Fibre is an important part of a healthy and balanced diet and has been found to lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Government guidelines published in July 2015 recommend the daily intake to be 30g a day, as most adults are only eating an average of 18g a day. Someone who is following a typical Western diet which is predominantly processed, refined food that is high in fat will really struggle to get their daily fibre intake.
Unfortunately, this typical Western diet now means one that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugars, calorie dense and low in vitamins and minerals, with low intake of fruits, grains and cereals, and therefore low in fibre.
So how can you tell if you have a fibre deficiency? Matt Perkins, senior wellbeing manager and qualified nutritionist for the Kellogg’s Happy Guts range, outlines three symptoms to watch out for when you go to the toilet.
He said: “The most common side-effects of a diet lacking in fibre are the least glamorous.
“Symptoms such as sluggish bowels, constipation, or runny stools can all mean you’re not getting quite enough fibre in your diet.”
Three symptoms when you go to the toilet:
- Sluggish bowels – pain when you’re passing stools
- Runny stools
There are five more side-effects Matt reveals not getting enough fibre.
1. A lot of people mistakingly diagnose themselves with IBS. But Matt said:”They may actually be experiencing sluggish bowels as a result of low fibre.”
2. A lot of people aren’t aware that 90 per cent of your serotonin is produced in the gut.
Matt said: “Studies are showing that without a healthy gut, our mood can be negatively affected over time.”
3. A chronic lack of fibre in the diet may over time affect your health and wellbeing.
Matt explained: “Emerging science is showing us that a lack of fibre impacts your gut microbiome, meaning you have fewer healthy bacterial strains, compared to someone who is following a plant based, high fibre diet.”
4. Emerging scientific research is discovering how an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria in the gut (known as “gut dysbiosis”) over time can affect not only your gut health, but also a range of other chronic health conditions.
Matt said: “These can range from inflammatory conditions like IBD (Inflammatory Bowel disease), and arthritis to metabolic conditions like obesity and diabetes.”
5. A poor diet high in processed foods and low in fibre can over time lead to a growth of bad bacteria outnumbering the good bacteria in the gut.
Matt advised: “This can make the gut wall become more ‘leaky’, (known.as the leaky gut syndrome or hypothesis). This means that pathogens and other toxins can leak through the gut wall into the blood stream.
“If this happens then over time, this can cause inflammation which has a negative impact on your health, and can lead to longer term issues such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
To avoid a fibre deficiency you should consider eating the following foods:
Gram for gram, grains are more fibre dense than other fibre sources. This is why, without cereals it’s very difficult to achieve your daily fibre recommendation of 30g.
The Mediterranean diet is seen as one of the most gut healthy diets in the world. It’s a diverse diet rich in grains, fruit and vegetables, all of which are high in fibre, as well as being high in olive oil, a gut friendly food, omega-3’s and polyphenols which have been shown to stimulate the growth of gut-friendly bacteria.
Wholegrain breakfast cereals, whole wheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye as well as beans, nuts and legumes, can also help you hit that all important 30g.
Dr Ranj also recommended to Express.co.uk what foods to eat to avoid a fibre deficiency.