Can Fiber Fix Constipation? The Science Behind Fiber

An image of wheat field

Are you constipated? We get it - it can be uncomfortable and frustrating. If you experience infrequent bowel movements or hard, difficult-to-pass stools, you're not alone! The good news is that there's a simple and natural solution that can help ease your discomfort: dietary fiber. 

 

How does dietary fiber keep you regular?

Dietary fiber plays a crucial role in promoting regularity and maintaining digestive health. As a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the body, fiber helps regulate the body's use of sugars, keeping hunger and blood sugar levels in check. Unfortunately, most Americans do not consume enough fiber, with the recommended daily intake being 25 to 35 grams.

 

To increase fiber intake, it is important to include a variety of fiber-rich foods in your diet. Whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts are all excellent sources of fiber - so are Resist bars with 13-15 grams of fiber per bar. These foods provide a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, which offer different benefits for digestive health.

 

What is the difference between  soluble and insoluble fiber?

Soluble fiber, found in foods such as chia seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, and blueberries, dissolves in water and can help lower glucose levels and blood cholesterol. It forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system, which slows down digestion and delays blood sugar rises after meals. Soluble fiber also promotes healthy colonies of bacteria in the gut.

 

On the other hand, insoluble fiber, present in whole wheat products (especially wheat bran), quinoa, brown rice, legumes, leafy greens like kale, almonds, walnuts, seeds, and fruits with edible skins like pears and apples, does not dissolve in water. Instead, it adds bulk and weight to stool, promoting regularity and preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber helps food move through the digestive system more efficiently.

 

What is viscous fiber? What is fermentable fiber?

Fiber can also be classified based on its properties, such as being viscous or fermentable. Viscous fibers have a gel-like quality and can slow down digestion, delay the rise of blood sugar levels, and promote healthy gut bacteria.

 

Fermentable fibers serve as food for gut bacteria, which break them down and ferment them. This fermentation process can have additional health benefits, such as promoting healthy digestion and supporting a balanced gut microbiome.

 

It is important to note that different types of fiber offer various health benefits. Some fibers are not broken down by bacteria and travel intact to the colon, adding bulk and weight to stool. This can make it easier to pass and prevent constipation. Other fibers have a laxative effect and can help with regular bowel movements.

 

The National Academy of Medicine provides a definition of fiber in terms of dietary recommendations. They consider fiber to be any dietary component that is not broken down by human digestive enzymes and passes through the small intestine into the colon, where it can have physiological effects. These effects include providing bulk to bowels: promoting bowel health, preventing various diseases, and supporting overall gut health.

 

How much fiber should I eat?

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend that women aged 31 to 50 consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily, while men in the same age range should aim for about 38 grams. As we get older, our fiber requirements decrease slightly, with women aged 51 and older needing about 21 grams daily and men needing at least 30 grams.

 

Getting enough fiber in your diet has long been recognized as important for weight management and preventing obesity. But research also suggests that dietary fiber plays a key role in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, which affects various aspects of our health.

 

If you're looking to increase your fiber intake, it's important to do so gradually to avoid bloating. Going from consuming 10 grams of fiber a day to suddenly consuming 25 grams can cause discomfort. Additionally, be sure to drink plenty of fluids when adding more fiber-filled foods to your diet. This helps the fiber flow properly through your digestive tract.

 

Can fiber help with digestion?

One of the key roles of fiber is its function as a prebiotic, feeding the beneficial bacteria in our gut. These bacteria play a crucial role in breaking down and fermenting fiber, producing short-chain fatty acids that promote a healthy gut environment.

 

A diet high in fiber can also prevent constipation and promote regular bowel movements. Fiber adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive system. This can help prevent the discomfort and straining associated with constipation.

 

Can fiber help regulate blood sugar levels or prevent disease?

In addition to its impact on digestion, fiber has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It does this by slowing down the absorption of glucose which can prevent spikes in blood sugar after meals.

 

Furthermore, consuming a variety of fiber-rich foods can lower the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease and colorectal cancer. Fiber can help to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, all of which contribute to a healthier gut and overall well-being.

How do I get more fiber in my diet?

While fiber supplements can be a convenient way to boost fiber intake, it's best to get fiber from whole foods whenever possible. Whole foods provide a range of nutrients and other beneficial compounds that work synergistically with fiber to support gut health.

 

Remember to include a variety of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your meals to ensure you're getting an adequate amount of fiber. We always recommend whole foods first, but on the go try a fiber bar! Our Resist bars contain up to 15g of prebiotic fiber and can help you hit your fiber goals fast!

 

Sources:

Fiber | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

10 Good Foods to Help Relieve Constipation - Everyday Health

15 Healthy Foods That Help You Poop - Healthline

Dietary Fibre Modulates the Gut Microbiota - PMC - NCBI

Increasing Fiber Intake | Patient Education - UCSF Health