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					Healthy Living
Understanding Dietary Fiber

Most of us understand the importance of living and eating as healthily as possible. With
two-thirds of the US population either overweight or obese, we're certainly not eating
the way we should. Even in cases where we know it's right - like embracing the salad
instead of the hamburger and super sized fries from our favorite fast food establishment
- we indulge.

That's the case when it comes to fiber in our diets. We don't consume nearly enough.
We know it's good for us, we hear it all the time; but we don't consume enough and we
are worse off because of it.

Did you know:

      Fiber keeps us feeling full
      Fiber reduces the risk of blood glucose spikes
      Fiber reduces food cravings
      Fiber makes it easier to lose weight
      Fiber helps reduce the risk of heart disease
      Fiber helps relieve constipation

Fiber is a critical component in relieving symptoms from common digestive ailments
such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diverticulitis, anal fissures and hemorrhoids. It is
best known for helping to relieve chronic constipation, but it also helps lower your risk
for diabetes and heart disease. And surprisingly, fiber can help you lose weight.

Fiber and the Digestion Process

To have proper elimination after digestion, the body needs sufficient fiber intake. Your
body does not digest fiber, so after your body has absorbed all the nutrients from the
foods you eat, it passes about one pint of stool and undigested fiber to the colon.

                          Healthy Living – Understanding Dietary Fiber
Your body absorbs fluid through your colon. What's left is the shaped stool to be
eliminated through a bowel movement. Too little fiber means that the body absorbs too
much of the fluid in the colon, leaving the stool hard and difficult to pass.

Adequate fiber in the colon results in the undigested fiber absorbing fluids, forming a
softer, bulkier stool that passes easily without straining.

Stools with enough fluids will move easily through the colon with the help of gentle
muscle contractions. Stools with too little fluids become shrunken and hard and the
colon muscle contractions cannot grip the stool and move it towards the rectum for
elimination. Enough shrunken, hard stools result in constipation and possible intestinal

As you get older, your muscle contractions become weaker and moving the stool
requires the help of abdominal muscles. "Straining" occurs when abdominal muscles are
used to help in elimination.

Straining is responsible for putting pressure on abdominal walls and can result in
constipation, anal fissures, hernias, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and digestive diseases.
When straining is eliminated so are the ailments that go with it.

Types and Sources of Fiber

There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble fiber.

Insoluble fibers don't dissolve in water and are responsible for increasing the bulk and
softness of the stool and making them easier to pass. It's particularly helpful for those
who struggle with being irregular and constipated.

Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a gel-like substance. This substance lines the
inside of the colon with a slippery film to allow for easier passage of stool. It also helps
to lower cholesterol and glucose levels.

You can also get a portion of your daily fiber intake from fiber supplements. A fiber
supplement will help you to obtain your daily 25-30 grams, but it should not be your

                          Healthy Living – Understanding Dietary Fiber
only source of fiber. Taking a daily fiber supplement will help you most in those times
of travel or when you are too busy to have a good high fiber meal.

A fiber supplement needs to be taken daily for it to be effective. It should not be used
only when constipation or other digestive ailments occur. Results will not be
immediate. It is the build up of the fiber in your system that is responsible for
producing stools that are easier to eliminate. You will see the positive effects of your
new fiber intake a few weeks after implementation.

Heart Disease and Fiber

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. It is
characterized by the increase of cholesterol in the arteries leading to the heart. This
buildup can cause arteries to become narrow, hard, and blocked. A full blockage results
in a heart attack.

Soluble fiber produces a gel-like substance that is linked to lowering cholesterol. Lower
cholesterol levels mean fewer blockages in the arteries resulting in a lower risk for heart

A Harvard study found that a high dietary fiber compared to a low dietary fiber intake
resulted in a 40 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.

Type II Diabetes and Fiber

Type II diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is characterized by sustained
increased sugar levels in the blood. When the body can't produce enough insulin to
lower blood sugar, type II diabetes develops.

Foods that have a high glycemic index increase the risk for developing type II diabetes.
These foods increase levels of sugar in the blood rapidly, and the body can't produce
enough insulin to lower the levels.

                          Healthy Living – Understanding Dietary Fiber
These types of foods that have a high glycemic index are also very low in fiber.
Examples may include; white bread, refined cereals, sugar, white spaghetti, and white

Foods that are higher in fiber also have a low glycemic index and can lower your risk of
developing type II diabetes. These foods include; legumes, oats, whole-grain cereals,
whole fruits, and bran.

A study done by Harvard Medical students found that diets containing a lot of foods
with high glycemic indexes more than doubled the risk of developing type II diabetes.

Fiber and Weight Loss

Along with all the health benefits, fiber is still considered a key ingredient in weight

It's a fact that the brain is 10 minutes behind our stomachs. Meaning we don't register
we are full until 10 minutes after we are actually full. Foods that are high in fiber
generally take a longer time to chew. This extra chewing time allows our brain to catch
up to our stomachs and we don't over eat.

In addition, high-fiber foods absorb a lot of water. This additional water makes you feel
fuller for a longer period of time. Eliminating over-eating and unnecessary snacking
that can lead to weight gain.

While a high-fiber diet is an important aspect to weight loss, it is always important to
institute regular exercise to help you meet your weight-loss goals.

Summary of Fiber Benefits

A high-fiber diet is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. It is important to remember
that a dramatic increase should be avoided. Fiber absorbs water and expands in the
colon; a dramatic increase can cause painful bloating. When you increase your fiber,
please be cautious to do it gradually, your body will let you know if you are doing it too

                          Healthy Living – Understanding Dietary Fiber
Your daily fiber intake should be achieved through a combination of fiber supplements
and food. While fiber supplements are easy and helpful they don't contain the necessary
vitamins and nutrients that are necessary for your body.

                         Healthy Living – Understanding Dietary Fiber

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