High fibre diets can help to prevent several illnesses. But which diseases and disorders benefit the most from a change in diet? Read on to find out more…
In recent years, there has been substantial research to indicate that a high fibre diet can dramatically help patients to manage an illness and, in some cases, change a patient’s diagnosis.
From colon cancer and heart disease, through to Crohn’s disease and cauda equina syndrome, doctors and physicians are helping to better the lives of patients who are having to live with these life-changing illnesses.
In this article, we’ll discuss which illnesses benefit the most from a high-fibre diet, and what foods dieticians should be recommending to patients to ensure their continued compliance.
Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that’s found in plant-based foods. It’s not absorbed or digested by the body but plays an integral role in maintaining good health. There are two types of dietary fibre – soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fibre is the type of fibre that dissolves in water and can help to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
- Insoluble fibre is the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools.
Foods that are rich in fibre include oats, peas, beans, barley, soya, lentils, avocado, popcorn, apples, and most other types of fruit and vegetables.
Cauda equina syndrome is a rare disorder that can call for urgent surgical intervention. The collection of nerves at the end of the spinal cord is known as the cauda equina, due to its resemblance to a horse’s tail.
Cauda equina syndrome (CES) occurs when there is dysfunction of multiple lumbar and sacral nerve roots of the cauda equina. If patients with cauda equina syndrome do not receive treatment quickly, adverse results can include paralysis, impaired bladder, and/or bowel control, difficulty walking, and/or other neurological and physical problems.
To help treat cauda equina, and symptoms of bowel incontinence, a change in diet to eating foods high in insoluble fibre are recommended. This, associated with a mixture of bulking laxatives, can help to level out bowel movements and prevent faecal impaction.
According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. With this in mind, it’s important to try to consider ways in which we can help to prevent this illness.
Fibre can play a huge role in preventing heart disease, from its ability to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol, to protecting your body from strokes and diabetes.
Soluble fibre can reduce cholesterol by binding cholesterol particles in your digestive system and moving them out of the body before they’re absorbed. Research shows that replacing refined grains with fibre-rich whole grains in your diet could lower the risk of a stroke by up to 36 percent, and the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 30 percent.
Another disease that can benefit from a high-fibre diet is that cancer of the colon. A 2018 study, published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, concluded that foods containing dietary fibre, especially whole grains, decrease the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC).
Previous research indicates that dietary fibre may lower the risk of CRC by:
- Increasing stool bulk
- Decreasing transit time through the bowel
- Promoting fermentation and production in the gut
Factors that increase the risk of colon cancer include the consumption of alcohol, processed meat, fatty acids, red meat, and a lack of fruit and vegetables.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. As a result, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream.
Similar to the benefits mentioned when discussing heart disease, a high fibre diet can help patients to manage diabetes. Soluble fibre is particularly useful at absorbing excess sugar and helping to improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Soluble fibre is a great choice for most people with IBS as it attracts water, removes excess fluid, and helps to decrease symptoms of diarrhoea. The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) recommend taking soluble fibre supplements, such as psyllium, as a cheap, effective treatment for IBS.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water, so it stays intact as it moves through your digestive system. Though this is something that can be helpful for constipation because it adds bulk to the stool and can get things moving, an excessive about of insoluble fibre is not recommended for patients with IBS.
The current recommendation is that adults should eat 30g of fibre a day. Currently, average intakes are around 20g a day, so most of us have a long way to go. To reach 30g, make sure that, as well as choosing higher-fibre options at meals, your snacks are rich in fibre too.
That being said, don’t overdo it – an excess amount of fibre can also pose its own health risks. Too much fibre in the diet can cause abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and constipation. A person can relieve this discomfort by increasing their fluid intake, exercising, and making dietary changes. Remember, most sources of fibre are prevalent in a varied amount of fruit and vegetables, so as long as you’re living a fit and healthy lifestyle, you should be ok.
If you’re struggling with any of the diseases or disorders mentioned in this article and have found that a high-fibre diet has helped you, let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.