Fibre: digestive health, weight loss, sleep and mental health
The importance of fibre is something I talk to my patients about all the time as most people don’t get enough in their diet.
Fibre isn’t just necessary for healthy bowel function- reducing the occurrence of constipation but is also vitally important for our gut flora and microbiome – without fibre our digestive system slows down and things begin to be recycled when they shouldn’t be.
When recycling occurs this is when we can experience imbalances in mood, PMS, bloating, fatigue, sluggishness, IBS. As the ‘things’ that the body was trying to get rid of via our waste has just been reabsorbed by the body- ewww!.
This re-uptake decreases the bodies normal production of hormones (oestrogen, testosterone) and neurotransmitters (eg: serotonin, dopamine etc) due to the old recycled hormones competing for the same function. However, as the body has already used these hormones once their ability to function is decreased, therefore functioning at a lower rate; providing the body with a lesser response.
Fibre assists with increasing natural microflora within our digestive system- without this microflora we can become prone to cramping, bloating, reflux, constipation, IBS.
When we eat fibre it naturally ferments in our digestive system and produces a product called Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA’s). These SCFA’s are extremely important for our bowel and digestive health but also:
– Diabetes- in regards to maintaining insulin regulation and increased inflammation.
– Weight loss- a diverse range of healthy probiotics is vital for optimal health and metabolism, with research identifying that those with lower microbiome diversity frequently experience weight loss resistance.
– Mental health- The Gut- Brain axis research is expanding every day for the benefits of a healthy microbiome – including anxiety, depression, stress
– Sleep – most of our sleep hormone melatonin is produced within the brain, however there is also a large amount present in out guts to! We can lose up to 30% of our ability to deal with insulin when we compromise on sleep, effecting our ability to lose weight.
When we talk about fibre we aren’t talking about bread, cereals or processed grains as they actually ‘kill’ off our natural digestive flora so it is best to avoid these processed foods as much as possible.
These foods actually irritated our digestive lining causing inflammation and damage. This damage can then increase the risk of things like leaky gut, gluten sensitivity, SIBO, candida, bloating, wind, joint pain and auto immune conditions long term.
So what high fibre foods should I eat?
Fibre rich foods- include- any fruits and vegetables especially broccoli, kiwi fruit, sweet potato, pears, Brussel sprouts, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, sauerkraut.
Others include natural pre- and probiotic foods- including – sauerkraut, coconut kefir, kombucha, kimchi, asparagus. Fermented foods are an easy way to increase your microbiome naturally as they are generally high in fibre but also contain probiotics to feed your microflora.
Ideally you would consume enough fibre through your fruits and vegetables but if you are feeling like you might need a bit of extra assistance to keep you regular than psyllium husks and slippery elm may be what just what you need.
Water intake is also vital with fibre – as fibre assists with waste removal, however, without adequate water can also cause more binding for some people.
Make sure you are consuming 2-2.5L of water a day to get the most out of your fibre intake.
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Dr. William Cole, 2017. ‘4 shocking ways your microbiome can make you gain weight’. Mindbodygreen.
Dr. Mary Jane Brown, RD, ‘How short-chain fatty acids affect health and weight’. Authority Nutrition.
Francesca De Filippis, Nicoletta Pellegrini, Lucia Vannini, Ian B Jeffery, Antonietta La Storia, Luca Laghi, Diana I Serrazanetti, Raffaella Di Cagno, Ilario Ferrocino, Camilla Lazzi, Silvia Turroni, Luca Cocolin, Patrizia Brigidi, Erasmo Neviani, Marco Gobbetti, Paul W O’Toole, Danilo Ercolini. High-level adherence to a Mediterranean diet beneficially impacts the gut microbiota and associated metabolome. Gut, 2015; gutjnl-2015-309957 DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2015-309957