Alright, I’m gonna dive more into this fiber topic now – so you may know of fiber as what “makes you go,” but it’s much more complex than that. The recommendation is to consume about 19-30 grams of fiber per day, depending on sex. Most Americans are only consuming on average 15 grams per day! This is very short of the recommendation and is the reason why so many people face constipation and have digestive problems.
Fiber has many roles: it improves movement of your bowels, it will make you feel more full because of the volume, it helps keep your cholesterol low, it helps you maintain a healthy weight, and the fiber carbohydrates have important nutrients attached to them that your body will break off (antioxidants, phytonutrients – all that good stuff). And lastly, the fiber itself feeds your gut bacteria! I know, it’s a bit weird, right?! But hey those little guys need to eat, too! This is why taking a fiber supplement is not the same thing as eating a lentil or a piece of fruit (with the skin) or a whole grain. There are so many functions of fiber and by being deficient in fiber, we are making ourselves sick.
So, now we know that Americans are not consuming enough fiber. This means that many people have gut bacteria that are essentially starving, resulting in an imbalance of the microbiome and disfunction of the gut. This actually causes the type and quality of the bacteria to shift toward a less healthful composition and causes inflammation in the gut lining, often called “leaky gut” or increased gut permeability. This is the root of many diseases, particularly allergies and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and systemic lupus erythematosus (5).
In summary, this is a very complex topic and there is still so much research coming out in the field. But it seems as though the consensus from experts is that the gut is at the root of many of our health problems. So you can help your own gut by eating lots of plant fiber. Additionally, studies have shown that legumes could be the most important predictor of longevity (6). So eat those beans and lentils! Just one serving every day actually makes a difference!