What is it?
Dietary fibre/roughage means any substance, generally of plant origin which remains undigested on passage through the human alimentary tract. In plants, it forms the vital skeletal system. It is the backbone of the plant, without which no plant can stand upright. Dietary fibre is mainly made up of complex carbohydrates.
Why no digestion?
We, as human lacks the necessary enzymes required for the digestion of dietary fibre, i.e. whatever fibre we eat, it remains undigested in our system. But despite any digestion, dietary fibre has an important role to play, in the maintenance of our digestion system, thus helping in the maintenance of good health and prevention of diseases. Many experts feel that one of the primary reason for the increasing digestive system problem is the depletion of fibre from the diet, due to extreme hygiene feeling and subsequent processing or refining of foods before intake.
Thus it is important to have raw foods in our diet to get maximum fibre. E.g. as we change our consumption of oranges from raw fruit to canned to orange juice, the actual intake of fibre from one orange decreases almost by half in each successive stage.
Importance of dietary Fibre:
- Sufficient dietary fibre intake is important for proper functioning of digestion system. It also helps in prevention of diseases like obesity, colon cancer, heart disease, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis and diabetic conditions.
- High fibre diet promotes frequent bowel movements and softer stools (because of emulsified gas production) with increased weight.
- Fibre rich diet also leads to greater efficiency in the peristaltic movement of the colon, thus giving relief from constipation. If remain untreated constipation can result in several acute and chronic diseases.
- Dietary fibre is also beneficial for people suffering from irritated bowel syndrome, diarrhoea or rapid colonic transit.
- Dietary fibre also helps in reducing the production of carcinogens (cancer causing agents) in the faeces. The prime reason for the same is the increased acidity of the content inside our gut. Higher acidity in gut content decreases the production of the carcinogens.
- Dietary fibre also helps in minimising the possibilities of the presence of harmful toxins inside the large intestine, as frequent bowel movements reduce the intestinal transit time of foods.
- Dietary fibre reduces the cholesterol absorption, by reducing the rate of sugar absorption from food.
- Dietary fibre helps in reducing the ammonia present in the bowel, thus decreasing the chances of conversion of normal cells into cancerous ones. This is primarily done by the increased number of large intestine bacteria’s which feed on nitrogen.
- Certain fibres can provide relief in diabetes mellitus by increasing the food viscosity (viscosity means resistance to flow). Increased viscosity reduces the need for insulin.
It is only a matter of imagination how good the digestion system of animals like cows, horses and termites is who has special microbes inside gut to help in the digestion of fibre.
Now as we know how important and beneficial dietary fibres are for human, even without digestion, it is important for us to know about the various types of fibre, our daily requirements of fibre and the rich/common sources of dietary fibre.