Fiber – The Forgotten Nutrient Deficiency
Nelson Narciso, DNM® is a holistic nutritionist, Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and studied auricular medicine. He is a member of the Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners™ and the Canadian Society for Orthomolecular Medicine. Nelson is a respected product formulator, writer, and educator on diet and natural health products and has been a regular guest on numerous tv and radio shows throughout North America
It is amazing to see how invested we’ve become in taking care of our body and mind. Sharing knowledge in the areas of training, exercise, nutrition and meditation has never been easier allowing anyone to positively impact how they look and feel. With that sentiment, one area - while simple in concept - is very much overlooked. What might that be? Our daily intake of the critical nutrient, fiber.
Really? Your big reveal is Fiber? Yes. Most think they get enough, yet many times this is not the case. We’ve become a numbers society, especially when it comes to food and macros. While tracking is well-intentioned, it shifts focus to the grams of sugar, protein and fiber found on the wrapper and often our investigation ends there. While the information is useful, “xx grams” of fiber can be VERY misleading. Why? Most food producers are aware of this fixation which began the drive for “high” fiber counts. With that, so began the watering down of the fiber ingredient profiles to achieve that high score. For the record, not all fiber is the same.
Fiber – How Are We Really Doing?
Just how important is it that we get the right type and amount of fiber? Without any overstatement, it is crucial. As a starting point, simply eating enough of the right fiber can help reduce your risk of certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Despite knowing we all need more fiber; the cold fact is this - 95% of adults and children are not consuming the recommended amount.¹ For years, scientists have been telling us that we are "Fiber Deficient" ², and we need to close this "Fiber Gap."
The United States National Academy of Medicine and Health Canada both recommend 25 g and 38 g of fiber per day for women and men, respectively. But the unfortunate truth is that the average intake in both countries is only 15 g/day – approximately half of what is recommended.² For those on a low-carb diet, they consume even less – at only 10g/day.³
Leading nutrition researchers and educators state that today's inadequate fiber intake is "A Public Health Concern for All…".⁴ World-renowned doctor and international best-selling author, Denis Burkitt, championed high fiber diets and advocated for no less than 50 grams of fiber per day.² If you think 50g a day is a lot, try this on for size: evidence suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed as much as 100 g of fiber per day – a far cry from the 15 g we consume now!⁵
Your Better Health, Made Simple
If all you did was get your daily fiber (25-38g) you would be on the path to better health immediately. Researchers reviewed 17 studies that included just over 980,000 participants.⁶ Over the course of the study period, people who consumed the most fiber were 19% less likely to die than those who consumed the least. Heart disease, stroke, and cancer are the leading causes of death globally.⁷ For every 10 g increase in fiber consumption, there was a 10% decrease in the risk of dying from any cause cited.⁶ For every 7 g increase in fiber intake per day, cardiovascular disease risk decreased by 9% and stroke by 7%. For every 10 g increase in fiber per day, the risk of breast, colorectal, and stomach cancers decreased 5%, 10% and 44%, respectively. It is remarkable to think that even a minor increase in daily fiber intake can have such a profound effect.
What Is Dietary Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate from plants that humans cannot digest nor absorb. Although most carbohydrates get digested and turned into sugar molecules, fiber does not and goes through the gut undigested. Although we cannot use fiber directly, probiotics that live in our gut use it as a food source (aka prebiotic fiber).
There are two types of fiber that are the most recognized:
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is best known for its cholesterol-lowering properties, ability to balance blood sugar levels and prebiotic activity.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is best known for adding bulk to your stool and helping you stay regular.
Most carbohydrates deliver 4 calories per gram, whereas fiber has 0-2 calories per gram. Why a range of 0 to 2? It is the soluble fiber that provides those few calories, and insoluble fiber does not. Probiotics use the soluble fiber as a food source and then break down some of the stored caloric energy in fiber that we can then absorb – once again up to a max of 2 calories/g – and no net carbs (if you’re counting carbs).
Not All Fibers Are Created Equal
Many consumers looking for a convenient way to increase their fiber intake have turned to processed fiber supplements. These often contain only one form of fiber, either soluble or insoluble fiber. ONE fiber type alone, cannot give you ALL of fiber's benefits.
Those fiber supplements are more accurately known as "Functional Fibers" and differ from the unprocessed "Dietary Fibers" you would find in whole foods. Many of these isolated functional fibers are often sold as supplements or added to processed foods. These include soluble corn fiber, polydextrose, dextrin, resistant maltodextrin, guar gum.
For optimal gut health, whole-food sourced fiber is necessary FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES. For best results, one should consider fiber PLUS the added benefits from probiotics and healthy fats. All three support the gut in important but diverse ways!
ULTIMATE DAILY CLEANSE - The Ultimate 3-In-1 Fiber
Ultimate Daily Cleanse by North Coast Naturals is a remarkable WHOLE-FOOD-based fiber. It's not a heavily processed fiber isolate, like so many on the market today. Each serving of Daily Cleanse provides 14 g of fiber plus 6 g of Omega 3 & 6 Essential Fats and shelf-stable and clinically researched Probiotics.
- Using not 1, but 6 unique gut-healthy fiber sources: Canadian flax, psyllium husk, organic quinoa, organic chia, organic pumpkin and organic sprouted brown rice. Together, these fiber-rich whole foods provide 14 g of both soluble (8 g) and insoluble fiber (6 g), totaling 50% of the recommended daily value for fiber
- This blend also provides 6 g of EFAs (essential fatty acids), 5 g of which are the omega-3 fats that we are deficient in. EFAs from flax seed not only benefit our joints, heart and health in general, but they lubricate the gut and are just as effective as the more commonly over-prescribed mineral oil used for constipation.
- Two probiotic strains, Bacillus subtilis DE111 and Lactobacillus fermentum SD-5847 are included in Ultimate Daily Cleanse and provide impressive gut health benefits. Bacillus subtilis DE111 has undergone over 30 studies. This strain has documented gut and immune health benefits. The gut accounts for 70-80% of our immune system! ¹⁵
If you missed our last article where we discussed FODMAPs in more detail, know that Daily Cleanse is low-FODMAP friendly. Found in many common foods, FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) are specific types of carbohydrates (sugars) that can be hard to digest for people with gastrointestinal issues like IBS or SIBO and result in unpleasant symptoms such as abdominal discomfort. You may not suffer from IBS, but for the many that do, they appreciate our low FODMAP ingredients. That is why so many who try products that contain those ‘functional’ fibers can suffer from indigestion – these can trigger that reaction!
Live Long & Prosper!
Although Mr. Spock from Star Trek wasn't referring to fiber when he popularized the saying "Live Long & Prosper", it nonetheless applies. In the context of fiber, maybe "Live Long and Have Prosperous Health" would be more fitting. Take the fiber challenge, strive for no less than 25-38 g of fiber a day, and see how you feel in as little as 1 to 2 weeks. Consuming more fiber every day should help us all live a longer and healthier life!
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