What is fiber?
This is the part of food that is not broken down into the three macronutrients – fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The fact that your body can’t digest fiber is exactly why it is such a critical part in normal digestion.
There are two types:
1. Soluble fiber dissolves into a gel-like texture, which helps to slow down your digestion. This helps us feel full longer and thus help with weight loss.
2. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve at all. Insoluble fiber helps keep things moving and helps add bulk to your stool for regular bowel movements.
Most whole foods naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Both are important for health.
When fibre is not your friend
Although fiber is critical for digestive health, the secret about fiber is that there are times when it can be evil.
All fiber, or roughage, is food for the bacteria of your gut. That is great if there are good probiotic species present. However, If you have bad bacteria in the gut – unfortunately, that will make things worse.
Only after we balance out the good and bad bacteria do we want to start feeding them with roughage.
So, in the beginning stages of gut healing, it might be necessary to remove fiber-rich foods in order to starve the bad bacteria.
In addition to this, if you eat a high-fiber diet with a damaged gut, it can lead to serious health issues. When the walls of your digestive tract are damaged, this allows certain things to get into the bloodstream. When that happens, they wreak havoc on your health.
If you have chronic digestive symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, gastric pains, heartburn, leaky gut syndrome, food allergies, or intolerance, cutting out roughage for the initial stage of healing is necessary.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has developed an excellent protocol for healing chronic digestive issues called the GAPS protocol. GAPS stands for Gut and Physiology Syndrome. The first part of the GAPS Introduction Diet is to remove fibre because it feeds the bad microbes in your gut.
Dr. Campbell-McBride says, “The human digestive system is not designed to break down fibre. Instead, it ends up undigested in your bowel, where the majority of your gut flora resides. If your gut flora is healthy, i.e. dominated by beneficial, probiotic species, then these microbes will feed on the fibre and proliferate.
However, if your gut is filled with pathogenic bacteria and/or yeast and fungi, fibre will actually make your symptoms worse, as it is a non-specific growth factor for intestinal bacteria, and does not discriminate between pathogenic and beneficial bacteria. So, if your bowel is predominantly dominated by pathogenic microbes, pathogenic microbes will feed on fibre and proliferate, making whatever health problems you have worse.”
Excess Roughage (fiber)
Even for those people who are generally healthy, excess intake of roughage may actually be harmful for gut health.
Studies have shown that excess insoluble roughage can bind to minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron, preventing the absorption of these vital nutrients. Roughage can also prevent us from digestive nutrients. Large excesses of certain soluble roughage may also inhibit pancreatic enzyme activity and protein digestion in the gut. This leads to an anti-nutritive effect.
The next step
The initial steps of healing is killing off the bad bacteria and creating the environment that your body needs to heal the gut. After supplying your gut with probiotics, you will need to begin feeding the good bacteria to make them happy and healthy. In addition to feeding the good bacteria in your gut, fiber also helps with in other areas of your health. They include maintaining blood sugar, slowing down digestion so that we feel full longer, and with regular bowel movements.
In the perfect world, dietary roughage should be coming from whole food plant sources.
The general rule to live by is to get most of your fiber in the form of whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds – these are the healthiest forms of fiber for your gut health.