Fact number three: There are possible side effects to fiber supplementation that you should be aware of. Now, here’s my disclaimer. Whenever you’re taking any supplements, you’ve got to make sure that you run them by your healthcare provider. He or she should be able to give you good advice on what type of supplements you should be taking, and that includes fiber supplements. So, make sure that you check with your healthcare professional, or call my office if you want some advice on good supplementation.
Here are the possible side effects of too much fiber or bad fiber supplements: You may get gas or bloating. Sometimes that’s the normal process as your gut gets used to everything, but it is a possible side effect. Fiber supplements may also lower your blood sugar levels (as we discussed above) but, if you have too low of blood sugar levels, your body gets shaky, and you can have a diabetic or hypoglycemic attack. For those of you that suffer from diabetes, you know exactly what I’m talking about when your blood sugar drops too low. We don’t want to have that happen, so again, it’s important to work with a healthcare professional. Some of the other side effects might include diarrhea or constipation when you’re taking these supplements, so you want to be careful with that.
Some fiber supplements may interfere with the medications that you are taking, so you want to make sure you check with your medical doctor to see if there are any reasons you should not take a fiber supplement with whatever medications you’re taking. If you’re taking other vitamin or mineral supplements, or other nutritional supplements–you want to make sure that the fiber supplement that you’re taking doesn’t interfere with those. Again, it’s important to work with your healthcare professional when you’re choosing a good fiber supplement.
Fact number four: There are many sources of fiber, and this is probably one of the most important facts that you’re going to read today. Make sure you’re eating enough vegetables. That’s a big one! Eat your vegetables—I know that sounds cliché, but there’s a lot of fiber in a lot of different vegetables. If you’re having any sweets, those sweets are going to mess with your blood sugar, so you want to make sure you’re getting enough fiber to counteract those effects. Nature’s candies are fruits. So fruits, not only have sweetness, but they also have fiber. So it’s important to make sure that you’re eating a variety of fruits. Now, some people are proponents of juicing, and I’m not. Juicing takes away all of the fiber and it leaves all of the sugar, so you’re going to have blood sugar issues if you’re juicing. Make sure that you’re eating the whole foods, make sure you’re eating the vegetables, make sure you’re eating the fruits.
Another source of fiber is whole grains. We’re talking about whole grains, not refined flours. You have got to make sure you’re eating the whole grains. Whole oats, whole wheat, and seeds are good sources of fibers. Another good source of fiber is legumes. We’re talking about black beans, red beans, kidney beans. Those sorts of legumes are very, very good for you. Another fun fact is that peanuts fit into the legume family, too. Most people think peanuts are nuts. They’re not—they are legumes. And peanuts are also very helpful to cholesterol levels, especially if you’re eating them raw. So those are some of the fiber facts that I wanted to present to you today.
Again, to recap: there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. The benefits: Improved digestion, blood sugar, decrease in colon cancer risk, decrease in risk of heart attack and stroke. Possible side effects to the supplementation: Gas, bloating, decrease in blood sugar, diarrhea, constipation. It might interfere with some of the medications you’re taking. And the food sources are fruits and vegetables, also whole grains and legumes.
As always, if you have any questions, please call the office. I do specialize in functional medicine, and digestion is a very big part of that. So, if you have any digestive issues, call us. Make sure that you get a hold of us. Get an appointment so we can do an evaluation. And that way, you’ll have someone that is on your side as you go through this journey to better health.