Role of fiber for a healthy digestive system

Is dietary fiber the magical cure for your constipation woes? Is eating fiber important or is it all just hype? How does a lack of fiber in the diet can be a cause of constipation? Let us find out.

But first, what is fiber?

Dietary fiber refers to those components of plant-based foods that the human digestive system cannot process. The body eliminates fiber in the stool.

Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and is found in foods like oats, barley, apples, carrots, peas and citrus fruits. Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water and is found in wheat bran, cauliflower, potatoes, and nuts.

How does fiber help gut health?

A fiber-rich diet can contribute to gut health in several ways. This can be very helpful in treating severe constipation.

  • Fiber can bulk up stools and help in easy bowel movements. Fiber can also add moisture to stools to help with its smooth elimination.
  • Also, when bacteria work on fibers in the colon, the process produces short-chain fatty acids. This helps to keep the colon healthy as the process involves fermentation of some fiber. When the colon is healthy, there is also lower risk developing cancer in the organ. Since colon cancer is a possible cause of constipation, maintaining good health of the organ can help with healthy bowel movements. Fiber also helps to keep gastrointestinal wall healthy and prevent digestive problems that can cause constipation.
  • A diet rich in fiber also reduces the risk of developing swollen veins in the rectal and anal area (hemorrhoids). Any problems with the anal and rectal muscles can impede the normal flow of stool and become a cause of constipation.

Can you eat too much fiber?

Yes, eating too much fiber can overload your system. Excessive fiber intake can cause bloating, abdominal cramps and gas.

When you consume fiber, it is also important to drink adequate water. Without proper water intake, fiber can’t work effectively in keeping bowel movements normal.

The final verdict

Fiber is no magical cure for all bowel problems. But the body needs it for a healthy colon and to keep some causes of constipation at bay.