"Fibre is certainly effective in the prevention of constipation but it is also
beneficial in reducing the risks of bowel cancer."
(Prof. Gordon McVie, Cancer Research Campaign)
Fibre is found in plant-based foods. It is the indigestible part of the plant cell walls and is not really one compound but a group of compounds. It used to be called roughage and is now referred to as NSP (Non-Starchy Polysaccaride). A high fibre diet is important in helping us to cope with stress because it helps
glucose from our foods to be slowly released into our blood stream. Low fibre,
refined foods cause the glucose to be released too quickly into our blood stream this causes the blood sugar levels to fall
too quickly and the brain in response triggers the release of stress hormones to release the body's energy reserves in order
to increase our blood sugar levels.
There are two types of fibre:
1. Soluble Fibre
Helps to increase the number of friendly bacteria in the bowel, lower
blood cholesterol. Sources include oats, barley and pulses.
2. Insoluble Fibre
Provides most of the bulk to speed up and stimulate the large intestine
so preventing constipation. Sources include grains, nuts, cereals.
All foods containing fibre have both insoluble and soluble fibre in them in varying amounts,
but wholegrain based foods tend to be made up of mainly insoluble fibre and other foods like fruits, vegetables, pulses have
higher levels of soluble fibre.
Our western diet, because it is based mainly on fat, protein and refined carbohydrates, is
therefore, naturally low in fibre because these foods contain little, if any fibre.
It is recommended than we should be consuming about 16 grams of fibre per day for women and 18 grams of fibre per day
for men but 8 out of 10 people in the UK are only consuming 12 grams of fibre per day.
In countries like China where large section of the population still consume a plant based
diet, the bulk of the diet is plant based fruits, vegetables, cereals and lower levels of animal products, have lower levels
of health problems such as diverticular disease, constipation, diabetes, high blood pressure, varicous veins, obesity, haemorrhoids,
hiatus hernia, bowel cancer, and this is thought to be partly due to their higher fibre intake.
Fibre and Stress
Many people may wonder what on earth fibre has got to do with stress. But
in reality it has got a lot to do with stress. A high fibre diet has many beneficial
effects on our health and in relation to stress, fibre helps to slow down the release of sugars from our foods into the blood
stream and so keep our blood sugar levels stable. When our blood sugar levels
yo-yo up and down when the sugar drops too low the brain stimulates the release of the stress hormone adrenaline to release
the body's energy stores. Researchers led by Professor Andrew Smith at Cardiff
University, found that research subjects who ate breakfast cereals that contained different fibre contents found that those
consuming high fibre breakfast cereals were more emotionally stable in comparison to those researcher subjects fed low fibre
It used to be thought that fibre had no role in human health, however low fibre is a factor
in the development of a number of health problems:
Related to Low Fibre Intake
National Health Service bill for laxatives to treat constipation exceeds the amount of money spent on drugs to treat cancer. The most common cause of constipation is a low fibre diet. Fibre helps the stool
retain water keeping it more soft and easier to pass. Every gram of fibre eaten adds 5 grams to the stool bulk.
low fibre diet is thought to be one factor in breast cancer. Constipation (due
to low fibre diet,) increases the levels of oestrogen hormone and higher levels of oestrogen are linked to hormone dependent
cancers. Research has shown that women that have two or fewer bowel movements
a week have a four times increased risk of breast cancer. In her book, "The Plant Programme" author J. Plant
quotes the statistic that 1 in 10 women in the UK develop breast cancer, however in China only 1 woman in ten thousand develop
fibre diets help to lower a person's risk of bowel cancer which is one of the most common types of cancer in the west. In less well developed nations still eating a plant based diet which is naturally
high in fibre have lower rates of bowel cancer than we do in the west. Fibre
speeds up the rate at which food passes through the gastro-intestinal tract so potentially cancer causing toxins are not in
contact with the bowel wall for as long. Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the west.
helps to reduce the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream and by doing so also
helps to lower the risk of heart disease.
It is important to not increase fibre intake too quickly as our gastro intestinal tract needs
time to adapt to a higher fibre diet. At the same time we should also increase
our fluid intake because a high fibre diet soaks up a lot of fluid and without the extra fluid intake you could have the risk
Build up fibre intake slowly and increase fluid intake.
Fibre soaks up fluid so increase water.
If you have a gastro-intestinal or any other chronic health problem or are on any medication
see your Doctor before increasing your fibre intake.
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