August 2014

Dietary Fiber

Dietary Fiber


Dietary fiber is material from plant cells than cannot be broken down by enzymes in the human digestive tract. Fiber is found in abundance in the plant kingdom and only sparsely in animal cells. Generally, foods which are of animal origin, contain little or no significant fiber. Scientists now tell us that a diet which is high in fiber is more beneficial for us and can increase our chances of preventing and treatment many chronic and acute health problems including heart disease, stomach and intestinal cancer, breast cancer, constipation, ulcerative colitis and many more important conditions.


Types of Fiber

There are two important types of fiber, water-soluble and water insoluble. Each has different properties and characteristics. The most important of these properties are: 1) Water-soluble fibers absorb water during digestion; they increase stool bulk and are believed to decrease serum cholesterol. 2) Water-insoluble fibers remain unchanged during digestion and promote normalized intestinal transit time and frequency of bowel movements.


Fiber and Cardiovascular Disease

The present standards for treating and preventing cardiovascular diseases including heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular diseases and diabetic peripheral vascular disease all suggest that fiber be increased in the diet. More and more physicians are recommending to their patients that they change their diet in the following ways:

  • Decrease daily dietary fat intake, especially saturated fat, that is a low fat diet.
  • Decrease animal meats and fat intake to create a low cholesterol diet.
  • Reduce daily intake of salt, a low salt diet.
  • Reduce and limit use of refined sugar.
  • Increase daily fiber intake, that is, a high fiber diet.
  • Increased daily intake of complex carbohydrate in the diet.

    The intention of these dietary modifications is to control intake of certain nutrients, that is, to make sure that they are present in sufficient amounts in the diet and that they are also not in excess, as well as to lower dietary fat and cholesterol intake. The ultimate goal is lower serum lipids cholesterol and triglycerides, to control blood sugar and hypertension if it exists.

    One good way of doing most or this is to increase daily dietary fiber intake. As soluble and insoluble fibers have a proven ability to lower cholesterol and serum triglycerides. The combination of soluble and insoluble fibers works in the intestinal tract:

    By binding fats taken in during a meal and by "pulling" cholesterol, especially LDL-Cholesterol, from the circulatory system into the bowel. These two functions lower blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels simultaneously.

    Whenever possible, physicians should stress the use of non pharmacologic means to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and treatment of blood pressure and diabetes.


    Fiber Requirements

    The average dietary fiber intake in the united States is estimated to be approximately 12 grams. While there is no specific Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for fiber, many scientists believe that the average individual should take in between 30 grams and 60 grams of fiber each and every day. Diets which are high in fiber are generally adequate in all nutrients. Excessive amounts of fiber may, however, interfere with the absorption of certain essential minerals depending on how fiber is ingested. The greater the fiber in the diet the greater the amount of fluids which need to be taken in. Adequate fluids are necessary because high fiber diets require more fluids to allow the bowel to function normally.


    What Are The Best Sources of Fiber?

    The foods which contain the most water-soluble fibers are:

  • Fruits, vegetables, legumes, oats and oat bran and barley.

    The foods which contain the most water-insoluble fibers include:

  • Fruits, vegetables, whole grain products: including whole wheat bread, pasta and crackers, bulgur wheat,
       stone ground corn meal, cereals, bran, rolled oats, buckwheat and brown rice.

    Increasing Fiber Intake

    1. Include a variety of food sources. Fiber pills, tablets or powers may be used to supplement fiber intake once it becomes impossible to obtain necessary fiber from whole foods.
    2. Increase fiber gradually by slowly substituting high fiber for low fiber foods. It is essential to go slowly as many people are not used to high fiber diets and will have gastrointestinal irritation in the beginning. If dietary or supplemental fiber is increased slowly this is much less likely to be a problem.
    3. Drink plenty of liquids at least eight to ten 8-oz cups of water or other fluids daily to prevent constipation.
    4. Look for the words "whole grain" or "whole wheat" on food labels.
    5. Include two to three servings of both fruits and vegetables daily. One serving = 1 medium sized piece of fruit, cup cooked fruit or vegetable, 1 cup salad, or 1 raw vegetable such as a carrot. More fiber is retained if the peel or skin on produce such as apples, pears and potatoes is eaten.


    Fiber Supplements

    Many physicians are categorically against supplements of any type. Often they would rather prescribe prescription medications to solve the problems that could have been prevented by the appropriate use of supplements.

    Since most people do not want to change or cannot change their diet, the use of supplements and natural fiber products can still assist the physician in increasing his overall success rate in lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke and even reversing cardiovascular disease, heart failure, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.

    Since most patients do not comply completely with dietary modifications, there is often a problem in helping medical patients and individual who "need" an easy-to-use method of prevention to get optimal results. Both the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society recommend at least 30 grams or more fiber daily. Yet, many people are either too lazy, unmotivated or even resistant to giving up the foods they enjoy, especially meats, fried foods, fast foods, dairy products (especially cheese) and highly refined foods and sugars. At best only those who are symptomatic, and then generally only those patients who already have had at least one heart attack or significant disability from angina, chronic recurrent chest pain or shortness of breath, will comply with these ideal levels.

    When it is necessary that the right amounts, types and combinations of fibers are consumed it is clear that a product must be created that can provide the exact combination that is necessary to obtain maximum results. Such a product must also contain the right combination and proportions of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and trace nutrients necessary to get desired results such as lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, slowing down and even reversing heart disease, peripheral vascular diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus. This supplement along with appropriate dietary modifications and a regular exercise program should maximize positive results and be an ideal situation to prevent problems and manage the mild to low-moderate risk patient.

    The control of severe disease processes such as coronary artery disease requires both physician-directed interventions and patient-directed lifestyle changes that should include nonprescription supplements. All individuals at risk should also be advised to avoid exposure to tobacco smoke and to strive to reach their ideal body weight. Finally, alcohol consumption if greater than one or two glasses of red wine a day should be reduced as much as possible


    Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals

    The diet should also be chosen so that it is also rich in antioxidant vitamins. When this is difficult Antioxidant supplements should also be encouraged. Individuals should be encouraged to eat a more vegetarian diet when possible, but if this is not possible they should be encouraged to consume more fish, chicken and turkey meat proteins. They should be advised to stay away from saturated oils and fats such as margarine supplements.

    Therapeutic doses of niacin should not be used without medical supervision.

    Chromium and other nutritional supplements, however, may merit consideration in selected cases.


    Other Factors in Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

    Along with proper intake of fiber and the other measures discussed above, steps should also be taken to reduce stress whenever possible.

    With appropriate screening and precautions, selected individuals should benefit from low-dose aspirin prophylaxis.