We’ve all heard of fibre, but what is it? And why is it so important when looking to reduce chronic, low-grade inflammation? Fibre is a component of plant foods that us humans cannot digest; instead, it passes through our digestive system before it is eliminated. It is this process that makes it so beneficial for us, and as such its consumption has been associated with reductions in inflammatory diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and bowel cancer. It’s also one component of the diet that so many of the population do not get enough of; let’s take a look at the importance of fibre in inflammation...
A huge body of research now exists demonstrating the importance of a healthy gut in managing systemic inflammation (to read more, click here) - but how does it work? Firstly, fibre feeds the beneficial bacteria living in our guts, which release substances that help lower levels of inflammation body-wide. Fibre is also crucial for stool formation and elimination, ridding the body of excess hormones which can promote inflammation. Finally, a high fibre diet helps to keep the walls of our gut healthy; as our gut is directly linked to our immune system, a healthy gut is vital for communicating with the immune system and lowering its inflammatory immune responses (1).
While body weight does not tell a complete picture when it comes to health, carrying excess body fat can increase levels of systemic inflammation. This is because fat cells themselves release chemicals called adipokines, which are inflammatory in their nature; therefore, reducing excess body weight can reduce inflammation. Fibre is often used as a tool in weight management, as it is low in energy but helps us to feel fuller for longer, reducing appetite and in turn lowering overall energy intake (2).
Phytochemicals are beneficial compounds found specifically in plants such as beans, peas, legumes, fruits, vegetables and spices. Thousands of these compounds exist and many of them, such as carotenoids and anthocyanins, have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects in the human body. As all plant foods contain these chemicals, eating a high fibre diet naturally translates to eating lots of phytochemicals, which in turn may support the reduction of systemic inflammation (3)
Blood sugar control
Keeping our blood sugar in check and avoiding peaks and troughs will not only stabilise our mood and energy, but it’ll keep inflammation at bay, too. I wrote an article which explains the science behind how this works which you can read here. Fibre is a key dietary consideration when it comes to blood sugar control, as it slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream which helps to avoid those spikes which over time, can increase systemic inflammation (4).
As you can see, fibre plays an incredibly important role in the diet and is one of your crucial warriors in the fight against body-wide, low-grade inflammation. It’s recommended we consume around 30g of fibre a day. You can achieve this by eating a variety of plant foods, aiming for 30 different types a week (5) - don’t feel daunted, this includes all fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, legumes and grains - so eat the rainbow and focus on variety and you’ll be there in no time.
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