Probably the most well-known benefit of fiber is its positive effect on your gut health. You can read more about that here. What is less well known, however, are the indirect, positive effects of fiber on our overall health.
Fiber acts directly on the diversity and composition of bacteria found in the intestines. Because fiber is not digested in the small intestine and so cannot be absorbed by our bodies, it can actually reach the colon, which is the ideal breeding ground for our intestinal flora.
This is why a healthy and varied diet with enough fiber is very beneficial for the bacteria in our intestines. Furthermore, there’s a whole host of other health benefits that are linked to good gut health. We’d love to tell you more about that here!
The gut-brain axis: our guts act as a second brain
We are all aware of the connection between our gastrointestinal tract and our brain. Just think about the feeling of butterflies you get in your stomach when falling in love or when you might experience painful cramps as a result of stress.
This is why research increasingly proves that there is a direct link between our gut and our brain. This is called the gut-brain axis. It is like a direct, two-way telephone line between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system.
Several studies, however, have also shown that our gut is actually our second brain. It is closely linked to our mental health.
The phrase “you are what you eat” sums this idea up perfectly. By making healthy and balanced food choices, you can (in)directly influence your mood and energy as well. If you are not providing your gut with the right building blocks – such as fiber – you will really notice how this impacts your state of mind over time.
In relation to this, the signalling substance, serotonin, plays a key role. It ensures the proper transmission of signals between the brain and intestines, and consequently it is a substance that can be found in both. If serotonin can’t function normally, it can cause certain disorders in how the gut and brain function.
This also provides an immediate explanation of the link between psychological problems (e.g. depression and panic disorders) and intestinal problems (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease).
In fact, as we said earlier, our gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to how we are feeling. Anger, fear, sadness, elation and other feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut and vice versa.
This is why a person’s gastrointestinal symptoms can be the cause of, or lead to, anxiety, stress or depression. It is therefore very important to take care of your gut by eating healthy and high-fiber foods. These will significantly improve your state of mind and can result in positive and happy emotions
When you eat enough high-fiber foods and therefore get enough prebiotic fiber, the quality of your sleep can also improve significantly. Furthermore, you will also see an improvement in your memory function and cognitive performance.
There are also other studies that highlight the positive role of gut flora in inhibiting the development of Alzheimer’s disease
The gut-lung axis: the link between proper functioning of our lungs and our intestines
In addition to the gut-brain axis, there is also the gut-lung axis. Just as the intestines have intestinal flora, lungs have lung flora. There are fewer bacteria present in lung flora, but we can see that they largely match the flora found in the intestine.
Several lung diseases are therefore associated with changes in the intestinal flora. For example, previous studies on animals have shown that by eliminating certain gut bacteria as a result of using antibiotics, the lungs are more susceptible to flu viruses.
By extension, you can also see a link between good gut flora and COVID symptoms. In doing so, we find that people with healthy gut flora also experience COVID symptoms that are less severe.
Furthermore, it also seems that a high-fiber diet can reduce the risk of asthma and allergies. In fact, by encouraging good gut and lung flora, the lungs will be much less prone to irritation and inflammation.
Further research is certainly needed on the gut-lung axis, but so far we can say with certainty that bacteria, fungi and viruses in both organs play an important role in balancing health and disease.
So, healthy gut flora is inseparable from a healthy lung flora.
Fiber result in a strong immune system
The good bacteria in our colon are actually our first line of immunity against pathogenic microbes entering our bodies. From birth, these bacteria learn to distinguish between the good and bad building blocks that pass through us.
Moreover, these good bacteria even produce vitamins such as vitamin K, B3, B6, B12 and help to determine to what extent nutrients, vitamins and other essential building blocks are being absorbed.
Fiber provides a breeding ground for these good bacteria and supports proper functioning of the intestine. All this ensures that they, too, help to guarantee a strong immune system.
The link between fiber and strong bones
Good intestinal function also improves absorption of micronutrients such as calcium. For example, certain types of soluble fiber have been shown to help maintain bone density.
These fibers are found in asparagus, leeks, soybeans, wheat and oats, among other items. More to the point, you can also get this fiber from Zùsto. So you can boost your fiber intake in a sweet way too!
Prevention of intestinal cancer
The link between intestinal cancer and the amount of fiber you have daily has also been the subject of considerable research. It is thought that we could prevent about 12% of intestinal cancer cases if we ate enough fiber.
In fact, dietary fiber increases the volume of your stools, so that it passes through the intestine faster. About 12% of intestinal cancer cases could be prevented if we ate enough fiber and there is less chance of damage being caused to the intestinal cells as a result of possible carcinogens.
In addition, fiber also provides the formation of short-chain fatty acids as the bacteria in our intestines break down fermentable dietary fiber. Looking at these short-chain fatty acids, such as butyric acid, there is solid evidence that they inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
Fiber allows the carbohydrates (starches and sugars) from your food to be absorbed more slowly. This keeps your blood sugar and weight more stable. In the long run, you are therefore at less risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
But even if you already have diabetes, fiber can be good for your blood sugar levels. This is because the gradual absorption of carbohydrates will cause your blood sugar to fluctuate less, so you will experience fewer rapid spikes as well as fewer large spikes in your blood sugar.
Looking at the research, we can even determine a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes of 18% for people who ate 26 grams of fiber each day. This is compared to people who ate only 19 grams of fiber per day.
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
A study was commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) to examine the link between fiber and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Looking at it, it seems that if you eat 25 to 29 grams of fiber each day, you lower your risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer by 15–30%
This is mainly because the fiber binds to the excess cholesterol. As a result, cholesterol is carried out of your body before it has a chance to clog up your blood vessels.
Participants in that study who ate a lot of fiber also had lower weight, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Fiber makes you feel fuller faster and for longer, making you less inclined to eat between meals. This also makes you less likely to reach for foods that offer poor nutritional value.
In addition, fiber binds with fats and sugar molecules as they travel through your digestive tract. As a result, you will absorb far fewer calories during digestion.
Looking at one comparative study that was carried out, one group received the recommended daily allowance of fiber and the other group did not. The fiber-deficient group had much more difficulty maintaining their weight than the group that did get enough fiber.
Fiber helps you have beautiful skin
Our skin is often said to be the mirror of our health. The nutrients you eat daily, the skin care routine you follow for your face, as well as your mental health (stress, fatigue, etc.) affect the health of your skin.
For example, fiber helps improve blood circulation, keeps the blood thin and improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, making your skin look better.
So the most important thing you can do for radiant, youthful skin is to improve your nutrition!
There are also quite a number of studies that establish a clear link between a healthy intake of fiber and fewer skin complaints.
For example, some studies suggest that prebiotic foods may reduce the risk of developing allergic skin diseases such as eczema, while also improving the function of the skin barrier. Zùsto, for example, contains nearly 70% prebiotic fiber and is therefore a great help in improving your skin from the inside out.
In addition, we also know that fiber provides us with building blocks that are important for our gut health, while also having an indirect impact on our mental health. This is because the good bacteria in the gut flora – which is fed by dietary fiber – increase our resistance and therefore help to balance out hormones.
Furthermore, fiber also prevents certain toxins from entering your bloodstream. In fact, it gets rid of them before they can reach your skin and do any damage.
So gut flora and our skin are inextricably linked – something that is immediately reflected in how healthy your skin is.
As you can see, fiber has a lot of direct and indirect influences on your health. This is why it’s very important to get the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber. After all, your gut and the bacteria within it are your allies for life, so you should give them the attention they deserve!
Want to increase your daily fiber intake in a simple and delicious way? Then try Zùsto now and experience all the benefits of prebiotic fiber for yourself!
Not sure how much fiber you can eat daily and what foods contain fiber? We are happy to help you get started here.