11-04-2021 / Digestive Disease & Gastroenterology

Why is fiber important for your Digestive Health?

95 % of the population is not meeting their fiber intake. An average person's daily diet does not fulfill the minimum requirement of fiber content, so diseases related to fiber deficiency are increasing. Here are some disease related to fiber deficiency

Why is fiber important for your Digestive Health?
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed

Mazia Ahmed

MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar

Table of Content

Introduction

  • Fiber is one of the critically significant nutrients which should be included in your everyday diet. Dietary fiber can promote active digestion and regularity, improve cardiovascular health, improve gut microbiota composition, help curtail cholesterol, and control diabetes and blood sugar levels in your body. It also tames hunger by keeping you fuller for a longer time, hence helps your body to regulate weight. It can also protect you from developing colon cancer. Most people do not meet their minimum everyday fiber requirement; hence they develop fiber deficiency which causes them a bunch of health issues.

  • Many surveys on the worldwide population show that more than 95 % of the human population is not meeting their fiber intake requirements. A normal person's daily diet does not fulfill the minimum requirement of fiber content, which is why diseases related to fiber deficiency are increasing.

How much fiber we need?

  • According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), about 40 grams of fiber per 2000 Kcal in a diet is considered reasonably safe. Fiber Intakes of more than 60 grams in a single day can curtail the absorption of nutrients in your body and maybe irritate the bowel and cause diarrhea. It has been proposed that having a fiber intake greater than the average amount can reduce the risk of some illnesses. But, introducing too much fiber in a short time or eating an excessive amount can cause diarrhea or constipation in some people. It would be best to enroll fiber into your diet unhurriedly and ensure that you are drinking sufficient water and other fluids. Drinking plenty of water can prevent constipation. 

  • Sources of high-fiber foods include all types of bran cereals, chickpeas, lentils, green peas, flaxseed, spinach, dried figs, kidney beans, and pears. The foods that encompass 2-4 grams of fiber per serving include wheat grams, soybeans, apples, carrots, popcorn, almonds, baked potatoes, strawberries, corn, oranges, and broccoli.

Benefits of Dietary Fiber

10 Effects of fiber deficiency on our body and digestive system

Let us look into some of the symptoms your body shows when you lack an adequate amount of fiber in your diet:

1. Constipation

Fibre remarkably aids regular bowel movements by increasing motility (stimulating movement down to the digestive tract), bulking the stool, providing lubrication and laxation through its gel-forming properties. If you are experiencing constipation more frequently, try adding more fiber into your diet; for example, add more grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. 

2. Diet-Related Nausea & Tiredness:

If you are taking most of your calories from a low-carbohydrate or high-protein diet, then this may lead not only to increased cholesterol but may also make you feel tired, nauseous, and weak. To prevent this from happening, try upgrading your dietary fiber intake with mineral and vitamin-rich fruits, whole grains, and vegetables that your body needs, and try to cut the intake of fatty foods.

3. Diarrhea

Although a deficiency of required fiber in your diet is not a prime reason for diarrhea, it can decrease the variety and quantity of helpful bacteria in your gut region that safeguards you from contagious diseases and improves your overall health. The fiber found in plant foods such as garlic, asparagus, onion, oats, artichokes, and bananas is a prebiotic (a nutrient that feeds and assists friendly bacteria in your digestive system). Prebiotic fiber-rich foods provide good bacteria that hinder diarrhea.

4. Overweight and obesity

  • Daily consumption of a fiber-rich diet can help to regulate your weight. Eating adequate amounts of fiber endure satisfaction and fullness, which then lessens hunger and consumption of calorie-filled foods or snacks. Fibrous diets generally have low caloric consistency but have a bigger volume, making them ideal for weight loss and hunger control. Plus, intake of high-fibrous foods makes you full in a short time and slows down the discharge of sugar into your bloodstream. Hence it can stabilize your blood sugar level along with your cravings.

  • A high-fibrous diet is known to decrease caloric quantity by staving off some calories from being consumed by your body through the intestines; this way, it aids in weight loss. Another way in which dietary fiber can reduce your appetite and can assist in regulating weight is by enabling the release of the hunger-suppressing hormone, known as leptin, through a cycle of complex neurochemical signaling episodes.  Leptin is released from your fat cells in acknowledgment of meals you ate. It works by down-regulating your appetite and stopping you from overeating.

Overweight and Obesity

5. Hunger pangs

Deficiency of fiber intake will result in hunger pangs soon after taking meals. Not only can your body recognize that you are not feeding it with a sufficient amount of this important nutrient, but the mechanoreceptors in your digestive system (networks that can sense expansion of your intestines and stomach) will also notice low fiber content. They will send a hunger signal to your brain. By eating reasonable amounts of fiber, you secure fullness for an extended period and maintain your caloric consumption within reasonable requirements.

6. Diet, cancer, and heart disease

  • Not having the required fiber can give rise to a risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain, cardiovascular disorder, and possibly overall mortality. Hence, increasing intake of dietary fiber and whole grain is a good choice for your overall health. The observed health benefits from increasing dietary fiber are likely to occur indirectly through the shielding effects of phytochemicals, such as antioxidants, which are closely related to the fiber elements of cereal diets, fruits, and vegetables. 

  • Many studies have demonstrated that whole grains, cereal fiber, and dietary fiber can protect you against some cancers, such as colorectal cancer. Fiber is believed to reduce the chance of developing colorectal cancer by improving stool bulk, lessening transit time through the colon, and diluting carcinogens in the diet. Furthermore, the bacterial fermentation of fiber gives birth to the creation of short-chain fatty acids, which are known to show positive effects against colorectal cancer. The studies clearly say that inducing dietary fiber in your daily meal can protect you from colorectal cancer; each 10 gram per day consumption of total dietary fiber is equal to a 10 % reduction in colorectal cancer risk.

Heart Disease

7.  Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are the swollen veins near your lower rectum and anus; this can arise when you push or strain to possess a bowel movement. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating a high-fiber meal packed with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can relieve or even stave off hemorrhoids. The diet will keep stools soft so they can move through the digestive tract more easily. It is advised that one must consult their doctor if they notice blood in their stools or bleeding from the rectum. These symptoms may indicate a more severe condition.

8. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

The IBS condition can make the large intestine muscles and nerves extra-sensitive to having specific foods or their absence. This results in cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Though Irritable bowel syndrome has no antidote, its symptoms can be relieved through certain medicines, reduced stress, and averting triggers like carbonated beverages, alcohol, and fatty foods. The fiber found in bran and whole grains helps reduce IBS symptoms, especially constipation, by making stools bulky and soft, which then becomes easier to pass through the digestive tract.

9. Fiber and aging

A fibrous diet is even more vital for aging people. As the digestive system slows down as we grow older, adding high-fiber foods to the diet becomes even more crucial.

10. Drop-in blood sugar

  • A condition called 'Hypoglycemia,' which indicates a rapid drop in blood sugar levels, can be caused by fiber deficiency. However, there are several reasons for hypoglycemia, such as pre-existing type I and type II diabetes, extended duration of fasting, or a high-sugar diet. If someone experiences extreme fatigue, cravings for sweet foods, shakiness, and blurry vision, then it may be a sign of low blood sugar levels in the body. These symptoms can be generally calmed by eating foods with carbohydrates or drinking fluids such as juice and soda.

  • Consuming carbohydrates in high amounts, like often eating candy, pastries, sodas without adding high-fibrous diets, will increase your blood sugar level at once, followed by an immediate drop as the insulin reaction bangs in. In this situation, your body realizes a fall in energy, and to restore it, your body sends you craving signals. However, this hunger is not a sign of a natural appetite. Our body is just not that good at understanding that you have had sufficient calories with your high-sugary snack.

Low blood sugar
  • The effects of taking a high-sugar diet become a vicious cycle of eating more sugar to stabilize glucose needs due to your hypoglycemia. By introducing more fiber in your everyday diet, you will teach your body to avert abrupt blood glucose level drops and only attend to the actual need for energy.

Word of Wisdom

There are many ways you can boost your fiber intake; for instance, you must make sure that you include at least two different vegetables on every meal on your plate; along with this, also make sure to add fruits or nuts that are rich in fiber. Doing this will ensure that you are receiving a perfect mixture of nutrients and both varieties of fiber.

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