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Why Dietary Fiber Is Critical To Your Health

Updated on April 10, 2015
Legumes | Source

How I Discovered The Importance Of Dietary Fiber

I ignored the importance of dietary fiber for as long as I can remember. And I paid for the ignorance every day. Constipation and hemorrhoids have been a "normal" part of my life for more than 30 years.

The ironic part of this story is that I consider myself invested in my health. The first time I paid attention to fiber happened as I was reading The 10-Day Detox Diet by Dr. Mark Hyman. He recommends taking a fiber supplement called PGX before each meal. it made sense that moving food throughout the digestive tract should be part of a detox.

At the same time I read about the detox, I started driving as part of my job. It required sitting in a car for long time periods. The rrhoids flared painfully. I had to stop sitting at all. It was time for a trip to the doctor.

And that's how the dietary fiber education started. And that's why I wrote this article - to let people know the benefits of fiber and how it can improve your health. Did you know that the right amount of dietary fiber can actually help you lose weight? Read on . . .

Rrhoid Rage Leads To A Revelation

The rrhoid rage ended up with a visit to the doctor (GP). The exam is unpleasant. Imagine the look on my face when the GP suggested a gastro surgeon. Joy! His exam was equally unpleasant, but his solution worked – the pain eventually subsided.

What did he suggest? To me, at the time, it was a curious way to proceed. But I was in too much pain to question anything.

Here’s what he suggested:

  1. Orange Metamusil once a day in the morning, a tablespoon in 12 ounces of water. Why? Because most everyone is constipated and the supplement provides dietary fiber.
  2. Drink a lot of water during the day. At least 64 ounces.
  3. Get a colonoscopy. See me again after the colonoscopy – if necessary, I will surgically remove the rrhoids.

I was not hopeful. I should have been. After a week of increased fiber intake, including the Metamusil, the pain was gone. The rrhoids have not disapeared, but they did shrink.

Now I am prepping for the colonoscopy and finding out more about dietary fiber.

Why The Right Amount Of Dietary Fiber Is Important

So what are the benefits of getting enough fiber in your diet? The Mayo Clinic web site lists the following benefits (click here to get the details):

  1. Normalizes bowel movements
  2. Helps maintain bowel health
  3. Lowers cholesterol
  4. Helps control blood sugar levels
  5. Aids in achieving healthy weight

This information is most interesting. Two things I have been trying to do for a while – lower my cholesterol and blood sugar – can be helped by increasing dietary fiber. The side benefit of losing excess weight is desirable for many people.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

The dietary fiber requirements are approximately 25 grams per day for women and 35 grams a day for men. These guidelines are slightly lower for people over 50.

Note that the supplement (Metamusil) provides about 10 grams a day.

What foods provide the rest of the daily dietary fiber intake?

Here’s several articles to get you started:

Top Ten Foods Highest in Fiber

50 Fiber-Rich Foods

My personal favorite for breakfast is Kashi cereal (low sugar only) sprinkled with ground flaxseeds. Throughout the day I eat one or two Kashi nut bars (also low sugar). At dinner, vegetables like brussel sprouts, artichokes, and asparagus are high in fiber. Most salads will provide fiber. If you like beans and peas, lentil and split pea soup also are high in fiber. You can get plenty of good ideas from the articles listed above.

Remember These Tips When You Increase Your Dietary Fiber

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you increase your dietary fiber:

  1. Drink plenty of water (at least 64 ounces a day). The water keeps the fiber moving in your system. Yes, you will spend more time in the bathroom, but you may feel better, especially if your previous state was slightly dehydrated.
  2. Increase your fiber intake gradually. Unlike me, you do not have to add the full daily gram requirement all at once. That leads to digestive discomfort in a variety of forms, none of which are pleasant.
  3. Chew your food thoroughly, fiber or otherwise. It helps digestion.
  4. Be patient. It takes a while for your body to adapt to increased amounts of fiber.

NOTE: If you have a digestive disease, are a diabetic, or have any other medical condition, check with your doctor before increasing your fiber intake.

What's Your Experience With Increasing Your Dietary Fiber? What Benefits Have You Seen?

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