The Essential Piece Of The Wellness Puzzle
March 8, 2011 by Dr. Mark Wiley
There are many elements that are required to achieve optimal health. We all know that ample sleep, exercise, water, stress reduction and diet are the basic components. Within each of those categories are found sub-categories and specific recommendations.
Within the realm of diet, weight loss alone is not the answer. One must eat the correct food to support health and avoid the carcinogenic, fattening and processed food to prevent illness. Fiber is a food that holds a special place among diet and wellness.
Fiber is interesting because although it is a food and we eat it, we don’t digest it. In other words, it doesn’t enter into our bloodstream and instead just passes through our digestive tract until it is excreted. Yet, fiber is special in that it both promotes wellness while also reducing the risk of chronic disease.
Dietary fiber is an essential piece of the wellness puzzle. It provides bulk, suppresses appetite, binds with cholesterol, lowers blood sugar and speeds removal of toxic wastes from the bowels, thereby reducing the risk of constipation, high blood sugar, hemorrhoids, diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease and some cancers.
Found in many natural and whole sources like fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables, dietary fiber is found in two types: soluble and insoluble. When taken together, mixed fiber intake is essential to good health and must not be passed over for processed simple carbohydrates that are so utterly bad for you. Let’s now take a look at the fiber types, their function and where to find them.
Soluble Fiber forms into a gel-like substance when combined with fluid. If you have ever stirred some Metamucil into a glass and left it alone for a minute you saw what this looks like. What’s good about this gel is that it creates bulk which not only binds fatty acids but also stabilizes blood sugar, slowing down the time it takes food to empty from the stomach and its sugars to break down. This is good news for diabetics, hypoglycemics and anyone looking to lose weight naturally. As such, soluble fiber reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Insoluble fiber does not form into a gel but passes through your digestive tract largely intact. It works to provide bulk to move toxic waste through your intestines, thereby aiding in digestion, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Its bulk controls and balances pH (acid/alkaline balance) in the intestines, which helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. Insoluble fiber also helps bind cholesterol in the digestive tract, thus lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon and rectal cancers.
Where To Get Dietary Fiber
Now that we know how vital it is to eat more dietary fiber, we need to know the best places to get it. No, breakfast cereals and fiber bars are not the best place. When thinking of diet in terms of health promotion and disease prevention, going to the whole source is always best.
Sources of soluble dietary fiber include oatmeal and oat bran, nuts, flax seed, psyllium husk, barley, dried beans and peas, carrots, berries and grapes. It is also found in pectin in the skins of fruits like oranges, apples and pears.
Sources of insoluble dietary fiber include dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, whole grains (and their products), wheat and corn bran, celery, carrots, seeds, nuts and brown rice.
Clinical Trials Prove Fiber’s Essential Value
According to the results of a clinical trial, “People who eat more dietary fiber have a lower body weight than people who eat less fiber. Potential mechanisms include greater feelings of satiety, reductions in food intake, changes in blood glucose, insulin, or gut hormones.” 
According to a university study, “For every 10 grams of fiber consumed, the risk of heart attack or other coronary heart disease (CHD) decreased by 14%. The risk of dying from CHD dropped 27%. But they also found… that the relationship between fiber consumption and healthy hearts is strongest for fruit (a 30% drop in deaths for each 10 grams of fruit fiber) and grains (a 25% drop in deaths), but indiscernible for vegetables.” 
Most Americans eat a diet low in complex carbohydrates, and thus low in fiber. It’s no wonder we are among the least healthy countries despite spending more than any other country on health care. We keep chasing for cures to things that make us ill instead of changing our lifestyle and dietary choices to prevent them; pain, illness and disease from taking hold in the first place
Consuming 20 to 35 grams of mixed dietary fiber daily is recommended for optimal health. Currently, it is estimated the average American only consumes 15 grams per day. Couple this with eight to 10 glasses of water each day to keep the fiber moving along and hydrating the body, and good health is on its well.
–Dr. Mark Wiley