The Key to Digestive Health: Dietary Fiber
Written by Dr. Harsh Patel
Fiber is a term that describes substances that are neither digested nor absorbed by the small intestine. Fiber intake has been shown to provide many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Current expert recommendations suggest eating a total of 25-35g of dietary fiber per day which can often be difficult to achieve.
Dietary fiber is an important part of gastrointestinal health through its effects on regulating stool consistency, gut transit time, metabolism, and gut microbiome. Dietary fiber consists of two subtypes, soluble and insoluble fiber, which differ in their ability to dissolve in water resulting in differences in fermentability and viscosity. Soluble fibers are found in psyllium, oat bran, beans, fruits, and barley; whereas, insoluble fibers are found in wheat bran, wheat grains, and some vegetables.
Fiber supplementation is frequently recommended for the treatment of various gastrointestinal ailments such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids. Insoluble fibers particularly function to regulate bowel movements by bulking the stool, making it softer and less watery. On the other hand, soluble fibers are better tolerated in irritable bowel syndrome due to its increased viscosity and decreased colonic fermentation which results in less bloating and gas. Fiber supplements come in many forms (powders, capsules, etc.) and recommendations can be catered to an individual’s symptoms and preferences.
Make an appointment with Dr. Harsh Patel, Gastroenterologist at GCSA to learn more about the health benefits of dietary fiber.