Fiber medicine

Why is fiber important for digestive health?

We hear a lot about the health benefits of protein, but too often the benefits of consuming fiber are overlooked. Everyday Health reached out to 10 digestive health experts and asked them exactly how fiber improves your digestive health (and whether it’s possible to overeat).

Mark Babyatsky, MD, director of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York

Dietary fiber, found especially in vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains, helps maintain regular bowel movements. People who eat high-fiber diets have much lower rates of constipation than people who eat low-fiber diets, and they have fewer hemorrhoids and diverticula (pouches) in the colon. Too much fiber can lead to loose stools, bloating, or even diarrhea.

Kenneth Brown, MD, gastroenterologist

Dietary fiber is the term used to describe the combination of insoluble and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is the form of fiber that dissolves in water. Examples of foods containing soluble fiber include fruits, oats, legumes and barley. Insoluble fiber comes from plant cell walls and does not dissolve in water. Examples of foods containing insoluble fiber include wheat, vegetables, and seeds. Fiber works both by bulking up the stool and by retaining water.

In addition, bacteria help digest fiber which produces colon-healthy ingredients such as short-chain fatty acids. Fiber can be beneficial for both diarrhea and constipation depending on how much fluid you take in with the fiber. Fiber can actually become a constipating agent if the amount of fluid absorbed is too low.

Lisa Ganjhu, DOgastroenterologist

Fiber plays a major role in digestive health. Fiber is the fuel that colon cells use to stay healthy. Fiber also helps keep the digestive tract fluid, keeping your bowel movements soft and regular.

It is possible to consume too much fiber, and your body will know it. You may experience bloating and a lot more bowel movements than you are normally used to.

Jo Ann Hattner, MPH, RD

Fiber is primarily indigestible carbohydrates. Fiber is a component of plant foods, fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, lentils, nuts and seeds – any food classified as a plant. The fiber gives structure. Think of the stalk of celery and the obvious strings of vertical fibers that we often get caught between our teeth. Also, since fiber is not digestible, it contributes to stool bulk and adds shape to the stool. People with irregularities are often advised to increase their fiber and fluid intake.

But can you have too many? Well yes, you can get too much of anything. But you will know when you do. When you eat too much fiber, your digestive system can become overwhelmed and you will suffer from abdominal bloating and excessive gas. You don’t want that, so keep an open mind and eat as much fiber as you personally need to stay regular and enjoy a flat stomach.

Another very important role of fiber is that some fibers are prebiotics, which means they are fermented in the colon by health-promoting bacteria. The products of this fermentation, which include short-chain fatty acids, are believed to be healthy for the lining of the colon. Additionally, the acidic environment that results from fermentation is hostile to the survival of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria that cause disease and can contribute to an unhealthy colonic environment. Expect more search results on this topic.

Lisa Pichney, MDgastroenterologist

Fiber is good for the gastrointestinal tract as it provides bulk to the stool, helping with lubrication and colon transit. Too much fiber can lead to unwanted gas production.

Seth Rosen, MDgastroenterologist

A diet rich in fiber can greatly contribute to gastrointestinal health as well as an overall healthy lifestyle. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements so that they are neither too loose nor too hard and may reduce the risk of diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Most fiber-rich foods tend to be low in calories, sugar, and fat, so they’re generally healthy. When you eat fiber-rich foods, you may feel fuller and therefore less likely to overeat.

Additionally, high-fiber diets are often part of a low-cholesterol, heart-healthy diet. While it’s rare for most of us to exceed the recommended daily fiber allowance, some people have issues with gas and bloating when they eat a large amount of fiber or introduce fiber into their diet too quickly. food. Also, keep in mind that eating fiber still requires adequate hydration and helps minimize gas and bloating that may develop.

Sutha Sachar, MD, gastroenterologist

A high-fiber diet has repeatedly shown benefits in preventing colon cancer. Contrary to what many people think, soluble fiber can be used for the treatment of diarrhea as well as constipation. The only downside to eating “too much fiber” is that it can cause gas. This can usually be overcome by drinking plenty of water with it.