Who is your best friend? Mine is fiber. You may laugh at this idea, but realistically, fiber is actually the best friend that our gut bacteria can have. And, considering we have over 100 trillion bacteria inhabiting our intestines, fiber is actually a better friend than you may think. So today I’d like to give you guys a little lesson on fiber – what it is, why it’s so good, and exactly how much fiber per day is the right amount to maximize gut health. What is Fiber? Fiber is a dietary material which, believe it or not, is actually resistant to the action of digestive enzymes, making it indigestible by the human body. Although we may not be able to digest fiber, it’s actually used in several processes within our body, including reactions with gut bacteria to produce a whole bunch of health-enhancing results. The list of benefits of dietary fiber is long, and it would be a hefty post to cover them all – so, I’m going to discuss a few benefits of dietary fiber that are common and may even be relevant to you. The Benefits of Fiber: Fiber Helps You Poop First off, fiber helps you go to the bathroom and move your bowels. This is an essential part of life and helps you to detoxify your body by releasing unwanted substances through defecation. Just be sure that if you’re eating a lot of fiber, you also should be drinking enough water. If there is insufficient water to parallel your fiber intake, you may experience the opposite effect and actually feel more constipated from increasing your daily fiber intake. Fiber Regulates Appetite Secondly, fiber helps to keep you full. The way fiber helps to keep you full is actually more complex than you may realize. Fiber is actually able to interact with the body on a bacterial level, to go down a chain of reactions that ends up altering the hormones in your body which are associated with signaling both hunger and fullness. This allows you to feel full for longer, and feel hungry less often. Fiber Supports a Healthy Gut Bacterial Balance Fiber supports the growth of a healthy gut bacterial balance within the body. This is so important, as fiber is now demonstrating that gut bacteria are involved in basically every single process within the body. Think everything from fat storage to detoxification to immune health and anything in between. To demonstrate the importance of using fiber to support a healthy gut bacteria, several studies using two identical mice have intentionally altered the bacterial balance to a negative one. In these studies, both mice were given the exact same diet and exercise routine however, the mouse with the healthy bacterial balance stayed perfectly lean, while the mouse with the poor bacterial balance became severely obese! By supporting a healthy gut bacteria, you can see improvements in keeping your overall body healthy, your skin condition, your body composition, and even digestive symptoms and illnesses that you may currently have or want to prevent against. How Much Fiber Per Day is Optimal? It’s a widely known fact that people in Western countries do not consume enough fiber daily. Historically, our ancestors would consume between 100-300g daily. Currently, in the United States, individuals consume an average of under 15g daily. Big change, right!? Although our digestive systems would have a pretty rough time trying to deal with 300g of fiber daily, there’s no doubt about the fact that we definitely need to up our intake as a population, in order to both fix and prevent many symptoms and disorders. So, how much fiber per day is the right amount to achieve amazing benefits for your body? Several studies have demonstrated that the benefits of fiber appear when consuming 35g or more of fiber daily. This amount of fiber has shown to enhance a range of bodily systems including regulating hunger and fullness hormones, balancing gut bacteria, and improving body composition. How Much Fiber is Too Much? If you’re reading this post, your goal is to find out how much fiber per day is optimal. If 35g per day or higher has shown to benefit the body – the next question you may be wondering is if you can consume too much fiber. The answer to that is a lenient no. As I mentioned, our ancestors used to consume 100-300g daily. Realistically, if you want to build your way up to 100g of fiber per day and your body can handle it, then your microbiota are going to be one happy bunch. However, the reason this answer isn’t so firm is because, of course, the human body isn’t used to consuming so much fiber and, if you tried to switch to such a high fiber diet so quickly, you would probably experience some unwanted symptoms. These symptoms can include bloating, altered stool consistency, excess gas and discomfort. So, whether you’re aiming for 35g fiber daily, or 100g fiber daily, there’s a particular way to increase your fiber that will help you to avoid symptoms and obtain benefits. IMPORTANT: How To Increase Your Fiber Without Experiencing Symptoms The correct way to increase your fiber to avoid symptoms is through a dose-escalation method. This method works by increasing your fiber slowly by just a few grams per day or per week, depending on what your body is feeling comfortable with. If you begin to experience any unwanted symptoms, stop increasing or, if there’s too much discomfort, back off the fiber a little then retry the same increase after one week. This method will allow your body time to adjust to the increase in fiber. Remember: take it slow – if you try to race your body to health, you’re not doing yourself any favours. If you’re interested in learning about the best types of fiber to regulate appetite, check out this post. Health begins in the gut. Your friendly neighbourhood scientist, Anita Tee Why are you always hungry?