Fibre - February 2011 - Volume 2 Issue 10


Dear Reader,

“Most people know they should eat more fibre, but many don’t know why (no, it’s not primarily to reduce the risk of colon cancer). And many people think all fibre is the same. In fact, some fibres lower cholesterol, some lower blood sugar, and some help with regularity. Fibre also plays a part in cleansing the digestive system. Clearly, the health benefits extend well beyond digestion.

What is Fibre and Where Do I Find It?

Strangely, for something that does so much good, fibre is the part of plants – grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes – that your body can’t absorb or digest. Fibre passes through your stomach and small intestine into your colon almost unchanged. There it is fermented by bacteria, producing acids that stimulate bowel function.

You can get fibre only from plant foods. Meat, dairy products and fat contain no natural fibre (these days, some of these foods may have fibre added to them).

Plant fibre comes in 6 main types, all but 1 of which – lignin – are complex carbohydrates:

  • Cellulose forms the structure of cell walls in fruits, vegetables and legumes.
  • Hemicellulose makes up the structure of cereals.
  • Pectin is familiar to home cooks for its use in jellies and jams, and is found in most produce, but especially in apples and citrus fruit.
  • Gum, often used as a food additive for thickening, is found in sticky substances exuded by plants.
  • Mucilage, used as a stabilizer in some foods, is similar to gum.
  • Lignin, found in berry seeds and the woody parts of vegetables such as carrots, is the toughest fibre. (Note: Don’t confuse lignin with lignan, a digestible phytochemical in flaxseed and other plants.)

Each of these types of fibre has different properties, but the most important difference from a nutritional point of view is solubility – does the fibre dissolve in water?

  • Soluble fibres include pectins, gums, mucilages and some hemicelluloses. In your intestine, soluble fibre can bind with bile, which is made up of cholesterol, and help carry it out of your body. Soluble fibre also slows down the rate your stomach empties, giving it more time to extract nutrients from food and making you feel ‘full’ longer. Apples, citrus fruits, peas, beans, carrots, flaxseed, psyllium, oats and barley are good sources of soluble fibre.
  • Cellulose, lignins and many hemicelluloses are insoluble fibres, which don’t dissolve in water. These fibres promote the movement of food through your digestive system and increase stool bulk. Insoluble fibre also helps push bound bile out of your system. Vegetables, whole grains and nuts are good sources of insoluble fibre.

The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre

Some of the benefits of fibre are well-known; others are just emerging from recent research. Consuming plenty of fibre can:

  • Help prevent hemorrhoids. By forming softer, bulkier stools, fibre reduces the straining that can lead to hemorrhoids.
  • Lower your risk of irritable bowel syndrome. A high fibre diet can make you less likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is a common disorder. People with IBS suffer from constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of the 2 conditions, accompanied by abdominal pain. For those already suffering from IBS, while fibre relieves constipation, it can make gas and cramping worse. In a Dutch randomized trial, researchers found that soluble fibre is more effective in relieving the symptoms of IBS than insoluble fibre.
  • Reduce your risk of diverticular disease. It has long been believed that popcorn and nuts promoted the development of small pouches in the colon (diverticulosis), which can become painfully inflamed (diverticulitis), but new research finds they actually help prevent diverticular disease.
  • Improve blood-cholesterol levels. Foods that are high in soluble fibre such as oats, psyllium and barley lower LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol. Note that sources of soluble fibre should also be low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol – in other words, oatmeal cookies don’t qualify as health food!
  • Lower your risk of heart disease. A recent Japanese study included more than 23,000 men and more than 35,000 women (aged 40-79 years), followed up for 14 years. The researchers found that participants consuming the most total fibre were 18% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease compared to the group consuming the least fibre. Men who consumed the most insoluble fibre had a 52% lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease (CHD), and men consuming the most insoluble fibre were 29% less likely to die of CHD. The corresponding figures for women were almost the same, at 51% for insoluble fibre and 28% for soluble fibre.
  • Combat high blood pressure. An analysis of 25 clinical trials found that people who increased their fibre intake for at least 8 weeks significantly reduced their blood pressure.
  • Control blood-sugar levels and reduce diabetes risk. By slowing the body’s absorption of sugars, fibre (especially soluble fibre) can help people with diabetes manage their blood-sugar levels. Fibre also combats insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, so it may also help prevent diabetes. A trial at the University of Toronto found that men with insulin resistance brought their blood-sugar and insulin levels back to normal after eating a very high-fibre breakfast cereal.
  • Help attain and maintain a healthy weight. By requiring more chewing and slowing digestion, high-fibre foods give your body time to feel full from the meal you’re eating due to the higher ratio of volume to calories.
  • Reduce the risk of some cancers. A diet high in fibre helps maintain a healthy weight, which is one of the most important recommendations for cancer prevention according to the World Cancer Research Fund International recommendations. Being overweight or obese has been linked with numerous types of cancer (see Newsletter, July, 2010).
  • Reduce the risk of endometrial cancer by 29%. Researchers saw a 29% reduction in the level of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus), in women with the highest fibre intake compared to women with the lowest fibre intake, based on a meta-analysis of 8 case-control studies. They point out that population-based studies are needed to confirm this finding.
  • The effect of fibre on the development of colon cancer has met with controversy over the last several years, with both positive and negative studies (both well-conducted) in the literature. However, it’s hard to believe that a diet high in fibre would not protect the colon, since fibre helps speed transit time, and, therefore, hastens the removal of any harmful substances from the colon more quickly than would otherwise be the case.
  • Increase your odds of living longer. A recent study conducted in the Netherlands found that for every additional 10 grams of daily dietary fibre intake, participants’ all-cause mortality declined by 9%. The greatest benefit came from reduced risk of death from heart disease, which dropped 17% for every extra 10 grams. The association was stronger in younger participants, so don’t wait to increase your dietary fibre!

How to Incorporate More Fibre into Your Diet

Some of the benefits of fibre are well-known; others are just emerging from recent research. Consuming plenty of fibre can:

Probably the most important advice to people who intend to increase their dietary fibre is,

go slowly.

By increasing your dietary fibre gradually, you will give your body a chance to adjust, and you’ll minimize the effects of extra intestinal gas. You should also

increase your water consumption

since fibre absorbs water.

There is no one best way to add fibre to your diet. Simply eating a variety of plant-based foods will insure that you are getting enough of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Even though your body doesn’t digest fibre, it does absorb the calories that come with the fibre. Therefore, it’s important to substitute fibre-rich foods for foods already in your diet, and not add extra food, to boost fibre intake.

Switching to whole grains is an important way to increase your intake of fibre. Whole grain breakfast cereals, whole grain bread and brown rice are much healthier than white bread, sugary cereals, and white rice. Regular pasta can be replaced with whole grain pasta as well.

Tips for Increased Good Health and Fibre Supplementation

Fibre plays a very important role in keeping our digestive systems running smoothly, and in helping to clear out substances from the colon that could become toxic. Since the colon plays such an important role in our lives, I recommend colon cleansing twice a year to keep our ‘sewage systems’ running smoothly (see Newsletter July 2009).

There are a number of Nature’s Sunshine products, both for supplementing the fibre in your diet, and for colon cleansing:

  • Bod-E Klenz is a complex 30 day cleansing program which is recommended in conjunction with a balanced low fat diet.
  • BWL-BLD (bowel build) offers a vast array of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and herbs which promote intestinal health and provide a source of dietary fibre. It promotes healthy, regular elimination of waste from the colon.
  • CLT-X contains mucilaginous herbs such as slippery elm and marshmallow, which have a soothing effect on irritated tissues in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • LOCLO is a sodium-free, fibre rich supplement designed to meet the dietary fibre needs of most people. It is a special blend of dietary fibre that binds excess bile acids and dietary cholesterol. It is also an excellent source of potassium which helps with the regulation of blood pressure and healthy kidney function.
  • Psyllium Seeds contain 10-30 percent mucilage. The seed swells up to 14 times its normal size. This mucilage lubricates and cleanses the areas through which it passes. Note: It is very important to drink a lot of water with all forms of psyllium.
  • Psyllium Hulls, also called husks, are the outer coverings of psyllium seeds, containing the majority of the bulking mucilage — complex carbohydrates that expand; becoming gelatinous when soaked in water. Psyllium hulls are favoured for use as a bulk fibre laxative, since the hull swells in water to 8-14 times their dry volume. Psyllium hulls act like a colon "broom," cleansing the intestines and absorbing toxins adhered to intestinal walls.
  • Psyllium Hulls Combination Bulk absorbs water and toxins. It gives bulk to stools to facilitate elimination. It helps treat constipation and diarrhea. It binds to fat to eliminate it from the body.

For additional information, please email; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family. Visit our web site at for back issues of this newsletter, for additional information about products and to order products (new!), and for information about our Clinic.


The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.

References and Notes:

1)The facts on fiber. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2009;26(12):4-5.

2)Keep it clean! AIM Partners The Newsmagazine 1995,6-9.

3) Soluble fiber beats bran for irritable bowel relief. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2009;27(10):6.

4) Eshak ES, Iso H, Date C, et al. Dietary fiber intake is associated with reduced risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease among Japanese men and women. J Nutr 2010;140:1445-1453.

5) Women who get the most fiber at 29% less risk of uterine cancer. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2008;26(1):6.

6) Bandera EV, Kushi LH, Moore DF, et al. Association between dietary fiber and endometrial cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1730-1737.

7)Ferguson LR, Harris PJ. The dietary fibre debate: more food for thought. The Lancet 2003;361:1487-1488.

These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.


Ramila Padiachy

Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic