Dietary Fiber & Bowel Function
The usual cause of chronic constipation and many other bowel diseases is a lack of adequate dietary fiber. For the bowels to work properly, a healthy and lifelong intake of dietary fiber is required daily.
Health experts say it is normal to have one or two soft bowel movements a day, without any effort or straining. Yet, this is not the case for most Americans who consume far less than the recommended daily fiber intake of 25 to 30 grams. So it should come as no surprise that chronic constipation is one of the most common disorders in Western countries.
Dietary fibers from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (including legumes) aid in bowel function by increasing stool weight and size, promoting normal bowel movements that are easier to pass. The heavier the stool, the more rapidly it passes through the colon.
When there is adequate fiber (also called roughage or bulk) in the diet, the fiber (viewed as millions of tiny water-attracting particles) mixes with the stool.
Each particle soaks up available liquid, and enlarges into a minute gel bead, giving the stool size shape and moisture.
Fiber-rich foods also expand the inside walls of the colon, easing the passage of waste.
Because of the greater bulk and speed of foods through the digestive tract, it is also generally believed that harmful substances are also swept out before they can cause problems.
But in order to work properly two other circumstances must also be right: adequate water for absorption, about 6 to 8 glasses daily, and adequate lubrication of the colon lining.
Maintaining digestive health is critical to maintaining overall health and wellness due to the fact that the body’s digestive system provides many critical functions. Not only does it break down food to provide essential energy and nutrients, it is also a critical component of the immune and endocrine systems.
Adequately maintained and nourished, your intestines can help protect you against scores of pathogens and diseases. When you consume the recommended amount of fiber in your diet, you accomplish this goal. It is important to eat a variety of fibers found in fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and nuts to obtain the optimal benefits of each type.
In addition to relieving constipation, fiber appears to be important in treating colon polyps, and cancer of the colon, a disease most common in Western cultures. However, the jury is still out on this one.