Fiber and Its Benefits: Do You Have the Guts to Be Healthy?

Health Professional

Sometimes it takes only small changes to benefit several areas of your life, from weight loss to a stronger immune system -- and even reducing time spent in the bathroom.

I asked registered dietitian nutritionist Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, for her favorite and easiest digestive health tips. Stoler is the author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes. She also promotes the use of galactomannan soluble fiber, such as Sunfiber (a prebiotic supplement).

Lisa Nelson, RD: Why are we seeing so many TV commercials aimed at people suffering from digestive issues?** Dr. Felicia Stoler:** Because millions of Americans don’t have healthy guts. That can affect your overall health as well as your ability to get out and enjoy your life. No one likes spending extra time in the bathroom, or worrying about embarrassing accidents.

LN: Is there one small dietary change that people can make to improve typical digestive issues?

FS: Adding a daily scoop or capsule of galactomannan fiber to your diet may sound boring, but it could have a huge impact on your life. It may even help you lose weight. Making this change is super easy.

LN: What is the connection between fiber and digestive health?

FS: About 80 percent of your immune system activity happens in your gut. When your gut is out of whack and your body lacks fiber, your healthy bacteria can become imbalanced. Your digestive processes suffer. Your immune system and overall health may break down. You may have gas and bloating, as well as occasional constipation or diarrhea. As your system struggles to push out waste, you may feel lethargic. For the more than 15 million Americans diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, these symptoms are all too familiar.

LN: What other dietary habits may interfere with having a healthy gut?

FS: The issue gets more complicated when you’re on the go and don’t have time for freshly cooked meals. People who avoid gluten also tend to have trouble getting sufficient fiber because gluten-free staples such as bread and pasta are typically very low in this important nutrient.

LN: How does fiber improve weight loss?

FS: Research shows that a gluten-free galactomannan fiber helps to normalize bowel movements. It also helps keep you satisfied after a meal, reducing your urge to snack.

LN: What do you say to people who avoid fiber supplements because they taste funny, get gloppy when they try to mix them in water, or seem to cause even more gas and discomfort?

FS: I tell them to just remember [products such as] Sunfiber. It’s much easier to pronounce than galactomannan, and the powdered version can be easily added to virtually any food or beverage without changing its taste, aroma or texture. This is an ideal solution for those who want to add more fiber to their diets without experiencing any additional gas or bloating. Sunfiber is also a prebiotic, which means it helps to nourish your beneficial gut bacteria.

LN: So supplementing your fiber intake really can have a big impact on your life?

FS: Absolutely! You’ll spend less time behind the bathroom door, and more time participating in life. This one simple change may help you lose weight, support your immune system and help to normalize your bowel movements. You may even start to feel more energetic.

Lisa Nelson is a registered dietitian since 1999. She provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and on Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.