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Uses of Dietary Fibers in Digestion Problem - Types and Benefits

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Dietary fibers help relieve digestion problems like constipation. They also help in maintaining a healthy weight. Let us know the benefits of fiber-rich foods here.

Written by

Dr. Janani R S

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Published At March 6, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 27, 2023

Introduction

Fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains help prevent and relieve constipation. It has an uncommon feature where other food elements are broken down and then absorbed. The dietary fibers travel all through the digestive tract and get excreted out of the body. It not only eases constipation but also has benefits like reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

What Are Dietary Fibers?

Dietary fibers are plant parts that are not digested or absorbed by our bodies. Generally, food elements like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed by our bodies. But dietary fibers travel along the digestive organs like the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine and are finally excreted out of the body. Dietary fibers are also termed roughage.

What Are the Types of Dietary Fibers?

Soluble Fibers:

1. Soluble fibers are soluble in water and hence the name. They form a gel-like consistency when dissolved in water.

2. Foods like oats, peas, beans, carrots, chia seeds, lentils, blueberries, the soft parts of pears and apples, bananas, barley, citrus fruits, and psyllium are rich in soluble fiber.

3. They help reduce blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Insoluble Fibers:

  • They are insoluble fibers because they are not soluble in water, but it holds onto them and makes the stools soft and bulky. They are also called roughage.

  • This soft and bulky nature help the movement of food along the digestive tract.

  • They help to relieve constipation and irregular stools.

  • Foods like whole wheat flour, nuts, wheat bran, beans, corn, berries, cauliflower, green beans, apple and pear peels, and potatoes are rich in insoluble fibers.

However, the quantity of these fibers varies in different vegetables, and consuming fiber-rich food of all classes provides health benefits.

How Are Dietary Fibers Beneficial?

Bowel Movements Are Normalized: Fibers inclusive of both soluble and insoluble fibers help normalize the stools. Since they make the stool soft, they increase the weight and bulkiness of the stool, making them easy to move all around the digestive tract and help in relieving constipation. They also normalize when the stools are watery since they absorb the water, solidify and make the stool bulky.

Bowel Health Is Maintained: It helps in maintaining good bowel health by reducing the risk of colon cancer, diverticulitis (pouch formation in the colon), and hemorrhoids (piles which are due to inflamed veins in the anus and the rectum). A high-fiber-rich food benefits gut health.

Reduces Cholesterol Levels: Cholesterol plays an essential role in bile acid production in the liver. Soluble fibers bind with the gut’s bile acids to remove them from the body. This results in insufficient bile acids, further leading to cholesterol utilization from the blood for bile acid production.

Manages Blood Sugar Levels: The soluble fibers dissolve in water, forming a gel-like substance. This slows down the digestion process, thus preventing the elevation in the blood glucose and reducing hunger. This phenomenon is beneficial in reducing heart disease and keeping blood sugar levels at bay.

Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight: Fiber-rich foods have a tendency to give a filling feeling than other food elements. It also is low in calories, and the quantity consumed is the same as other foods, which helps maintain a healthy weight.

Enhances Healthy Life: Increased consumption of fiber-rich foods reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. A few studies suggest that low-fiber foods cause blood sugar levels to increase, which paves a path for an increase of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Also, a study performed by a few scientists in a group of women reveals that women who take fiber-rich foods are at lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who take low-fiber foods. However, the reasons are still unclear.

How Much Fiber Does Your Body Need Daily?

  • Men 50 Years and Below: 30 grams.

  • Men Above 50 Years: 38 grams.

  • Women 50 Years and Older: 21 grams.

  • Women 50 Years and Below: 25 grams.

So, if these measurements exceed 70 grams, constipation, bloating, and gas may result. However, this occurs in rare instances but is common in people who follow a vegan diet, who eat raw foods, and follow a whole-food diet.

How to Boost Fiber Intake?

If a person does not include sufficient fiber in their diet, one can start with,

  • Fruits and vegetables.

  • Nuts and seeds.

  • Whole grains or whole grain products.

  • Green peas, beans, and other legumes.

  • However, avoiding processed or canned foods is beneficial for a healthy life. A few examples of processed foods are canned foods, white breads, pasta, and non-whole-grain cereals.

  • The outer part (bran) of the grain is removed in the process of grain refining. This removes the fiber from the grain leading to low-fiber content. Processed grains need to be avoided.

  • Certain enriched foods may have vitamins, and iron added after processing but do not contain fibers. Hence these foods should be limitedly consumed and balanced with fiber-rich foods.

How Is Fiber Supplement Beneficial Than Fiber-Rich Foods?

  • Fiber supplements like Metmucil and Citrucel provide additional fiber but do not contain other elements like minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. They provide instant relief from constipation than natural fibers.

  • Fiber-fortified foods are fiber-infused foods like granola bars and yogurt. They provide additional fiber in people who need to add extra fiber to their foods. However, these foods cause gassiness in a few people.

  • However, people who have medical conditions like diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation need extra fiber supplements as dietary fibers are not sufficient for them.

How to Implement Fiber Efficiently in the Diet?

  • Include cereals that contain more than five grams of fiber per serving.

  • Include whole grains in a diet that comprises whole wheat flour, whole grain, or whole wheat.

  • Include beans, peas, black beans, and lentils in your diet, and they are rich in fiber. Also, adding vegetables gives added nutrition.

  • Avoid using white flour and use whole grain flour for baking purposes. Also, adding wheat bran and oatmeal while baking cookies or muffins provides added benefits.

  • Nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are rich sources of fiber. Incorporate them into your daily diet.

Conclusion

Dietary fibers play an important role in contributing to a healthy life and a healthy diet. Adding fiber-rich food reduces the risk of developing diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and digestive tract diseases. And also prevents constipation and loose stools. Fibers need to be incorporated everyday. However, it can cause a few symptoms like gassiness and bloating if consumed beyond the daily intake recommendations. It is important to add fiber along with other food elements, and the recommended daily fiber intake can be discussed with a nutritionist and consumed accordingly for a healthy life.

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Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Dentistry

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digestive problemsdietary fiber
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