With all the stuff out there related to health, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed or confused. One study might say we need this amount of some vitamin while another says we’re getting too much. A new fad diet promotes the idea that this specific thing is making people fat, so cut out all foods that have that one thing. Frankly, it gets a little ridiculous.
I think one thing we can all agree on is our bodies obviously need certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in adequate amounts for our body to function properly. One of these nutrients is fiber.
You may be thinking, why is an almost 30 year old person so interested in fiber? While I am overall very healthy, I get to deal with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. I’ve shared some stuff about that in other post, (maybe over shared a little!) but as it’s a prevalent thing, especially here in the good ‘ole USA, I feel any new insights or information or whatever I can share just may help someone out there looking for answers. If you’re interested in some of my IBS related posts, check them out HERE.
I have both IBS-C and IBS-D, which means I kind of swing back and forth between constipation and diarrhea. (Over-share!) This makes life a little more difficult because it’s kind of a balancing act. When I’m having one problem, I need to take care of it without going to the other extreme. I’ve had it for a few years, but I’m still learning what works for me and what doesn’t.
So, back to fiber. Fiber helps our digestive system work properly. There are two types, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and binds with fatty acids in the digestive system. This slows down the time it takes to empty the stomach and the rate at which sugar is absorbed, which helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full longer. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and it pretty much keeps its form throughout your digestive system. This helps blunk up your, uh, waste, and moves it through the colon more efficiently. Both types of fiber can be fermented by the bacteria in your gut, which may sound weird or bad, but is actually great for your gut-health. Those hard working bacteria in your digestive system help break down the food and keep you healthy! What I think is kind of interesting is that even though it helps you digest food, fiber itself isn’t digested! Weird, huh?
You can get both types of fiber from every-day foods, and the good thing is, you don’t have to worry too much about what type you’re getting. Focus on getting enough fiber in your diet, and as long as you eat a balanced diet, both needs will be taken care of!
How much fiber do we need? It’s recommended that women get 25 grams and men get 38, but after the age of 50, you don’t need quite as much. The typical American diet usually doesn’t fulfill those recommended amounts. Between not enough fiber, and all the fat and preservatives and bad stuff in our food, we typically have more gut problems than people from other countries. I know personally, if I didn’t have the problems I do, I probably wouldn’t care. It’s kind of hard to take stuff like that seriously when you know the end result of getting enough fiber.
Unfortunately, it IS something I have to take seriously. I’ve tried fiber supplements in the form of gummies and Tums style tablets, but they just made me gassy and bloated. Fiber One type snacks worked okay, but there’s just so much sugar and other junk in there, I didn’t feel like the benefits were really worth it. With as big of a sweet tooth as I have, that should mean something.
Finally, about six months ago, I shelved some of my pride and tried some Metamucil. I felt like I was at least 20 years too young to even consider buying it. The first time I bought it, the cashier asked if it works. I think she might have been referring to the claim on the label that said it can help you feel full, aiding in weight-loss. I told her it was my first time buying it so I didn’t know. It’s been a while so I’m not sure she’d remember me enough to ask about an update lol, but I can tell her with confidence that yes, it does work!
I don’t wanna sound like an ad, but this stuff helped me soooooooo much. It was an almost immediate difference, and then I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I try this sooner?!”. It did what it needed to do without making me all gassy and bloated. Major win! Just something to keep in mind, you have to drink it kind of fast or else it will turn into a gelatinous blob. Not so good.
Now, if you don’t have digestive issues, you may be wondering, why do I need fiber? Well, a lot of athletes, lifters, etc are on high-protein diets. This is great to build muscle, but it can put some stress on your digestive system. It takes a bit longer for protein to digest, which is why so many diets recommend consuming more, it helps you feel full longer. If you’re consuming more protein, you need to make sure you balance it out with fiber so it can digest. I know me personally, some of the worst times I’ve had IBS-wise have been when I was getting a lot of protein and not enough fiber. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll sum it up with being backed-up and hurting because of it. I’ve noticed a lot of protein shakes, drinks, and bars don’t have much fiber in them. I really like Quest bars because they have the protein, not much sugar, and a good amount of fiber.
Supplements are good and all, but it’s always best just to get it from good foods. What foods are good sources of fiber? Fruits and vegetables are always a good start! Beans and seeds are good sources too. If you’re cooking with dry beans, soaking them first may help reduce gassiness. Chia seeds are an amazing super food, high in fiber and protein. Some people have trouble digesting them, so soaking them first may help too. I know if I don’t soak them a bit, I’m going to have trouble.
No matter what age you are, getting enough fiber is important for your overall health. Just make sure you drink plenty of water. Fiber does a good job, but it can’t do it as well without enough water. I know, fiber isn’t exactly a sexy topic, but if I didn’t feel like it was important, I wouldn’t discuss it! If I had read something like this a few years ago, it would’ve saved me a lot of hassle. I still have my bowel issues, but it’s gotten a lot better since I’ve found a good fiber supplement. Find what works for you!
P.S. I am in no way affiliated with Metamucil or Quest. I’m just a satisfied customer! But, hey, if they wanna pay me to shout it from the rooftops, I’m game!
I have a pretty sweet IBS reference board on Pinterest if you wanna check it out here