Fiber is a crucial part of a balanced diet. You’ve probably heard you need more fiber in your diet but, if you’re not quite sure why, you’re not alone. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “More than 90 percent of women and 97 percent of men do not meet recommended intakes for dietary fiber.”
Along with aiding digestion, fiber also plays a role in your gut microbiome health, which can influence your overall health. Best of all, it’s in foods you probably already like, and it’s easy and inexpensive to incorporate into your daily diet. Making little changes to your diet goes a long way toward building a healthy lifestyle.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a naturally occurring compound found in plants. However, it’s also extracted and made into consumables. It’s classified as a type of carbohydrate–one our bodies cannot digest. Since it’s indigestible, it is calorie-free.
Two types of fiber are found in foods, and each has a different function.
- Soluble fiber: absorbs water to form a gel-like substance that helps move food along the digestive tract more slowly. Since the food moves slower, more nutrients can be absorbed in the colon. Soluble fiber also helps you feel full, lowers your cholesterol, and maintains healthy blood sugar levels. Beans are a great source of soluble fiber.
- Insoluble Fiber: doesn’t absorb water and it bulks stool to help waste pass more easily and efficiently. Whole-wheat flour is a great source of insoluble fiber
Find room for both types of fiber in your diet to ensure that you’re getting the full range of benefits.
How Does Fiber Help my Digestive Tract?
One of the most important roles fiber serves is in the gut. It provides food for the billions of microbes found here. The stomach lining is made of mucus, and when we lack fiber, microbes start feeding on the mucus. This damages the lining of the stomach leading to a multitude of problems such as indigestion, feeling sick and discomfort when eating. Make sure to limit alcohol intake and NSAID consumption, (think aspirin or ibuprofen) as excessive use can cause damage to the stomach lining. In short, don’t let your microbes starve.
As mentioned earlier, soluble and insoluble fiber work to help move things along the digestive tract. Soluble fiber soaks up water to make a gel that delivers good bacteria and nutrients to your gut. One type of soluble fiber is found in Psyllium. Psyllium promotes bowel movement and can help stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Insoluble fiber, as the name suggests, does not absorb or dissolve in water. Instead, it creates bulk, which makes stool easier to pass. If your stool is watery or loose, it could be a sign that you may need more insoluble fiber in your diet. This type of fiber also helps prevent constipation.
What are Some Benefits of Fiber?
Ease constipation complications: Eat plenty of foods with fiber for constipation relief along with drinking plenty of water. Remember, soluble fiber needs water to work its magic.
Lower cholesterol: During digestion, fiber latches onto fats and cholesterols in the small intestines. This makes sure it’s not absorbed into the bloodstream.
Blood sugar balance: Since fiber is an indigestible carb, it doesn’t break down into sugars that are released into the bloodstream after digestion.
When Should I Eat Fiber?
Starting your day with a cup of water and a high-protein, high-fiber meal is a great place to begin. Incorporating fiber with small snacks in between meals is also a great way to get your daily dosage. If your body isn’t used to getting the proper amount of fiber, don’t overload at first. It’s best to introduce fiber little by little throughout the day. This allows the bacteria in your gut to adjust properly. Too much fiber in one sitting can lead to bloating, gas and cramping. Also, too much fiber without enough water can have similar outcomes. Best to keep a water bottle with room-temperature water with you everywhere.
How Much Fiber do I Need in my Diet?
Everyone’s body is different, so it’s important to listen to what your body is telling you. Look for signs of nutrient deficiencies and clues that your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs. If you’re constipated, hungry after meals, have a hard time losing weight, or your blood sugar fluctuates, these might be signs you have a fiber deficiency.
It’s recommended that men get 38 grams of fiber per day. Women should aim for 25 grams per day and around 31-34 grams if breastfeeding.
For kids, a range of 14-31 grams per day should be the goal. As children get older, the daily goal of fiber increases.
How do I incorporate fiber into my diet?
The good news? Fiber is easy to sneak into every meal and many tasty foods are high in fiber.
Fruits high in fiber include:
Vegetables high in fiber include:
Other foods include:
- Whole-grain oats
- Whole-grain bread
- Brown Rice
Meal ideas for a fiber-filled diet
- Scrambled eggs with spinach on whole-grain bread with raspberries
- Apple with peanut butter
- Raisin Bran
- Cracklin’ Oat Bran
- Salads with cucumber, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, avocado
- Potato and bean hash
- Couscous with your choice of protein and greens
- Chili with beans
- Baked potatoes
- Beef & Broccoli with rice
- Whole-grain spaghetti with salad
Can I Take Fiber Supplements Instead?
Yes, you can still take fiber supplements because they are a great way to ensure you’re getting enough fiber.
What are the Best Fiber Supplements?
It’s important to assess your body’s needs when it comes to supplements. Again, some things that work great for other people might not agree as well with you.
If you’re looking for pure, potent and clean formulas, Nature’s Sunshine offers a handful of fiber and detox products. Designed to encourage bowel regularity and detox, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ll feel a difference.
Psyllium Hulls provide soluble fiber to help bowel movements and your intestinal system. This non-GMO-certified psyllium comes from northwest India where environmental conditions are ideal for this crop to flourish.
For best results, take 2 capsules with 8 oz. of water with a meal twice daily.
Everybody’s Fiber is just as the name suggests. Everybody could use two more grams of fiber. The blend also features prebiotics, which helps your good gut bacteria grow, providing support for digestive problems.
To supplement fiber intake, mix 1 scoop of powder in 4 oz. of water or juice once daily.
In addition to proper fiber intake, Lower Bowel Stimulator encourages elimination and regularity naturally. Cascara sagrada bark influences the peristaltic muscles of bowel tissue and encourages the normal flow of bile and secretions of the stomach, pancreas and liver. Buckthorn bark is a powerful herb celebrated for its ability to loosen the bowels’ contents. Licorice root gently supports general digestion. Ginger root supports digestion and helps soothe the entire digestive tract. And turkey rhubarb is one of the most widely used Chinese herbs to support healthy intestinal function.
When you need a little extra help, take 2-4 capsules daily with a meal. While this helps in times of need, it’s not a long-term solution. See your health care provider prior to use if pregnant or nursing.
When constipation hits, make sure you have a solution. Gentle Move is as natural as going to the bathroom. It works in 3 different ways to help things move along. Gentle Move acts as a very mild laxative by attracting water to the colon to soften stool. Magnesium is a critical nutrient for overall health. Triphala is a balancing herbal blend that promotes longevity and rejuvenation. Touted for its support of the gastrointestinal tract, this combination of rejuvenative herbs has been applied to many traditional uses.
For maintaining healthy bowel movements, take 2 capsules at night or before bed. For irregularity or bowel distress, take up to 6 capsules per day for 7-10 days.
How can Detoxification Help my Body?
We’re exposed to toxins every day. They’re hidden in water, food, fragrances, cleaning products and air to name a few. When there’s a build-up of toxins in the body, it can lead to poor gut health affecting our digestive, immune and endocrine systems.
Along with having enough fiber intake to support a healthy gut, detoxification keeps pathways clear and your body in harmony.
If you’re looking for the next steps on how to detox, you’ll find a variety of options at Nature’s Sunshine that will help your body rid itself of harmful substances.
CleanStart is a great way to jump-start your system. For 14 days, a combination of fibers, chlorophyllin and aloe vera helps your body release toxins and everyday waste. This also helps maintain energy levels that will leave you feeling great. Not ready for the full cleanse, check out CleanStart Mild for a more gentle cleanse.
For 14 days, take the contents of one cleanse drink packet 15–30 minutes before breakfast and again 15–30 minutes before dinner. Take the contents of 1 capsule packet with breakfast and dinner (twice daily). Mix cleanse packet powder in 8 oz. juice or water. Shake, blend or stir vigorously. Drink immediately. Drink an additional glass of water immediately following this. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
After completing the CleanStart cleanse, add Detox Basics for daily detoxification. You’ll find support for a healthy liver, intestinal function, gut health, and toxin elimination. The circulatory, glandular and immune systems also benefit. The nutrients found in each packet provide your body with the nutrients it needs to help neutralize, prepare and convert toxins for transport and elimination daily.
Take the contents of one packet before a meal, once daily.
To decrease the build-up of toxins, UltraBiome DTX makes a healthy, thriving life realistic. The unique blend of fibers, fruits and vegetables in UltraBiome DTX primes detox pathways, targeting and eliminating toxins, especially heavy metals. It also helps healthy bacteria thrive and supports a healthy gut lining.
For heavy metal detox and cleansing, take one serving twice daily between breakfast/lunch and lunch/dinner. For ongoing maintenance of gut health, detoxification and microbiome support, take one serving daily between meals. Mix the contents of one stick pack in 9 oz. water and shake or stir vigorously then drink immediately.
What are some other ways to detox my body?
It’s best to combine detox supplements with physically getting rid of toxins. This can include switching to natural or homemade cleaners. Did you know that combining water, rubbing alcohol and white vinegar makes a great natural alternative to window and glass cleaner? Look for products that have natural fragrances from essential oils or other safe sources.
Instead of drinking water from the tap, invest in a filtered water pitcher or another form of water purification.
You can also manually help move toxins, water and waste through your body with a lymphatic massage. Lymphatic massages can be pricey, but it is simple enough to perform on yourself at home.
It’s best to have a massage oil or other alternative to apply. Lying on your back is a great position to relax and do the massage. To start, wake the groin lymph nodes up by lightly pressing about 10 times. Then, start massaging in a clockwise circle on your stomach for a few minutes. After, you’ll move from chest to groin. Use the heel or side of your hands to bring waste down to the lymph nodes. There are many resources available online to learn drainage massage techniques.
Certain practices of yoga are also a great way to promote detoxification in your body. You can find flows on YouTube that focus on helping your body.
Where do I go from here?
The best thing you can do for your body is to simply listen. You spend all day, every day telling your body what to do, digest, learn and process. Make at least five minutes each day to listen to your body’s needs. Mediating is a great way to turn inward and reflect on what you’re feeling.
Creating a lifestyle is no easy feat. It takes time, discipline and most importantly a desire. Here are some tips to get your started.
- Start with realistic changes you know you can make in your life
- If you know that working out every day isn’t feasible, find balance in other areas. You deserve to feel great, not just good
- Keep things that you know your body doesn’t respond to well out of the house
- Plan and prep your meals to avoid eating out and overeating.
It’s important to respect your body. It is so intelligent and does so much for you. Fueling it with good things that make you feel good is a way to show respect. But remain patient as your body tries to adapt to new changes.