Whenever people talk about diets fiber or fiber supplements often come up as a topic. However for many of us the idea of fiber in the diet is difficult to comprehend. And this is is understandable because often when dietary fiber is discussed it is not clearly explained.
So its worth taking a look at just what we mean when we refer to fiber in the diet or consider fiber supplements.
What Is Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber is a term that is often used when referring to diets or food intake but it is a confusing term because it is not often explained. In fact fiber is commonly found in many foods but you need to eat the right kind of food to be able to get sufficient fiber in your diet.
This is because the modern Western diet, in particular, is often based around refined foods. Whereas in times past much of what was eaten came from natural sources such as vegetables, grains and other natural unprocessed foods. But today with the explosion of the food industry so much of what we class as ‘food’ contains little or no fiber at all. Because these ‘foods’ have been refined to such an extent that most of the fiber, if not all of it, has been removed.
Types of Dietary Fiber
There are two types of dietary fiber – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. And one of the things that has often confused me is how can a fiber be soluble. Because in one’s mind fiber is fiber – a bit like a thread or string only much smaller. But that is not the case for dietary fiber. But I suspect that I’m not alone in this confusion so it would be good to get some simple definitions of dietary fiber.
Soluble fiber has the capability of absorbing quite large amounts of water and can increase its volume quite significantly. It generally turns into a gel like substance. Fiber supplements use this expansion property to create a sense of fullness in the stomach where the fiber expands. So that you feel fuller for longer and the emptying of the stomach is delayed.
On the other hand insoluble fiber is, as the name suggests, not soluble in water and passes through the gut relatively unchanged. Insoluble fibers add bulk to the diet and help the digestive process by moving the food through the intestine. They have a laxative effect and can cause increased gas within the stomach and gut.
For a graphic example think of what happens when you eat corn on the cob. For most people there are a few kernels that make the journey through the intestine unchanged. And my understanding is that corn has a good level of fiber. The reason that we find these kernels passing straight through is that we are unable to digest the cellulose that forms their shell.
For more details about the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber this brief but informative WebMD fiber reference is worth a look.
But try not get too involved in making the distinction between soluble and insoluble fiber unless you have a reason to do so. It is probably better just to aim at increasing the total fiber in your diet rather than targeting either one specifically.
Foods That Contain Fiber
As already noted above there are many foods that contain fiber but often they are just not in our diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables are all good sources of fiber. And food produced using whole-grain as their ingredient – such as whole grain flour, whole grain bread and whole meal pasta.
Another good source of fiber are the legumes which are beans, peas and the like. And for a snack source remember nuts and seeds are also a good source of fiber.
This Mayo Clinic reference gives a better run down on sources of dietary fiber. And there are plenty of other good reference sites on the web that can be followed up.
Diverticulosis – A modern ailment?
While this is not a medical comment an interesting aside in all of this is that there is a ‘modern’ ailment known as diverticulosis the incidence of which has progressively increased since the early 1920’s. Diverticulosis are bulb like protrusions generally found in the wall of the large intestine. When these protrusions become irritated or inflamed the condition is known as diverticulitis. In some cases it can become quite serious.
For a long time its appearance was considered to be associated with the lack of fiber in the modern diet. In fact my family doctor told me a few years ago me that diverticulosis was caused by the squeezing motion of the large intestine which contained insufficient fiber. And the solution or treatment was 10 glasses of water a day and use one of the fiber supplements.
But the interesting news is that a recent study has found that lack of fiber does not does not contribute to diverticulosis. So all the previous advice about fiber in recent times may now be a little astray. This recent abstract reference from the Gastroenterology Journal makes mention of these findings.
Dietary Fiber Supplements
There are many fiber supplements available on the market these days. And most have made their appearance because of the lack of fiber in the modern diet. Many of them are based on naturally occurring products such as psyllium husks and are sold over the counter with a brand-name. Increasing fiber in the diet is frequently used as a means of reducing constipation and aiding in the elimination of waste products from the bowel.
But there is an added benefit from eating increased amounts of fiber and that is a reduction in the sense of hunger or appetite. This feature of increasing the amount of fiber in your diet is often used to reduce food intake and thereby aid in weight reduction.
One of the most beneficial weight loss fibers is glucomannan which is derived from the root of the konjac plant. In fact glucomannan has been endorsed by Dr Oz as the best weight loss diet pill in his guide to the best and worst of 2010. Glucomannan is a naturally occurring fiber that has been used by the Japanese for many years and is often referred to as the Japanese woman’s secret weapon. Today probably the other most commonly found form of glucomannan is Shirataki Noodles which are readily available either online or in Asian grocery stores.
For practical daily use the best weight loss product is a capsule such as Skinny Fiber, a diet pill that incorporates glucomannan with two other natural ingredients Caralluma and Cha de Bugre. Caralluma is an ancient Indian appetite suppressant and Cha de Bugre is a Brazilian plant which can support your metabolism.
By taking two Skinny Fiber capsules 30 minutes prior to eating a main meal and drinking sufficient water the glucomannan will expand within your stomach to increase the sense of fullness. This in turn will reduce both the feeling of hunger and the amount of food need to make you feel full.
So while it may not work miracles glucomannan is still regarded by many as a miracle fiber that can facilitate weight reduction in a simple and effective way.