The Facts About Fiber and Why You Need More In Your Diet

Fiber facts

We’ve all heard about fiber but how much do you really know about this rockstar of the plant world? FYI, fiber is so much more than a powder you buy at your local grocery store and mix with water. SO MUCH MORE! If you haven’t made Fiber your bestie then no time like the present. Fiber is KEY to balancing our Microbiome which is our unique community of microbes living on our skin, in our mouth, vagina and largely in our gut. As I mention over and over, GUT HEALTH is key to overall health. So what makes Fiber so special and the Queen of winning our health back? Let’s break it down.

microbiome

Our Microbiome is our unique expression of over a trillion microbes including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and more. I say “our” because everyone on the planet as well as every plant on the planet has their own unique microbiome. Human microbiome inhabits our skin, mouth, vagina and primarily our gut. This community is a key player in the rise or fall of our health. How you ask? Well, simply put, when our microbiome is in balance, we promote health. When it is imbalanced, or what we call dysbiosis, then we promote illness. 

So how in the heck do we balance our microbiome? We balance it by consuming fiber. Yes, it’s just that simple! 

gut health

Healthy Gut Healthy Life

Ever heard of leaky gut? What about IBS, IBD, Crohn’s or Celiac disease? These are all disorders of the gut. These disorders are a result of an imbalanced microbiome and deterioration of the gut lining. So it’s safe to say that if we balance our microbiome and repair our gut lining then we CAN reverse these illnesses. So let me take it a step further. When we talk about leaky gut we are referring to the tight junctions that make up the lining of our gut. When these tight junctions become separated due to a poor diet, stress, etc, then food particles or endotoxins begin to leak into our blood stream. This causes an autoimmune response which in return causes inflammation in the body which results in illness. Heard of high blood pressure, arthritis, alzheimer’s, cancer or diabetes? Well these and so many more are a result of inflammation in the body and at the core of it all? Yes you guessed it! Leaky gut!!

FIBER FIBER FIBER!!!

As you can see, I love science but let’s get to the meat and potatoes of my point!! It comes down to Fiber and what it can do for you and me. Fiber is a little gem from the plant kingdom. When I say plant kingdom I’m including:

  • fruits
  • veggies
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • legumes
  • whole grains

These babies are packed with Soluble and Insoluble fiber. Yes, let’s break that down!

soluble insoluble fiber

Soluble Vs. Insoluble

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance that passes to the colon. Once there, it feeds the “good gut” bacteria. Some examples of soluble fiber are:

  • berries
  • oats
  • walnuts
  • lentils
  • peas
  • avocado

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but yet it attracts water to form stool and expel waste. Some examples are:

  • wheat
  • nuts
  • corn
  •  skin of fruits
  • green beans
  • brown rice

There are several types of fiber found in a variety of plants that are key to feeding specific microbes in the body. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to eat a diverse diet of at least 70-80% plant-based to guarantee our microbiome the support it needs.

TYPES OF FIBER

  • Cellulose – Insoluble fiber found in nuts, seeds, brown rice & whole wheat
  • Lignans – Insoluble fiber found in flax seeds, rye and some veggies
  • Pectins – Soluble fiber found in fruits, berries and some seeds
  • Beta-glucans – Insoluble fiber found in oats, beans, peas, fruits
  • Pysllium – Soluble fiber found in seeds and used in fiber powders
  • Inulin – Soluble fiber found in chicory root and beets
  • Resistant starch – Soluble fiber found in unripened bananas, potato starch
  • Fructans – Soluble fiber found in chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic

A HIGH FIBER LIFESTYLE

I want you to understand that I am not telling you to give up meat but if you are a meat eater, please eat grass fed, free range and wild caught to ensure that you are not introducing chemicals into your body. What I AM telling you is that meat does not support our microbiome or heal disease so I cannot stress enough just how important it is to tailor your “diet” around the plant kingdom and keep animal products to 20-30%. You CAN get enough protein from plants and from what you have read and now understand, WE NEED FIBER. 

Next, it’s important to understand that most of us have our favorite veggies, fruits, nuts etc, so what CAN happen when we start introducing other plants that our body is NOT used to, is we can experience bloating and gas. This is not unusual. It just means that we need to introduce in small amounts and take it slow. Our body just needs to adjust. 

According the the American Gut Project, a person should aim for a weekly goal of 30 different plants. That would mean over 4 plants per day and changing it up daily. Now, for most of us that seems like quite the goal so what I suggest to clients is to approach the first week with introducing 1 new plant each day. See how you feel and move on. If your body reacts, then skip a day and reintroduce until your body has calmed down and then you can move on to the next plant. 

It’s important to stress that while you are transitioning to a more plant-based lifestyle that you eliminate the things that wreak havoc on your gut. Things to eliminate:

  • dairy (from animals)
  • processed foods
  • sugar
  • alcohol
  • gluten (if gluten sensitive or Crohn’s)

Also take it easy on FODMAP’s if you are experiencing gut issues. FODMAP’s are carbs that ferment in the small intestines and some people may have an issue early on.

It can be so overwhelming with all the different diet trends and recommendations. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up and surrender. The key is to structure a simple plan that will not overwhelm you. Working with a holistic practitioner for support is also beneficial on your journey. Just remember that your health is worth fighting for and I am here to cheer you on!

Always feel free to comment or reach out with any questions or concerns.

Cheers to your best life!

Jen

For more fiber check out my recipe for Apple Cabbage Slaw

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