10 simple ways to improve your fibre intake

If I gave you five seconds to think of fibre's benefits, what would be the first thing that comes to your mind? For some, it would be constipation relief, for others it may be something a bit more sinister, but nine times out of 10 most people associate an increase of fibre intake with better bowel motility and yes, the legendary 'smooth move'.

However, you may be surprised to know that the wonders of fibre do not stop there! And there are various ways to increase your fibre intake without having to reach for an extra bowl of All-Bran.

Not only can fibre reduce constipation, but it can also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (to name a few).  

Yet with all these benefits, most individuals are not consuming enough fibre. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends an average intake of 30g per day in the UK [1]. But most people tend to fall far short of this. On average, women in the UK tend to be consuming 17.2g of fibre per day and men 20.1g per day. So, what is going wrong?

One of the main issues is our 'westernised' diets – a diet high in refined carbohydrates (processed foods) and low in fruit and vegetables (hence deficient in fibre). As fibre is exclusively found in plants, it's not surprising that countries that consume the least amount of processed foods and meat have the highest intake of dietary fibre.

Low-fibre diets are associated with heart and stroke diseases, as well as digestive disorders, colorectal, lung and gastric cancers [2]. 

A recent review which examined COVID-19 symptom severity and poor gut health [3] also touched upon the benefits of increasing adequate fibre intake to improve the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Beneficial gut bacteria species help modulate the immune system, and alterations in the gut are usually associated with poor gut health.

So what can you do to improve fibre intake?  

Unfortunately, the typical western diet tends to have a pro-inflammatory impact and insufficient amounts of fibre starve beneficial bacteria in the gut. That's why you need to increase your dietary intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds to support a diverse microflora and reduce the inflammatory response.

Some simple ways to increase your fibre and support a healthy gut microbiome include: 

1. Replace refined grains with whole grains to ensure that the fibre-rich hull remains intact. Some wholegrain examples include:

  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • millet
  • oatmeal
  • bulgar wheat
  • buckwheat
  • barley

2. Increase prebiotic foods to help feed the beneficial bacteria. For example, incorporating soybeans, oats, and whole grains. Prebiotic foods help to shape the composition of the gut microbiota [4]. Also, fermentable fibres, such as beta-glucan in oats have other health benefits, including maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and moderating blood glucose [5]. 

3. Increase your intake of inulin sources of food in the diet (such as Jerusalem artichokes). [6]

4. Reduce the consumption of refined sugars and saturated fat. Disease promoting gut microbes feed on these foods and cause inflammation. [7]

Artichokes on table with cookbook5. Exercise daily in nature. Moderate exercise has been associated with better gut microbiome health, and well-being. [8]

6. Eat seven portions of vegetables in a variety of colours per day (one portion equals 80g p/d). Increasing your vegetable intake will improve your body's microbiota composition, [9] and the extra fibre helps to modulate and support the symbiotic microbial communities that colonise the digestive tract 

7. Increase intake of plant proteins (such as lentils, beans, and pulses). One cup of cooked lentils can provide around 40% of your daily fibre needs). Also, epidemiological studies suggest that replacing several meat-based meals a week with legumes can positively impact your longevity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight management, potentially via favourable effects on the gut microbiome [10].

8. Increase healthy fat intake (such as half an avocado p/d which contains approximately 5-7g fibre). [11] 

9. Have adequate sleep each night. A recent study found that sleep deprivation can impact gut microbiome diversity.[12]

10. Ditch the crisps for nuts and seeds. Not only are they a good source of fibre but are good sources of other vitamins such as vitamin E.

These simple changes can increase your fibre, vitamin, and mineral status while also improving your microbiota composition.

Although further evidence is required to establish the emerging link between poor gut health and COVID-19 severity, what remains to be true is that increasing your dietary fibre intake can have a significant impact on your gut health [13].

If you are interested in learning more ways in which you can improve your health, feel free to book a free 15-minute discovery call with me so that we can assess your concerns.

To find out more about the services at Nature’s Physician Nutrition Clinic and Wellness retreat go to our profile page or subscribe to receive our free ‘Fibre meal plan’ e-book. 


References 
[1] https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/dietary-fibre.html?start=1

[2] Shear-induced unfolding triggers adhesion of von Willebrand factor fibers. Schneider SW, Nuschele S, Wixforth A, Gorzelanny C, Alexander-Katz A, Netz RR, Schneider MF Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May 8; 104(19):7899-903. Review Viscous and nonviscous fibres, nonabsorbable and low glycaemic index carbohydrates, blood lipids and coronary heart disease. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Axelsen M, Augustin LS, Vuksan V. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2000 Feb; 11(1):49-56. 

[3] https://mbio.asm.org/content/12/1/e03022-20

[4] Danneskiold-Samsøe NB, Dias de Freitas Queiroz Barros H, Santos R, Bicas JL, Cazarin CBB, Madsen L, Kristiansen K, Pastore GM, Brix S, Maróstica Júnior MR. Interplay between food and gut microbiota in health and disease. Food Res Int. 2019 Jan;115:23-31. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.07.043. Epub 2018 Jul 30. PMID: 30599936.

[5] https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/dietary-fibre.html?start=1

[6] Danneskiold-Samsøe NB, Dias de Freitas Queiroz Barros H, Santos R, Bicas JL, Cazarin CBB, Madsen L, Kristiansen K, Pastore GM, Brix S, Maróstica Júnior MR. Interplay between food and gut microbiota in health and disease. Food Res Int. 2019 Jan;115:23-31. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.07.043. Epub 2018 Jul 30. PMID: 30599936.

[7] Bancil AS, Sandall AM, Rossi M, Chassaing B, Lindsay JO, Whelan K. Food additive emulsifiers and their impact on gut microbiome, permeability and inflammation: mechanistic insights in inflammatory bowel disease. J Crohns Colitis. 2020 Dec 18:jjaa254. DOI: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjaa254. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33336247.   Zhang M, Yang XJ. Effects of a high-fat diet on intestinal microbiota and gastrointestinal diseases. World J Gastroenterol. 2

[8] White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3

[9] prebiotics are strong drivers which help shape the composition of the gut microbiota[9]

[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26965756/

[11] De Luca F, Shoenfeld Y. The microbiome in autoimmune diseases. Clin Exp Immunol. 2019;195(1):74-85. doi:10.1111/CEI.13158

[12] Smith RP, Easson C, Lyle SM, et al. Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLoS One. 2019;14(10):e0222394. Published 2019 Oct 7. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0222394

[13] Makki K, Deehan EC, Walter J, Bäckhed F. The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease. Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Jun 13;23(6):705-715. DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.05.012. PMID: 29902436.

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Milton Keynes MK10 & Hemel Hempstead HP1

Written by Jeneve Clarke

Milton Keynes MK10 & Hemel Hempstead HP1

Jeneve Clarke LLB (Hons), LPC, GCILEx, DipNT CNM, MBANT, mCNHC is the founder of Nature’s Physician Nutrition clinic and wellness retreat. She’s a fully qualified Registered Nutritional Therapist, member of BANT and CNHC with a specialist interest in mental health, digestive disorders (IBS, SIBO) autoimmune conditions, and weight management.

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