Are you consuming adequate fibre every day? It’s not very likely you are, looking at American studies, most women are getting just over half of what you need. That is around 15 grams instead of the daily recommendation of 25 grams daily. Fibre is simple to add to your diet and it has so many health benefits especially at this stage of life.
What is fibre?
It is a carbohydrate component of plants that is resistant to digestion. There are different types of fibre.
Soluble fibre as its names suggests dissolves in water to create a gel-like substance that can help to trap and lower undesirables like excess sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol. It also increases the sensation of fullness after a meal.
Insoluble fibre acts like a broom to sweep out your intestines, bulk stool and promote regular movements.
Prebiotic fibre is a fibre that may also be called resistance starch. Instead of it being digested by you, it is digested by your good bacteria - probiotics. Well, technically speaking they don't digest it, they ferment it. This process feeds and stimulates probiotic activity such as the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA is a form of postbiotic.
(Side note biotic means life. Prebiotic - prelife - these are the fuel for the probiotics. Probiotics are pro-life - these are the benefical species found within our body. Postboitics are post life, they are the benefical biproducts.)
SCFA have many additional benefits, they lower the intestinal pH, inhibit the growth of pathogens, improve the integrity and function of epithelial cells that line the intestines, increases insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, improve mood, enhance cognition and improve sleep. Wow, who would have thought increasing the fibre content of your food could improve so many aspects of your health! Actually, it's a core naturopathic principle that all health begins and ends in the gut. So ladies eat extra fibre and if your digestive system isn’t optimally functioning reach out. Another core naturopathic belief is to test, don’t guess. So going along those lines my current favourite digestive test is a stool test called GI MAP.
Getting back to menopause, why is fibre so important at this stage of life?
Most women transiting into menopause will notice some digestive changes. Maybe you are constipated? Maybe you have noticed you are bloated or have more wind than you had previously. Fibre plays a big role in improving your general bowel health it may even reduce your risk of colon cancer. I think of it as a broom that sweeps clean your intestines. It increases bowel frequency and volume, helping to ease constipation. As mentioned above fibre is prebiotic, it is a great fuel source for your good bacteria. Feeding the good guys and helping to crowd out the unwanted species. This is such a big bonus for all aspects of health, as your digestive system is linked to the functioning of your entire body and this can benefit everything from your immune system to your mood.
It helps with the detoxification and regeneration of the entire digestive system including the liver. Research indicates it may help reduce fatty liver disease.
Fibre helps to improve the metabolism and excretion of excessive estrogen, this is especially helpful if you are in perimenopause. This lead-up stage towards menopause is often accompanied by hormonal imbalance. Where your estrogen levels are higher than your progesterone. Fibre can bind to the excess oestrogen and eliminate it via the bowel. Fibre is so effective at this that it may even reduce your breath cancer risk!
Another symptom of menopause is weight gain. Fibre is a useful addition to help you turn this around. Fibre helps with appetite regulation and increases the sensation of fullness while also balancing blood sugar levels. It reduces cravings and lowers the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. With the reduction of estrogen in post menopause, comes an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Isn’t it nice to know the adding a simple fibre supplement can help reduce this risk?
The leading cause of death in women is heart disease. Fibre can also reduce this risk. Many women transitioning into menopause start noticing their LDL and total cholesterol start to rise. Fibre helps bind and remove cholesterol and triglycerides. The soluble form of fibre has also been shown to lower blood pressure.
Fibre also has anti-inflammatory qualities.
Now that you know all of the benefits, let's talk about food sources.
Fruits: unpeeled apples/pears, berries, avocado, pineapple, pomegranate
Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, pumpkin, beetroot, leaks
Nuts: almond, cashews, hazelnuts, coconut
Seeds: chia seed, flaxseed, quinoa
Lentil and legumes
Warnings with fibre, if your diet is very low in fibre to begin with please increase it slowly. Too much too soon may cause digestive upsets while your body gets used to it. Bloating, wind and constipation - all things that fibre should help with may show up if you increase too fast. Listen to your body.
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