Fiber benefits


Years ago, when I was in my first year in my holistic health course in NHI, San Diego, California, my American schoolmate, Mary, gifted me a box of psyllium powder. Back then, the craze about this drink was new and everyone in my class was into it. The next morning, I excitedly brought out my finely grinded psyllium powder, mixed a teaspoon of it, to an 8 ounce of orange juice, stirred the blend gently until the ingredient was fully dissolved and gulped it all at once.

I have a pretty good digestive system. Aside from being a vegetarian, I do asanas (yoga postures), which work great for digestion and fires-up the metabolism process. The next day after taking the psyllium drink, I felt bloated and constipated. I felt heaviness in the stomach area and low in energy. What happened?

I found out from my research and nutrition teacher that though psyllium and other fiber rich supplements are good for you, it can also deliver harm – if not utilized accordingly. The first thing you need to know when including fiber in your diet is you need to increase your water or liquid intake. It is the only way for it to be effective, pass the digestive system smoothly and release all the excrement embedded in the stomach. The stomach is the breeding ground of harmful pathogens. Keeping it clean at all times is superlatively important, just like your showers every day.  

There is no specific definition on the composition of fiber. In a layman term, fiber is any food that the body cannot digest and absorbed. Its main constituent are cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin and lignin. While it lacks in vitamins and minerals, it can normalize bowel movement, avert constipation, lessen risk of colon cancer and breast cancer, prevent diabetes, lower bad cholesterol, manage hypertension, stabilize blood sugar level and make you lose weight.

Fiber has two categories – the dietary fiber and the functional fiber. The dietary fiber can be found in foods that we take – fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and seeds. The functional fiber, are processed, modified and engineered fibers, and served as food supplements, in powdered or capsule form.

There are two types of fiber. The soluble fiber, fiber that dissolves in water and the insoluble fiber, the fiber that does not dissolve in water. Both help clean up your gut. It assists food to pass quickly through the stomach and intestines. It is considered as prebiotic, a substance that nurtures your good bacteria (probiotics), inside the tummy.

The great foods with high soluble fiber are raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, guavas, artichokes, squash, mung beans, lima beans, lentils, flaxseeds, broccoli, okras, avocados and kiwi.

The daily dietary recommendation for fiber for men, is about 38 grams – under 50 years of age and 30 grams for over 50’s. For women, 25 grams – under 50 years old and 20 grams for over 50’s. Powder and pill supplementation maybe used occasionally, but real food is preferable for it nourishes health.

Anything that is too much is not favorable for you, especially, fiber. Too much fiber can cause abdominal gas, belly pain, tum bloating and constipation. If you want to take more fiber, do it gradually over time. Ensure you drink plenty of water to achieve its efficiency.

As a clinical nutritionist, I believe that eating our food in its natural state to feed our health requirement, rather than taking them in a capsule or processed form, is the best way to achieve an optimal healthy foundation.  

Healthy choices, happy life.