June 6, 2020

IBS, fibre and gut health: Which fibre is best for me?

There are thought to be over a 100 different types of fibre coming from a diverse variety of plants foods. However, when we usually think about eating more fibre it is more in the form of something like bran (and some people religiously stick to eating this most mornings for fear of becoming constipated!).

Types of Fibre

There are two types of fibre; soluble and insoluble and they behave very differently in our digestive tract. Soluble fibre can dissolve in water forming a viscous gel-like texture that helps hold on to moisture in your stool keeping it soft, formed and easy to pass. Insoluble fibre cannot dissolve in water which means its effect on a stool is to give it bulk, but it generally can’t hold onto water very well. To use a mental image to determine the difference, picture mixing instant porridge with water versus dipping a piece of lettuce into water.

We are told most of our lives that “fibre is good for us” especially if you want to “get your bowels moving”and this is true, but you need a mix of the two types of fibre to ensure bulkiness in a stool which stimulates a sluggish colon to keep it moving along as well as keeping the stool moist and formed. However, another key role for fibre is to feed our gut bacteria as they in turn, produce materials such as short chain fatty acids that keeps our bowels healthy.

Gut Microbes

A recent study has shown that you need fibre from different types of plants as they have a unique influence not only on our stools, but on our gut microbiota which then influence the chemicals they produce in our body. More importantly, this study also showed that eating a lot of the same fibre, led to a decrease in gut microbial diversity and this is thought to be because having large amounts of one kind would favour one type of bacteria over the others.

People who don’t have any digestive complaints need to therefore incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans and pulses), nuts and seeds (tinned, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables all count) in order to improve microbial diversity and provide the different types of fibre to ensure the 'perfect poo'. For those with digestive issues, following my ‘4 steps to IBS Freedom’ system allows us to determine which fibre rich foods will be best for your individual situation otherwise you could experience worsening of symptoms if you suddenly increase your fibre intake. We do this while still ensuring you are eating a colourful and diverse diet to support gut health and digestion until you can reintroduce more fibre rich foods towards the end of the plan.

If you like the sound of my plan, contact me and we'll see how I can help you.

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