A healthy bowel helps lower cholesterol, improves the immune system and makes it unlikely to get bowel cancer.
The bowels are also known as the colon or the large intestine.
A well functioning bowel results in a good dump everyday – or several smaller dumps over the course of the day. The poo is formed and easily passed. It does not smell horrendous. If you eat beetroot one day, you should see evidence of it the next.
Signs of a bowel in distress are spots below the lip line, a puffed up belly and excessive wind. Plus conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and Chron’s disease.
There are 2 types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. The insoluble stuff has a bulking action to the stool and works like a pan scrubber on the inside of the large intestine scraping away the old stuff. It also speeds things up.
Soluble fibre absorbs water, so becomes viscous. It binds to bile acids in the small intestine. Bile breaks down fats. So if they are bound to fibre, they are less likely to enter the bloodstream and this will help lower cholesterol. Also bile acids in the faeces promote bowel cancer, so binding them can only be a good thing.
Some fibrous carbohydrates cannot be digested in the small intestine, but are fermented by the good bacteria in the large intestine into Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) and gases. Examples of these carbs are legumes and jerusalem artichokes. Of the 3 SCFAs produced, butyrate feeds the good bacteria, strengthens and heals the walls of the colon. A healthy population of good gut bacteria lowers the pH of the large intestine which lowers the risk of colon cancer, protects from the formation of colonic polyps and increases the absorption of minerals.
Butyrate is important for stimulating the production of the various parts of the immune system made in the colon.3 Butyrate is formed from butyric acid, found in butter. The skin cells in the walls of the colon like butyrate as a source of energy. Click on the link to the Linus Pauling Institute for further information about this and fibre in general.
Overall the production of SCFAs help stabilise blood sugar: increased SCFAs slows the rate that sugar from the diet reaches the liver.
Adding fibre to the diet not only encourages good bacteria but also encourages healthy mucosal lining to the colon. This helps firm things up, makes it more difficult for irritants to attach to the bowel walls and lowers inflammation.
All fruits and vegetables have a mixture of both fibres, but some have a predominance of one or the other. This is a good reason to eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit every day.
Sources of soluble fibre:
- Legumes (peas, beans, lentils, peanuts)
- Broccoli, carrots, jerusalem artichokes
- Sweet potatoes, onions
Sources of insoluble fibre:
- Nuts and seeds
- Potato skins
- Flax and hemp seed
- Green beans, cauliflower, courgettes, celery
- Tomato skins
It is vital to vary regularly the fibres taken or issues of sensitivity will arise leading to a distended gut and much wind. Again, contact me for advice on this important matter.
- These are foods you are sensitive to. Principal examples are wheat, dairy and eggs. Also burnt foods nor semi-digested meats are not good for the gut. [↩]
- People do argue about how much fibre we should eat. Some say we only need a little and some say we need alot. The answer is almost certainly partly due to genetics. An Eskimo or Red Indian genetically lives on a high protein and fat diet with limited vegetables/fruits. Someone with a tropical genetic heritage would live on a diet with copious vegetables and fruit. However in our modern toxic world we certainly don’t eat enough vegetables. As to adding fibre to your personal diet, you can but try and see if things improve. [↩]
- For example T helper cells, antibodies and cytokines. [↩]