Dietary Fiber

Written by Rachel Arieff
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Dietary fiber is central to digestive health and, by extension, overall health and well being. However, the typical diet of Western industrialized society is very poor in dietary fiber. It's a diet heavy in refined flours and sugars, processed foods as opposed to natural or raw foods, and soft drinks, fats and sweets. This is exactly the kind of diet that causes long-term intestinal problems and chronic illnesses.

Contrast this diet with some of the diets typical to indigenous people of Africa, South America and Asia. These people enjoy a diet heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. The less meat they eat, the better. They also don't consume a great deal of sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. Common digestive maladies such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, spastic colon, or diverticular disease don't exist in these societies. Why?

Other Causes of Dietary Fiber

The answer is a high-fiber diet. Not only are the foods these people eating healthier and more nutritious, but they also introduce large amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber into the system. Soluble fiber breaks down in water, forming a gelatinous goo; insoluble fiber doesn't break down and exits the digestive tract unchanged. Both types of fiber are necessary to keep the digestion process moving along at an appropriate pace.

Besides keeping bowel movements smooth and regular, preventing constipation, dietary fiber acts as a natural intestinal cleaner. Insoluble fiber acts as a gentle scouring agent, scrubbing the walls of the intestines and loosening any caked, hardened deposits that often develop. The more fiber you have in your diet, the better your overall health, and the better you'll feel.

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