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Why Fibre is Important for Gut Health

Why Fibre is Important for Gut Health. Integrative Naturopath

A diverse gut ecosystem is very important for our overall health and wellbeing and fibre is an integral part of the equation. Let’s look at why fibre is important for gut health.

And, as you may have suspected, a healthy gut microbiota is supported by an unprocessed, wholefood diet that is high in plant-based foods, rich in fibre, moderate fat, moderate protein and has a lot of variety – wholegrains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts. As well as nourishing us, what we eat also nourishes our gut flora, promoting their growth into healthy populations of beneficial flora.  

So, it almost goes without saying, if your regular daily diet is high in processed foods and refined grains (e.g. white bread) and low in veggies/fruit and fibre, your gut flora is actually starved of food, and beneficial populations can begin to decrease.

Does this mean I can’t ever eat fish and chips on the beach on a balmy summer evening with my friends? No, of course you can! It simply means we need to eat well most of the time to support the health of our gut microbiota but we’re allowed to feast occasionally too!

As I mentioned in a previous blog about the important short-chain fatty acid butyrate, we can support our gut microbiota via diet by improving our intake of different kinds of fibre. We do not use or absorb this fibre ourselves, instead it all goes down into the large intestine to feed our gut flora, which provides us with health benefits. We can obtain this all-important fibre from grains that are unrefined and other foods that contain resistant starch and soluble fibre

Where do you find fibre rich foods?

  • Resistant Starch – lentils, kidney beans, aduki beans, white beans, chickpeas, cooked and cooled potatoes (e.g. potato salad), bananas (unripe), sweet potato, wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, barley, quinoa), raw cashews, oats (soaked rather than cooked), pumpernickel bread, rye bread (sourdough), buckwheat and sorghum.
  • Soluble Fibre – pinto beans, chickpeas, lima beans, wholegrain rye bread (sourdough), oats, brown rice, oat bran, hazelnuts, carrots, peas, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, avocado, apples, apricots, oranges.
  • Black Turtle Beans & Kidney Beans – I’ve listed these separately, as they’re both brilliant for the gut as not only do they contain resistant starch, soluble fibre, they are also high antioxidants/polyphenols, and they’re a great source of protein. Just remember to rinse them well, if you’re using a can, or discard the soaking water if you’re cooking them from dry.

I’m sure that some of you are looking at this list and thinking that there are lots of foods on these list that you struggle to tolerate without experiencing abdominal discomfort, bloating, distention, bowel changes and increased wind! But did you know that there is usually an underlying cause for this reactivity, and often with the right kind of gut work we may be able to reduce the number of foods you react to*? 

Sure, as I say to all my patients who have issues with FODMAPs or other intolerances, there are often foods that will remain problematic for the longer term. However, we can often make that list much smaller* by reducing reactivity in the gut using the right herbs, probiotics and prebiotics that are tailored to your specific situation, past health history and possible triggering event. 

*Please note: the paragraphs above are referring to food intolerance only, and not true food allergy/anaphylaxis, or conditions like coeliac disease, which requires the lifelong avoidance of gluten.

So I hope this has convinced you why fibre is so important for our gut health! Are you getting enough fibre in your diet? How could you increase it?

If you need some help with your diet, I would love to see you for a consultation.

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