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8 Fibers You Should be Taking for Digestive Health

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January 28, 2014 | Published by


 

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Fiber is often thought of as some blah-tasting uniform mass you have to choke down just for regularity’s sake. Truth is, there are many different kinds of fibers, and an assortment is necessary for good health. You need insoluble fibers, which bulk up and soften stools to maintain regularity, and soluble fibers, which help remove toxins and by-products of digestion that can cause gas, bloating and discomfort.

Think of fibers as tiny brooms and your gut as a big room to clean–there’s a lot of nooks and crannies, so you’ll need different sizes and shapes of brooms to get it clean. Watch out for common supermarket and drugstore fiber: they often contain sweeteners and fillers like maltodextrin and corn syrup solids that can do more harm than good. Here’s a list of 8 helpful, multifaceted fibers that work together to help keep your gut clean and running strong:

Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk is the fibrous outer shell of the psyllium plant seed. The husk is high in mucilage, a clear colorless gel that bonds with and absorbs water. This helps keep bowel movements soft and easy to pass, which helps prevent constipation.

Slippery Elm (inner bark)

The inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree is made of durable fibers used for many purposes, including rope making, jewelry, and string for instrument bows. It’s good for your digestive system because of its high levels of mucilage and its ability to gently sweep debris out of the intestines.

Cellulose

Cellulose is a fibrous organic compound found in many things, particularly green plants and algae. This abundant compound acts as a bulking agent for bowel movements, giving feces a texture that holds together and is easy (but not too easy!) to pass.

Rice Bran

Rice bran is the hard layer between the inner rice grain and the outer hull. In addition to containing various helpful antioxidants, rice bran contains a high amount of several types of fibers that can get into those nooks and crannies and keep things clean.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)

FOS are a form of oligosaccharides (a carbohydrate made of simple sugars) that act as a soluble fiber. FOS occur naturally in many vegetables, including onion, artichoke and asparagus. In addition to being an effective fiber, FOS also has known prebiotic benefits and can help with absorption of certain minerals.

Fenugreek Seed

Fenugreek seeds are used internationally to add flavor and nutrients to dishes. Some Indian restaurants will have bowls of fenugreek seeds at the register instead of after dinner mints. In addition to its high fibrous qualities, fenugreek seed has also shown to help with the breakdown and processing of insulin in the digestive system.

Oat Bran

Like rice bran, oat bran is the hard layer sandwiched between the grain and husk. Grains like oat bran are used for many beneficial purposes, from cholesterol management to cardiovascular support. Oat bran is beneficial to the digestive system because of its high concentration of fiber, particularly beta-glucan.

Hemicellulose

Hemicellulose, like cellulose, is a polysaccharide, but is made of shorter glucose chains. Hemicellulose is especially helpful for its prebiotic properties, meaning it can help the feeding and growth of helpful bacteria in the gut.

References:

Burton R, Manninen V. Influence of a psyllium fibre preparation on faecal/serum parameters. Acta Med Scand. 1982:668:S91-S94.

Rodri’guez-Cabezas ME, Galvez J, Camuesco D, Lorente MD, Concha A, Martinez-Augustin O, Redondo O, Zarzuelo A. Intestinal anti-inflammatory activity of dietary fiber in HLA-B27 transgenic rats. Clinical Nutrition. 2003 (22/5):463-471.

McRorie JW, Daggy BP, Morel JG, Diersing PS, Miner PB, Robinson M. Psyllium is superior to docusate sodium for treatment of chronic constipation.Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 May;12(5):491-7.

Langmead L, Dawson C, Hawkins C, Banna N, Loo S, Rampton DS. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Feb;16(2):197-205.

Roschek B Jr, Fink RC, Li D, McMichael M, Tower CM, Smith RD, Alberte RS. Pro-inflammatory enzymes, cyclooxygenase 1, cyclooxygenase 2, and 5-lipooxygenase, inhibited by stabilized rice bran extracts. J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):615-23.

Nilsson U, Johansson M, Nilsson A, Bjorck I, Nyman M. Dietary supplementation with o-glucan enriched oat bran increases faecal concentration of carboxylic acids in healthy subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition. 2008 (62/8): 978-984.

Su P, Henriksson A, Mitchell H. Prebiotics enhance survival and prolong the retention period of specific probiotic inocula in an in vivo murine model. J Appl Microbiol. 2007 Dec;103(6):2392-400.

Kannappan S, Anuradha CV.Insulin sensitizing actions of fenugreek seed polyphenols, quercetin & metformin in a rat model. Indian J Med Res. 2009 Apr;129(4):401-8.

Kanauchi O, Mitsuyama K, Komiyama Y, Yagi M, Andoh A, Sata M. Preventive effects of enzyme-treated rice fiber in a restraint stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome model. Int J Mol Med. 2010 Apr;25(4):547-55.


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