You probably know that fibre is an important part of a balanced, healthy diet, but did you know that fibre also plays a key part in maintaining the health of your colon? Read on to find out how!
Intro to the Colon
So, what is the colon exactly? The colon is the largest part of the large intestine (the terms are often used interchangeably), which, together with the small intestine, is a key part of your digestive system. Fun fact: Your large intestine, or colon, is actually much shorter than your small intestine, as “large” and “small” refer to diameter, not length .
While the small intestine is responsible for absorbing nutrients from food broken down in the stomach, the colon’s job is to absorb any excess water or salt remaining after the digestive process and get rid of solid waste . So what’s the connection between fibre and your colon?
The Fibre Connection
Fibre helps your colon do its job by slowing down the emptying of the stomach and drawing water into the intestinal tract, making stools easier to pass. Certain types of fibre, such as insoluble fibre, also add bulk to your stool, which helps it move along. This can be beneficial for mitigating or preventing constipation . Other types of fibre, such as soluble fibre, can help with constipation as well, but they also slow digestion, stablise blood sugar levels, and—perhaps most importantly—feed beneficial gut bacteria , . To learn more about fibre and the difference between the soluble and insoluble types, check out this handy infographic.
Generally speaking, insoluble fibre offers more intestinal benefits, while soluble fibre offers more metabolic benefits . Both, however, are important for optimal intestinal and overall health!
More than just helping your colon work efficiently, fibre can also reduce the risk of developing multiple intestinal and colon-related conditions. For example, by bulking up stools and making them easier to pass, fibre helps prevent hemorrhoids and hernias , , . There is also evidence that fibre could help lower the risk of developing colon cancer, as a high-fibre diet helps empty the colon more rapidly and completely .
Sources of Insoluble Fibre
Want to help your colon by adding more fibre to your diet? Check out this resource for natural sources of soluble and insoluble fibre. Remember, though, that insoluble fibre contributes the most to the health of your large intestine, so it’s good to be familiar with various sources of insoluble fibre in particular.
A note of caution: One drawback of insoluble fibre is that it can sometimes worsen symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) . This is partly because many people with IBS are sensitive to FODMAPs*, and most sources of insoluble fibre tend to be high in FODMAPs.
*Learn more about FODMAPs and IBS.
Fortunately, even if you have IBS, you can still meet your insoluble fibre needs AND avoid any unpleasant side effects. The key is to know which foods are high in insoluble fibre but low in FODMAPs. Here are a few examples of such foods :
- Quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, rice bran, oat bran, and bulgur
- Broccoli, kale, spinach, green beans, corn, and eggplant
- Canned legumes*
- Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi, rhubarb, pineapple, and raisins
- Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame, ground flax, and chia
*Canned legumes, such as canned lentils or canned chickpeas, are much lower in FODMAPs than their cooked-from-dry counterparts . Just make sure to rinse them well and discard the liquid in the can. Also, for all the above-mentioned foods, make sure to stick to their low-FODMAP serving sizes.
Hopefully, gaining a better understanding of the connection between fibre and your colon will motivate you to always include some fibre on your plate. Just remember to eat a variety of high-fibre foods (both soluble and insoluble!) to get the most benefit. You can also boost your fibre intake using supplements, such as Alpinia’s Acazen, which is 100% plant-based, odourless, and tasteless, making it a versatile asset for the creative foodie!