Fiber is the colon’s toothbrush. What happens when we fail to brush our teeth? We have a buildup of unhealthy plaque, tooth decay, bad breath, and other serious issues.  The same goes for our colon. If we do not consume a good quantity of high quality fiber, our digestive system is compromised. Considering that over 80% of our immunity stems from the health of our gut, it is absolutely imperative that we reward our gut with sufficient daily fiber to keep the vehicles of our bodies thriving!

The two different types of fiber—insoluble and soluble—are both undigested in our colon but have two very different useful and necessary roles. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve water but rather absorbs it, acting as a natural stool softener to normalize bowel movements. This is perhaps the most noticeable and appreciated benefit to those eating plenty of fiber, enough said. Additionally, insoluble fiber moves bulk through the intestines, slows glucose absorption, removes toxic waste, and balances our pH levels to create a more alkaline atmosphere in our gut.  Studies show that disease cannot exist in an alkaline atmosphere so having a balanced pH in our gut is likely a great preventative measure to take against colon cancer.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance in our stomach, slowing gastric emptying.  This in turn creates a feeling of fullness which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels for a more efficient metabolism. Soluble fiber also lowers LDL (think “L” for lousy) cholesterol by binding with cholesterol and fatty acids in the digestive tract.  It also assists the body in using carbohydrates for glycogen synthesis and energy production rather than storing them as fat.

While fiber’s role in cancer prevention has caused a great deal of controversy, there is still ample evidence that the health-promoting benefits of fiber may decrease the risk of many colorectal cancers. There is no doubt that fiber removes toxins and promotes healthy digestion, both of which are greatly beneficial in disease prevention. Recent studies also show another way in which fiber is protective is the immune boosting intestinal tract bacteria which results from the natural process by which fiber ferments in the large intestine. Our large intestines contain a multitude of beneficial bacteria called “friendly flora,” which support the immune system of our entire body.  Short-chain fatty acids are manufactured as a result of these bacteria microbes and are shown to decrease cancerous colonic cells.

The importance of fiber truly cannot be understated. Are you willing to start taking baby steps towards eating more daily fiber to reap the rewards of the gift of health?  Join me next week as I share my insights into the best whole foods sources of fiber as we celebrate nutrition!