WORDS: Alyce Cimino | Naturopath + AHARA HEALTH Clinic Owner
Oh Fibre.. you under rated oh so sexy thing! As a women’s health Naturopath I can tell you that I am utterly obsessed with ensuring that clients are having adequate daily fibre intake… why you ask? well statistics have shown that the standard Australian diet is generally lacking in fibre, a 2018 study found that a massive 71.8% of Australians do not meet the daily recommended intake for fibre! We also know that fibre is paramount for good gut health, hormonal health, waste elimination, mood, that gorgeous skin glow and the reduction of long term health complications.. so lets look a little deeper.
WHAT IS FIBRE AND HOW MUCH SHOULD WE BE HAVING?
Fibre is the edible part of plants (or part of a plant like a seed) which is resistant to digestion and absorption within the digestive system. Fibre can be broken into 3 categories insoulable fibre, soulable fibre and resistant startch – all three need to be consumed to enjoy their benefits as they each play a different role on our overall digestive system.
The Australian RDI (recommended daily intake) is:
Children 1 – 8: 14-18g / day
Children 9 – 18: 24 – 28g / day
Adults 10 – 70+: 25g – 30g / day (includes men, women and pregnant and breastfeeding women)
There is however, no upper limit for fibre, meaning that this is a case where more may be a good thing.
WHY IS IT SO GOOD?
So the extra fun part.. the reasoning behind why its so good rather than just another naturopath telling you to increase your daily fibre intake.
WASTE ELIMINATION AND DETOXIFICATION
Fibre is literally a scrubbing brush for our bowels, it helps to move waste out of the body so that we don’t get stagnation and constipation but also to support the elimination of hormones and an array of toxic substances from the body, including Xenobiotics – a class of chemicals that are foreign to the human body; these include pesticides, food additives, fragrances, environmental pollutants, and xenoestrogens found in plastics and beauty products.
Fibre is essential for a happy daily poo. The roughage provided works to regulate bowel movements by pulling water into the colon to produce softer, easier to pass but also bulkeir stools. It has the ability to both loosen and soften a stool for elimination and promote better regularity, this is vital for the reduction in bowel and colon cancers as well!
When waste is eliminated out of the body correctly, everything just functions better and one of the tell tale signs in skin vibrancy and health. Our skin is our largest organ and gives a brilliant reprenstation of what is going on internally. Pimples, blemishes, rashes, dullness, lack-luster skin and even fine lines! are all signs that our elimination and digestive pathways could do with a little extra support. You would be supprised the difference of a few weeks with increased dietary fibre provide.
OVERALL HORMONAL BALANCE
We know that fibre supports waste elimination, this includes hormonal waste. For Oestrogen to eliminate from the body it must exit via the bowels. If women are not moving their bowels daily; and adequately, then Oestrogen has the ability to recirculate back through the body which can then contribute to an imblance of not only oestrogen its self but other hormones such as progesterone as well. When these hormones are out of balance we can see worsening of specific conditions such as PMS, period pain, endometrosis, menopausal symptoms, weight imbalances / difficulty shifting weight.
MICROBIOME BALANCE + OVERALL GUT HEALTH
We all know about probiotics, but possibly the more important one is prebiotics. Fibre is a natural prebiotic, supporting how the good gut bugs are able to grow and colonise within the gut. We also know that if we are not eating enough fibre, if bowels are not moving correctly or if there is an imbalance within the gut then this is great for the bad gut guys so they able to get free reigns.. not an ideally situation for anyone.
BLOOD GLUCOSE BALANCE
Blood glucose balance to naturoapths is what salt is to the ocean… you cant find one without the other. Blood glucose balance is the key to all foundations of wellbeing, and fibre is one of the biggest tools to help support it. This balance is essential for hormonal health, mood balance, gut health and so much more! We also know that fibre has a positive role on our insulin levels; it helps to bring things back into balance and therefore reducing overall insulin and glucose spikes / peaks. Since insulin is a key driver for both diabetes, obesity and specific metabolic conditions such as PCOS in women, the addition of dietary fibre to support and reduce the risk of these conditions are essential.
Following on from the benefits of blood glucose and insulin support, we also know that adequate fibre intake is key to feeling satisfied from your meal. Processed foods are brilliant at processing out the fibre which may trick us into feeling full immedialty after eating it, but we are usually hungry again within the first hour or two after. Fibre prevents overeating and hunger between meals, meaning our energy in is reduced and we are overall more satisfied from the meal to start with.
OVERALL CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Soluble fibre (found in beans, oats, flaxseeds/ linseeds) may help to lower total blood cholesterol levels in both men and women. Research has found that with an increased daily intake, fibre has the benefit of reducing LDL cholesterol (aka the bad cholesterol). In addition to this, we also know that it provides other cardiovascular benefits including reducing blood pressure and overall inflammation levels. In Australia, heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women. Heart disease kills 3x more than breast cancer with 1 women an hour dying from heart disease and 50 women suffering a heart attack every DAY! The more we can do support our overall wellbeing and cardiovascular health the better, and if boosting fibre can support.. then I’m all for that.
HOW DO I GET MORE FIBRE INTO MY DAY?
Essentially you do not need a fancy supplement or go out and spend hundreds of dollars to enjoy the benefit of more fibre in your day – the solution is simple! add it into your diet! If you are unsure where to start, we recommend working with a Naturoapth or Nutritionist to get you started on what is right for you and your health needs, because if you jump from low fibre to high fibre you may get some digestive upset to start.
Start by aiming to have 1 – 2 cups of vegetables per meal. Boost your snacks with chia seeds, linseeds, fresh produce, beans and legumes. You can add specific boosters such as our No Excuses Instant Porridge or start slow and sprinkle hemp seeds onto your ripe avocado.
1 tablespoon whole linseeds = approx. 6.5g fibre
1 tablespoon whole chia seeds = approx. 6g fibre
5g of psyllium husks = approx. 4.5g of fibre
1 pear = approx. 5.1g of fibre
1 cup of raspberries = approx. 8g fibre
100g avocado = 7.5g
However you work to increase your daily fibre, it is VITAL that you also increase your water intake. As mentioned about fibre pulls water into the colon to support elimination of waste. If you are not consuming enough water, this function will not happen and the fibre will pull water from the bowel itself and worsening constipation.
Fayet-Moore, F., Cassettari, T., Tuck, K., McConnell, A., & Petocz, P. (2018). Dietary Fibre Intake in Australia. Paper I: Associations with Demographic, Socio-Economic, and Anthropometric Factors. Nutrients, 10(5), 599. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050599
Gaskins, A. J., Mumford, S. L., Zhang, C., Wactawski-Wende, J., Hovey, K. M., Whitcomb, B. W., Howards, P. P., Perkins, N. J., Yeung, E., Schisterman, E. F., & BioCycle Study Group (2009). Effect of daily fiber intake on reproductive function: the BioCycle Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 90(4), 1061–1069. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27990
Nutrient Reference Values for Australian and New Zeland. last updated 09.05.2019