We all know we need fiber in our diet, but few of us can provide the desired amount, or explain why we need it. Most sources suggest a range of 25 to 40 grams per day, with 35 the ideal for most of us. The typical North American diet averages around 13 grams of fiber per day, so read on.

Fiber comes only from plants: fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. While technically not a nutrient (no calories, vitamins, or minerals), fiber is found in Nature’s most nutritious foods and is indispensable for a healthy diet. It comes in two types, each with its own unique health benefits: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water forming a gel that moves through the digestive system trapping fat and toxins for removal from the body. Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but most are predominately one or the other. In general, vegetables, wheat, and most grains contain more insoluble fiber, while fruits, oats, barley, and legumes contain soluble fiber. Some dietary sources of soluble fiber include apples, carrots, barley, legumes, oranges, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and peas. Insoluble fiber, also called “roughage,” sweeps the walls of the colon clean and provides the bulk needed to strengthen and tone the muscles of the colon. This also makes the stool bulkier and softer and eases the passage through the intestinal tract. Some dietary sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, fruit and vegetable skins, flaxseed, lentils, root vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds. Fiber should be the “bulk” of your poop.

8 Reasons to be Fiber Wiser:

  1. Fiber is essential for healthy bowel function and the prevention of constipation. As it passes through the bowel, fiber absorbs water and increases the bulk and softness of waste matter, making it easier to pass. This prevents abdominal straining, which reduces the amount of pressure on the colonic wall and on the veins in the rectum and legs. This may help relieve and prevent diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins, respectively.
  2. Fiber slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose (sugar), retarding glucose absorption and stabilizing insulin. Because it also increases the ability of cells to absorb insulin, fiber is very important for managing diabetes and can help to reverse insulin resistance.
  3. Fiber helps to maintain healthy, cholesterol levels by lowering LDL cholesterol (the “bad”) cholesterol) and increasing the HDL or “good” cholesterol levels. It also helps to inhibit the production of triglycerides by the liver.
  4. Fiber has a positive effect on cholesterol, circulation, and blood pressure.
  5. Dietary fiber has been shown to speed the transit of intestinal contents in people with slow transit time, but also to slow transit time in people who have rapid intestinal transit. This means that fiber can be a treatment for both constipation and diarrhea.
  6. Consumption of a high-fiber diet has shown decreased concentrations of estrone and estradiol (two types of estrogen) in premenopausal women. This might reduce the incidence of breast cancer and other hormone-dependent cancers.
  7. Fiber helps to control appetite in three ways:
    a) It helps to physically fill your stomach without the calorie payload. This is especially true with insoluble fiber.
    b) Fiber in your stomach helps control cravings and hunger by stimulating the production of the hormone that tells you “I am full, put down the fork.”
    c) It stabilizes blood sugar levels.
  8. Over time, a diet low in fiber can lead to a build-up of undigested food in the intestinal tract which ferments, putrefies, and becomes toxic. These toxins can seep into the bloodstream and lead to poor health and chronic disease. A high fiber diet can help prevent diseases like colon cancer by binding and diluting carcinogens.

This last point illustrates why fiber supplementation is a crucial part of any cleansing and detoxification program. Whether you are doing an herbal cleansing kit or colonics, fiber is the perfect companion to your program. It helps to absorb toxins and shuttle them out of the body, so they are not reabsorbed. Fiber also helps to ensure you are eliminating regularly and will help diminish any common detox reactions, such as headaches and skin breakouts, you may experience during your detox program.

It is vital to drink enough water any time fiber supplements are being incorporated into the diet, at least 8 ounces. High fiber without enough water can lead to obstruction in the digestive tract. Get as much of your fiber through diet, since those sources of fiber also tend to have water incorporated into the whole food.