North Americans are slowly awakening to the truth that many illnesses prominently in the west today are due to a deficiency in fiber.

Atherosclerosis causes more death and disability than any diseases. Cancer of the colon is the second highest cause of cancer death. Digestive diseases afflict 50 percent of North Americans and are the third-ranked cause of death.

Today we buy more than 200 million dollars worth of laxatives yearly, primarily using irritating drugs to do what good food should do: promote elimination. We suffer with appendicitis – it is the most common surgical abdominal emergency in this country – and treat it as a malign stroke of the fates, rather than as a possible price for poor judgement at the dining table. We suffer with colon disorders, such as diverticulosis and diverticulitis, and with varicose veins, and we never link these disorders to poor nutrition.

Bowel cancer is so common in this country that there are colostomy clubs formed to let old-timers, long habituated to wearing colostomy bags, induct the newcomers into the rituals of the disorder. This disease, too, we court as a stroke of misfortune.

Besides a high-fat diet contributing to the development of colon cancer, the content of fiber also appears to influence the incidence of cancer.

Good health is dependent upon the body's ability to digest food and the speed of elimination of wastes. The amount of fiber in the diet determines how quickly the body will remove this toxic debris.

The average person has a fiber deficiency. It is understood that you have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, but one does not usually associate this with fiber. Unless we are aware of the foods that contain fiber, we are almost totally deficient in fiber.

What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is defined as part of plant material ingested in our diet, but which resists digestion by the human gastrointestinal tract, so is voided in the stools along with irritating toxins. This type of crude fiber consisting of cellulose and lignin is found in bran. A second type – pectins, gums, mucilages and hemicelluloses, occurring naturally in plants such as fruits, vegetables, and flax, provide bulk by absorbing water and keeping the fecal matter soft and moist.

What does fiber do?
Fiber is essential for optimal gastrointestinal function by filling out the colon promoting large, soft stools with a rapid transit time and by lowering the numbers of unfriendly bacteria.

Fiber has a hypocholesterolemic and antiatherosclerotic effect (i.e., a lowering of blood cholesterol and of fatty deposits in arteries.

Fiber has an antitoxic activity against food additives and other toxic chemicals that can damage the mucosal lining. It prevents bile acids to combine with putrefactive bacteria to make two powerful, cancer causing chemicals in the gut: apcholic acid and cholanthrene.

Most people are constipated and don't know it. They assume that because they have bowel movements every day that everything is normal. Not necessarily. A critical factor is “transit time”. That is how long it takes from the time food is first eaten until waste from the same food has been completely excreted. To test, simply eat some beets and time how long it takes for the characteristic red stain to show up in the stools. Ideally, it should be less than twenty hours, and preferably from 12 to 18 hours. Many find, however that for them it takes 60 hours or longer.

Some find it difficult to understand that their diarrhea is actually a symptom of constipation. Their colons are so badly blocked that only liquid waste can pass through. The best formed stools are about 1-1/2” in diameter, over 13 inches long, medium brown in color, semi-floating, and with relatively little odor. Only a diet high in fiber can produce such a creation.

If one eats three meals per day – fewer only if total transit time is less than 20 hours in each case. It is misguided information to suggest that one whose bowels move only once every three days or so is simply following a “rhythm” that is natural for her/him.

Since up to 40 percent of the stool consists of bacteria by-products, there is ample opportunity for “bad: bacteria to produce toxic substances. Most people have the wrong type of bacteria, whereas people on a fiber diet have friendly, beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. These “good” bacteria do not convert bile into carcinogens like the “bad” bacteria, but instead support the immune system.

A fiber diet reduces:

  • Cholesterol and coronary heart disease
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Diabetes and hypoglycemia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diverticular disease
  • Colon , breast, and other cancers
  • Gallstones and Hiatus Hernia
  • Obesity
  • Varicose veins and phlebitis
  • All other gastrointestinal disorders

One of the most common causes of constipation is dehydration or lack of water intake. This causes the stools to become hard and dry. It is necessary to drink 6-8 glasses of pure water daily.

To keep the colon full of fiber from plant sources – fresh fruits, raw or steamed vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, and 100% whole grains. Raw wheat or oat bran and flax may be eaten for the remainder 40% with up to three tablespoons per day. Conditions of diverticulitis, colitis, and Crohn's disease may find bran to be scratchy and irritating, so should avoid bran.

It is not a laxative, it is a bulking agent. 1 teaspoon to 3 tablespoons daily can be taken.

Adults should aim for 30 grams of fiber each day, about double what the average person gets right now. There is absolutely no fiber content in meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products.

An average serving of fiber foods contain 2-5 grams of fiber. So it is necessary to have approximately 8 servings per day of fiber foods for a healthy colon. It is best to get most of your fiber from vegetables and fruits, about 7-10 servings per day. The remainder can be obtained from other fibers like legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains per day is good too.

Fiber – For Good Health's Sake
Fiber is not a nutrient, but it is a very important part of a healthy diet. Fiber is the part of plants that cannot be digested. Because on average we tend to eat too many processed refined grains, we miss out on a lot of fiber that was a part of the whole grain. Fiber is found in all vegetables and fruits. Beans, seeds, and nuts are also good sources of fiber.

Are you getting enough fiber?
Most of us are not getting enough fiber. Not eating enough fiber can result in sluggishness and constipation. The lack of fiber can make us feel irritable when food moving through our digestive system slows down on its journey through our bodies. Eating enough fiber can also help us stay slim.

Soluble fiber
This kind of fiber is found in oats, oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, barley, strawberries and citrusfruits, can help lower cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber
This kind of fiber is found in apples, wheat bran, whole wheat cereals, rye, brown rice, cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, beets and turnips, is important for normal bowel function.

Adding more fiber
Putting more fiber into your diet is a simple lifestyle change, one that can have great health benefits. A combination of soluble and insoluble fiber is needed. Just make a gradual change over a period of time while increasing water intake to avoid any unpleasant side effects.