The 101 on Fibre

28th February, 2024
The 101 on Fibres. Why fibre is so important.

The F-word we’re all talking about: FIBRE

It might not have the sexiest rep, but fibre is your BFF when it comes to making sure things run smoothly down there. 

Fibre brings a whole load of health benefits. And they go way beyond your gut too. Did you know this plant-based nutrient can even protect your heart? 

But most of us aren’t getting enough of the good stuff. Nowhere near enough in fact. Research shows as adults, we should be getting at least 30g of fibre every day – but most of us only hit about 20g. 

So what’s fibre all about? And how can you get more in your diet? Here are the fibre basics to help you stay savvy. 

What is Fibre?

Put simply, fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down by the body. Instead, it passes through the gut into the large intestine where our gut microbes ferment it. Fibre is found in plant foods like wholegrains, nuts, vegetables and fruits. 

There are actually various types of fibre. The two main types you’ll hear about are insoluble and soluble. 

What’s the difference? 
  1. Insoluble Fibre: helps food to move along the digestive system, to avoid that ‘blocked up’ feeling. It’s found in wholegrains, veg, potatoes with the skin on, nuts and seeds.  
  2. Soluble fibre: on the other hand, dissolves in water. It forms a gel in the gut to keep our stools soft and swerve constipation. Soluble fibre can be found in beans and pulses, as well as oats, fruit, carrots and potatoes. 
  3. Resistant starch: found in foods such as bananas, beans, grains and potatoes (especially potatoes which have been cooked and cooled), is also a form of fibre. It ferments in the large intestine and produces short-chain fatty acids, to help boost your gut health.


Why is fibre important for gut health?

If you want a healthy gut, fibre is a must. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. It helps you poo: Fibre helps to bulk up and soften your poo. And that means it’s easier to pass. So you’ve got a lower chance of constipation.
  2. Dealing with diarrhoea? If your poo is loose and watery, fibre can help. How? It helps to absorb water and can solidify your stool for more smooth sailing on the loo.
  3. It helps to look after your bowel health: Fibre could lower your risk of haemorrhoids (aka those swollen veins that feel like small lumps in your back passage). Studies also show a high-fibre diet can lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
  4. It’s linked with having a better mix of microbes: Eating more fibre can boost the diversity of your gut microbes. And having more diverse microbes is great news for your gut health – and for your overall health too.
Why else is fibre good for us?

Where do we even begin? Research has linked eating more fibre with having a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and even obesity. 

Can fibre cause bloating?

When we eat fibre, it’s like a party for our microbes. And when these microbes are feasting on high-fibre foods, they can produce extra gas. This can happen a little more when you suddenly up your fibre intake. Over time, the colon gradually adapts to this increase.   

Top Tummy Tip: Slow and steady wins. Increase your fibre slowly to help minimise bloating and allow your gut to adapt to the rise in roughage!

How much fibre is too much fibre?

Going over the recommended 30g a day could be a great idea. The benefits don’t stop there. 

It’s rare to go overboard. But if you’re filling up on loads of fibre and you’re getting gut symptoms like extreme gas, cramping and bloating, try sticking to less than 70g a day. 

Top Tummy Tip: Make sure you increase your water intake alongside your fibre intake. Staying hydrated is super important for fibre to do its job – and it’ll help make your poo easier to pass.

Fibre and IBS 

Having a healthy fibre intake can help to manage IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) symptoms too.  

But while some types of fibre can be a great thing for IBS, others could make those IBS symptoms worse. 

So which should you try?

A type we call “moderately fermentable soluble dietary fibre” can be helpful for IBS. This includes psyllium husk – a type of milled seed – which you can buy online or at health food stores. Try sprinkling some into smoothies or porridge for a healthy dose of fibre. Just start small and build up gradually. 

“Readily fermentable fibres” on the other hand  are quickly broken down by gut bacteria and could trigger tummy trouble for people with IBS. This could mean more gas and bloating. Look out for words such as  ‘inulin fibre’ and ‘pectin’. You might find these on manufactured foods labelled as ‘high fibre’. 

Take-home message:

Ultimately, eating plenty of fibre is super important for your tummy – as well as bringing a bunch of other health benefits. From lowering your cholesterol to improving blood sugar. But, as with anything, we probably don’t want to overdo it. If you’re a big fan of fibre but you’re getting symptoms, take a look at the amount you’re having or chat to an expert who can help. 

5 facts about fibre

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