Fiber is very important for colon health. To fully understand the role of fiber in optimizing colon health, it is important to define fiber. Fiber is often referred to as roughage or bulk. Fiber is essentially the nondigestible carbohydrates of our diet. Fiber is derived from plants and is found in fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Dietary fiber is divided into soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in fruits, oats, barley, beans and psyllium. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps to increase stool bulk. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat, bran, other grains, seeds and nuts.
Importance of Fiber
Why is fiber important? Insoluble fiber helps to make your stool softer, more regular, and easier to pass during a bowel movement. Adequate insoluble fiber intake helps with problems including constipation, diverticulosis, the irritable bowel syndrome, and hemorrhoids. Whether fiber helps to prevent colon polyps and colon cancer is not entirely clear but I am of the belief that fiber does help to prevent colon polyps. Interestingly, soluble fiber helps to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes by helping to lower your cholesterol and controlling blood sugar.
Daily Intake of Fiber
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 20 to 35 grams per day. It is not important how much insoluble vs. soluble fiber you consume, rather focus on the total amount of dietary fiber intake per day. The best way to help determine the amount of fiber you are consuming is to read the nutrition label on packaged foods. The nutrition label will tell you how many grams of fiber are contained in a serving. You can supplement your dietary intake of fiber by taking a fiber supplement. A good rule of thumb to help meet your daily fiber needs would include 2 cups of fruits and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables every day.
Check out my Fiber Guide for more help on fiber intake.
Here’s to your colon health!
Frank Farrell, MD, MPH, AGAF