Fibre is one of the most important nutrients for your body, and specifically for the health of your colon. It has been published in many studies that increasing your intake of fibre from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans can aid in preventing disease. The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada includes fibre as a recommendation on their page here, which I think is great.
Fibre has many important roles to play in the body:
– absorbs water to form a gel, which may help lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood sugar fluctuations after meals, and keep you feeling full longer
– absorbs toxins in the bowel, helping them be excreted through stool
– enhances regular elimination of the bowels, keeping exposure to toxins at a minimum.
– helps feed the probiotics naturally living in your intestine, which are good bacteria designed to be a barrier to invaders, and keep digestion and immunity in tip-top shape.
-helps relieve constipation by promoting movement of material through your intestines
So which fibre should I include?
According to national guidelines, between 20-35g of fibre should be consumed daily. In holistic nutrition circles this number increases to 50g/day as it is known that the benefits of fibre are exceptional. Here’s what you’ll commonly find when on the hunt for fibre, and my suggestions for how to include it in your day:
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Obviously this is my favourite recommendation and most valuable one. Keep the skin on your fruits and vegetables for extra fibre as well (after a good washing, of course!). Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage have tons of fibre, as fibre (‘cellulose’) is used to provide structure and strength to the growing plant. The stems of broccoli and cauliflower? Yep, that’s all fibre! Include some veggies at every meal.
Flax and Chia seeds
Absolutely amazing fibre sources. The type of fibre offered by these seeds specifically can be seen by a simple home experiment. Mix 1 tsp chia seeds with 1/2 cup water and let it sit for a few minutes. When you come back, check out the consistency – it has quickly turned into a gel! This is the same thing it is going to do in your body. This gel will go through your digestive system and pick up excess cholesterol and toxins, and excrete them out of your body. This gel is also a welcome sight for those suffering from constipation – a gel-like substance will help keep your colon slippery and happy! Other good seeds (grind them first) are sesame and hemp. Use seeds by sprinkling them on your yogurt, oatmeal, cereals, salads, in baking recipes, or mixing them into smoothies.
These are great additions to your diet, and are full of fibre. Make sure to always choose WHOLE GRAINS: not white, not refined grains, and not whole wheat. Many whole grains are naturally gluten-free. Buckwheat, steel-cut oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff, etc….there are so many! Use whole grains as cereals in the morning, bake with them, and use them as side dishes for your meals.
Notoriously high in fibre! If you’re one of the many people who feel gassy after eating beans, I have 2 tips for you:
1. Try soaking your beans in water overnight before consuming them. Soaking, sprouting or fermenting beans before consuming them will decrease the phytic acid content and also help digest the oligosaccharides present in beans (a complex sugar that humans can’t break down 😦 ). This is why we get gas – because our little bacteria friends in our colon are eating all the sugar and producing methane gas and CO2….basically they are producing teeny tiny toots.
2. Take a digestive enzyme before a meal with beans, specifically one that has cellulase or alpha-galactosidase
Things I don’t usually recommend…
Psyllium – this type of fibre, while it absorbs water well, can be sometimes scratchy and harsh on the intestinal walls. Stick with a gentler fibre like ground flax or chia instead.
Cascara or Senna – these are herbs for constipation relief. They aren’t actually fibres, but often people think they are because of their association as laxatives. They are very strong and irritate the colon in order to expel waste. We don’t want to irritate the colon! We want to support it with the natural tools it needs to do its job correctly, and gently stimulate muscle movement to help with excretion. If you need something, I recommend Aloe Vera gel or “AloeLax” instead, or Acacia Fibre mixed into some water.