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  • Writer's pictureJennifer May

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fibre: How your symptoms can tell you which is right for you




Introduction


Fibre is an essential component of our diet that plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal gut health. It can be broadly categorized into two types: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. While both types offer numerous health benefits, they function differently in our digestive system and contribute uniquely to supporting gut health. In this article, we will explore the differences between soluble and insoluble fibre, focusing on how they support gut health and ease specific digestive symptoms.


1. Soluble Fibre


Soluble fibre is characterized by its ability to dissolve in water. It forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract, slowing down digestion and nutrient absorption. The primary sources of soluble fibre include oat bran, fruits (such as apples and oranges), vegetables (like carrots and sweet potatoes), legumes, and psyllium husk.


Health benefits:

  1. Promotes Gut Microbiota Balance: Soluble fibre serves as a prebiotic, providing nourishment to beneficial gut bacteria. This fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which promote the growth of beneficial gut flora, contributing to a balanced gut microbiome.

  2. Reduces Cholesterol Levels: Consuming soluble fibre can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. The gel-like substance formed by soluble fibre binds to cholesterol, preventing its absorption and promoting its excretion from the body.

  3. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels: Soluble fibre slows down the absorption of sugar, helping to stabilize blood glucose levels. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.



2. Insoluble Fibre


Unlike soluble fibre, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and remains relatively intact during digestion. It adds bulk to the stool, aiding in the movement of food through the digestive tract. Whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, and the skins of fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of insoluble fibre.


Health benefits:

  1. Prevents Constipation: Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the stool, softening it and promoting regular bowel movements. This can help prevent and relieve constipation.

  2. Supports Digestive Regularity: By speeding up transit time in the digestive system, insoluble fibre reduces the risk of gastrointestinal issues such as diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.

  3. Promotes Gut Cleansing: The rough texture of insoluble fibre acts like a natural brush, helping to cleanse the colon by removing waste and toxins.




How to choose based on your symptoms


1. Diarrhea: Soluble fibre can help manage diarrhea by absorbing excess water in the intestines, forming a more solid stool. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, may exacerbate diarrhea in some individuals, so it is essential to consume it in moderation during this condition.


2. Constipation: Insoluble fibre is particularly beneficial for individuals suffering from constipation, as it adds bulk to the stool and promotes regular bowel movements. Soluble fibre can also help by softening the stool, making it easier to pass. So, really we can say that in the case of constipation, we should use a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre.

Pro tip: Apples are a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre.


3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Soluble fibre is generally well-tolerated in individuals with IBS, as it doesn't contribute to excessive gas and bloating. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, may trigger symptoms in some IBS patients and should be consumed with caution.


Conclusion


Both soluble and insoluble fibre are essential for supporting gut health and overall well-being. Soluble fibre promotes a healthy gut microbiome, helps regulate cholesterol levels, and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Insoluble fibre aids in digestive regularity, prevents constipation, and cleanses the colon. Understanding the differences between these two types of fibre allows us to tailor our diets to alleviate specific digestive symptoms and maintain a healthy gut. Incorporating a variety of fibre-rich foods into our daily meals ensures a balanced intake of both soluble and insoluble fibre, contributing to improved digestion and overall gastrointestinal health.


Now for the food sources

Soluble fibre and insoluble fibre can be found in a variety of food sources. Here are some examples:


Soluble Fibre:

  • Oats

  • Beans

  • Apples

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Broccoli

  • Pears

  • Figs

  • Nectarines

  • Apricots

  • Flaxseeds

  • Carrots

  • Barley

  • Psyllium

Insoluble Fibre:

  • Nuts - peanuts, almonds, walnuts

  • Seeds - pumpkin, chia and sesame

  • Grains - brown rice, burghal, oat bran, rice bran, buckwheat, quinoa

  • Legumes - lentils, beans, corn, chickpeas

  • Fruit -grapes, kiwi, strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries, pineapple, prunes, blueberries, raisins

  • Vegetables: corn, eggplant, green beans, broccoli, spinach, kale,

It's important to note that many plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, so incorporating a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts into your diet can provide a good balance of both types of fibre.


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