What is the link between fibre and disease?

     Many people’s diets in the Western world contain inadequate dietary fibre, and this can increase the likelihood of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease, abdominal discomfort, anal fissures and haemorrhoids. This webpage explains the benefits of fibre and gives practical advice for improving your diet.

Where does fibre in our diet come from?

     The natural fibre in our diet comes from plants; fibre is not found in any meat or dairy products.

Why is fibre important and what does it do?

     Fibre is not digestible by the body; when you eat fibre, it passes down through the small intestine into the colon. In the colon, it is broken down by the normal bacteria in the gut and then it acts like a sponge to retain water in the bowel motion (stool). It helps to produce a soft, bulky bowel motion, which is easy to evacuate. It also eases the passage of the stool along the bowel, helping to regulate the bowels. It helps prevent constipation by softening the stool, but can also help prevent diarrhoea by absorbing some of the liquid to produce a more 'formed' motion.

Does fibre make you fat?

     Because fibre is not absorbed, it does not lead to weight gain. In fact, it can help in weight reduction because it tends to produce a feeling of fullness, which can reduce the desire to carry on eating.

Which foods are high in fibre?

  • Some breakfast cereals: including high-bran cereals such as All Bran™, Bran Flakes™, Weetabix™, Shredded Wheat™, muesli and porridge;
  • Some bread: wholemeal, stoneground, granary or bran enriched;
  • Other cereals: brown rice, wholemeal flour and its products: wholemeal spaghetti, digestive biscuits;
  • Vegetables: especially pulses (including baked beans and kidney beans), lentils, jacket potatoes, carrots, sweetcorn, broad beans, runner beans, peas, sprouts;
  • Fruits: especially oranges, pears, apples, avocados, grapefruits, prunes, berries, figs;
  • Nuts: especially peanuts, almonds, coconuts.

Which foods are low in fibre?

  • Breakfast cereals such as corn flakes, Rice Krispies™, Special K™;
  • White bread;
  • Meat and meat products unless they have fibre added;
  • Dairy products such as milk, plain yoghurt, cheese;
  • Many fast foods such as hamburgers.