Dietary fibers are the indigestible portion of food derived from plants. Every plant contains dietary fibers, though some have more and some have less. The term ‘fiber’ is borrowed from the clothing industry and refers to the molecular build of the compound. These compounds are comprised of long chains, and at similarly in the digestive system as cotton does in a water pipe.
Dietary fibers are not digested, but rather are dissolved by the bacteria in the colon. There are two types of fiber – soluble (barley, oats, legumes and fruit) and insoluble (wheat, grains, vegetables). Both groups have unique characteristics and play different roles in the body’s functioning.
Dietary fibers have a noticeable impact on the intestinal system. In recent years, fibers have been proven to be important to our overall health. Many studies have shown that a low intake of dietary fibers is one of the causes of colon cancer, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Dietary Fibers and ConstipationThe chemical components of dietary fibers are what enable their ability to absorb water. This water increases the volume of the stool, and makes it softer and easier to pass. This way, dietary fibers prevent constipation and other intestinal diseases (such as hemorrhoids). There are 3 important factors in preventing constipation: a dietary fiber-rich diet, 10-12 cups of water daily and physical activity.
Dietary Fibers and Colon CancerIn addition to the vital roles dietary fibers play in a person’s overall health, many researchers have hypothesized and studied the connection between dietary fibers and the prevention of colon cancer. The reason behind these studies is due to the ability of dietary fibers to absorb water and thus shorten the amount of time the food spends in the colon. The less time stool spends in the colon, the less chance there is that cancer-inducing factors come in contact with the colon lining. Additionally, fluids in the fibers dilute the dangerous substances and lower their harmful activity. Fiber presence in the colon encourages bacterial activity, creating an acidic environment, lowering the hazardous materials that can cause colon cancer.
Dietary Fibers and Heart DiseaseOne of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases is a high level of cholesterol in the blood. Research shows that soluble dietary fibers found in legumes and oats can decrease the level of cholesterol in the blood due to their ability to attach themselves to the cholesterol in the colon and prevent it from being absorbed.
Additionally, fibers absorb bile acids in the small intestines which prevent the acids from being absorbed into the body. Since the liver creates the bile acid from cholesterol, the more bile acids are released, the more the liver uses up cholesterol.
Dietary Fibers Prevent Diabetes and ObesityThere is a lot of discussion concerning the ability of dietary fibers to absorb fluid and their ability to prevent constipation. The effect of the colon in the small intestines is completely different. The fibers slow the process of emptying the stomach cavity, creating a feeling of satisfaction that lasts a longer time. There is a correlation between the emptying out of the stomach and the levels of sugar in the blood. When a man eats a meal low in dietary fibers, but rich in simple carbohydrates, the absorption is much faster and the blood sugar levels rise rapidly. Foods with complex carbohydrates spend a longer time in the stomach and therefore the absorption rate will be slower and the blood sugar levels will be balanced.
ConstipationTo prevent constipation, it is important to drink 8-10 cups a day (decaffeinated). Prune juice is also good for staving off constipation.
Have set meals, and breakfast is the most important.
Dietary Fiber-Rich Meals: Fresh fruits and vegetables, with their peels, whole wheat breads and crackers, brown rice, spelt, wheat groats, branflakes, granola, corn, legumes
There are some foods that are known to cause constipation such as bananas, white rice, and pomegranates. Don’t hold in when you need to relieve yourself.
Avoid using laxatives, unless otherwise discussed with your physician
Physical exercise can help prevent constipation