Chapter 14:

 

Fiber and Intestinal Flora

 

Fiber is the part of the food that cannot be broken down by the enzymes in the digestive tract, so fiber passes through without being absorbed. Fiber helps shield the carbohydrates in food from immediate digestion, so the sugars in fiber-rich foods tend to be absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly.

Fibers have an intestinal cleansing action, which keeps the digestive tract clean. A diet rich in fiber is protective against a wide variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer of the colon and rectum, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, phlebitis, obesity, and type 2 diabetes

The consumption of dietary fibers lowers blood cholesterol levels, prevents constipation, and helps to normalize blood glucose and insulin levels.

Fibers that are incompletely or slowly fermented by microflora in the large intestine promote normal laxation and are integral components of diet plans to treat constipation, and prevent the development of diverticulosis and diverticulitis.

A diet adequate in fiber-containing foods is also usually rich in micronutrients and nonnutritive ingredients that have additional health benefits. A fiber-rich meal is processed more slowly, which promotes earlier satiety, and is frequently less calorically dense and lower in fat and added sugars. All of these characteristics are features of a dietary pattern to treat and prevent obesity. Even with a fiber-rich diet, a supplement may be needed to bring fiber intakes into an adequate range to prevent constipation.

One should begin any health smart program by adding enough fiber to their diet. This is of the utmost importance because in the processed foods that we eat we normally do not get even half of the fiber that our body’s require. Our daily requirement of fiber is between 30 to 50 grams per day. Our “Standard American Diet” provides us with an average of 12 grams or 2¼ tablespoons per day.

It is no wonder that the “Standard American” is riddled with Colon Cancer, Diverticulitous and Cholitis.

 

Examples of fiber are:

 

APPLE PECTIN

Acts as a detoxifier by eliminating heavy metals and toxins from the body; slows down the absorption of sugar, lessens the severity of diabetes, is an excellent source of soluble fiber which lowers cholesterol levels and regulates blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease and prevents gallstones, contains anti-oxidant properties which protect the lining of blood vessels, and improves stool consistency. 

FENNEL SEED

Rids the intestinal tract of mucus; helps with coughs and persistent bronchitis by dissolving mucus in the upper respiratory tract; rids the body of pinworms; opens obstructions of the liver, spleen and gall bladder; relaxes the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract to help expel gas; has a mild estrogenic effect (acts like the female sex hormone, estrogen); relieves gastrointestinal spasms; effective in the treatment of gout; and has been shown to cure colic in infants. 

 

FLAX SEED

Acts as a broom sweeping the colon of toxic material, metabolic waste, and dried mucus; is excellent food for "friendly bacteria" in the intestine; contains lignans that have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer properties; contains lecithin which breaks up fats and cholesterol; contains mucilage which aids digestion by increasing bulk and preventing constipation; reduces the risk of colon cancer; helps stabilize blood glucose levels; fights tumor formation; enhances cardio-vascular health; acts as a buffer for excess stomach acid. 

OAT BRAN

A water soluble fiber that assists in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels; keeps the gastrointestinal tract in good working order; helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis; aids in weight loss; reduces plaque buildup by suppressing the adhesive molecules which make blood cells stick to artery walls; reduces the risk of colon cancer; removes toxins; regulates blood glucose levels; lowers blood pressure; improves stool consistency. 

PSYLLIUM SEEDS

Contains mucilage that lubricates and cleanses the areas through which it passes; cleanses the large intestines and expels toxins; supplies pure bulk fiber that promotes normal bowel function; promotes a healthy colon; used to treat irritable bowel syndrome; reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels; used to treat hemorrhoids and yeast infections. 

RICE BRAN

Is a water-soluble fiber that helps diabetics maintain appropriate blood sugar levels; lowers cholesterol levels; keeps the gastrointestinal tract in good working order; contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.  

WHEAT GERM

Is the reproductive area or embryo from which the seed germinates to form the sprout that becomes the green wheat grass. It is a nutritious super food rich in B-Vitamins, Vitamin E, enzymes, and minerals. It is also rich in Octacosanol, which has shown to lower blood cholesterol, improve energy levels, enhance endurance and stamina; quickens reflexes, sparks alertness, and improves oxygen utilization. Helps prevent heart disease, strokes, and cancer. Consist of 30% protein and 15% soluble fiber. 

 

Additional Considerations to Intestinal Health:

 

Your digestive tract is a complex ecosystem that's home to millions of microorganisms (intestinal flora), including more than 500 species of bacteria. Many of these bacteria are beneficial, performing essential functions, such as synthesizing certain vitamins, stimulating your immune system, and helping to protect one from harmful viruses and “bad” bacteria.

Some of the bacteria that normally inhabit your intestinal tract are potentially dangerous. They are usually kept in check by beneficial bacteria unless the delicate balance between the two is disturbed by illness, or medications.

Antibiotics can be especially disruptive to intestinal flora (the bacteria that normally live in the colon) because they destroy beneficial bacteria along with harmful ones. Without enough "good" microorganisms, "bad" bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic you received grow out of control, producing toxins that can damage the bowel wall and trigger inflammation.

Antibiotics first came into general use for soldiers during World War II. Since then, antibiotics have saved millions of lives. But like all drugs, antibiotics have side effects.

In addition to disrupting the balance of microorganisms in your digestive tract, antibiotics can also affect the following:

Ø     Rate of digestion. Antibiotics, such as erythromycin, can cause food to leave your stomach too quickly, causing nausea and vomiting. Other antibiotics may increase intestinal contractions, speeding up the rate at which food moves through your small intestine and contributing to diarrhea.

Ø     The breakdown of food. Antibiotics may affect the way your body metabolizes fatty acids.

If one is undergoing antibiotic therapy one should include the suplimentation of certain intestinal flora. This is possible by consuming certain yogurts (ones comprised of active living cultures) and/or taking probiotics (“friendly bacteria" {flora} that promote gastrointestinal health).

 

     The four main species of probiotics are:

Ø     Lactobacillus acidophilus

Ø     Bifid bacterium

Ø     Lactobacillus paracasei

Ø     Streptococcus thermophilus

Most can be purchased at any grocery store and all can be obtained via a health food store.

Lactobacilli are bacteria that normally live in the human small intestine and vagina. It is the most commonly used probiotic, or "friendly" bacteria. 

Such healthy bacteria inhabit the intestines and vagina and protect against the entrance and proliferation of "bad" organisms that can cause disease. 

Lactobacillus acidophilus is generally considered to be beneficial because it produces vitamin K, lactase, and anti-microbial substances such as acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin.

The breakdown of food by L. acidophilus leads to production of lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other byproducts that make the environment hostile for undesired organisms. L. acidophilus also produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down milk sugar (lactose) into simple sugars. 

People who are lactose intolerant do not produce this enzyme. For this reason, L. acidophilus supplements may be beneficial for these individuals.

Probiotics offer a variety of potential therapeutic uses. These include the following:

  • Replacing the "friendly" intestinal bacteria destroyed by antibiotics.
  • Aiding digestion and suppressing disease-causing bacteria.
  • Preventing and treating diarrhea, including infectious diarrhea, particularly from rotavirus (a virus that commonly causes diarrhea in children).
  • Treating overgrowth of "bad" organisms in the gastrointestinal tract (a condition that tends to cause diarrhea and may occur from use of antibiotics).
  • Alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and, possibly, inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis).
  • Preventing and/or reducing the recurrence of vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and cystitis (bladder inflammation). 
  • Improving lactose absorption digestion in people who are lactose intolerant
  • Enhancing the immune response.
  • Aiding the treatment of respiratory infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
  • Lowering risk of allergies. Examples include asthma, hay fever, food allergies to milk, and skin reactions such as eczema.
  • Helping to treat high cholesterol.
  • Reducing the risk of recurring bladder tumors once this cancer has been treated.
  • Other conditions under investigation for use of probiotics include colon cancer, HIV related diarrhea, and Helicobacter pylori, an organism that can lead to development of ulcers.

The primary dietary sources of L. acidophilus include milk enriched with acidophilus, yogurt containing live L. acidophilus cultures.

Prebiotics occur naturally in foods, but supplements provide a more concentrated source of this substance.  

Prebiotics are found in breast milk, onions, tomatoes, bananas, honey, barley, garlic and wheat.

L. acidophilus preparations consist of dried or liquid cultures of living bacteria. They are available in the following forms:

  • Freeze-dried granules
  • Freeze-dried powders
  • Freeze-dried capsules
  • Liquid L. acidophilus preparations (which must be kept refrigerated)

The recommended doses of L. acidophilus vary depending on the health condition being treated. 

The following list provides guidelines for the most common uses:

  • Prevention or treatment of diarrhea: 1 to 2 billion viable cells per day (some experts may recommend up to ten billion cells per day)
  • Vaginal infections: 8 ounces of yogurt (with live active cultures containing one of the Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteriu) daily or an oral daily supplement containing at least 1 to 2 billion live organisms.
  • Cystitis: 1 to 2 capsules or tablets inserted into the vagina nightly for two weeks
  • Maintaining normal intestinal flora: 1 to 10 billion viable cells per day

 

 

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