Your body requires fiber for good digestion. At a minimum, women need 25 grams daily until age 50. The need then drops to 21 daily grams of fiber, the American Academy of Family Physicians advises. You can suffer bad effects if you fail to ingest enough fiber, because your digestive system cannot function properly without sufficient roughage.
The colon is the last part of your digestive system before stool moves into the rectum, waiting for discharge through the anus. Good bacteria live throughout your intestines, including the colon, while also aiding your digestion. The bacteria need nutrients. Although fiber is not digested to nourish your body, some of it serves as food for the useful microorganisms, according to Dr. Frank Jackson of Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology. Soluble fiber, which becomes a gel when it absorbs water, is the best food source for the bacteria, because it ferments in the colon. Some of the bacteria die if they don't get enough fiber as a food source, impeding digestion.
Fiber helps you avoid constipation, a condition in which your bowels move less than three times weekly. Insoluble fiber goes through your intestines with little change. This roughage moves food along with it, and the fiber blends into your stool, adding moisture and volume that makes it easier to pass without straining. Your body produces small, hard, dry stool chunks without adequate fiber. This stool is hard to pass, causing constipation and sometimes hemorrhoids if you strain too much.
Your body is more prone to diverticular disease if there's too little fiber in your diet. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are two diseases that affect your colon. Diverticulosis is often symptomless, but it may progress into diverticulitis, which gives you constipation, cramps and bloating. You may eventually develop fistulas, inflammation of your colon and bleeding. Sufficient fiber helps prevent these diseases from developing.
Your body produces more noxious-smelling gas if it does not have enough fiber. Gas production is normal and healthy, with most people producing enough to need passing at least 10 to 20 times per day, Dr. Jackson advises. The gas has a nasty, sulfur-like smell if your body does not get enough fiber. Eating sufficient bulk supports the bacteria that produce innocuous gas rather than organisms that produce hydrogen sulfide. The fiber helps keep your flatulence from having a noticeable, unpleasant odor.
- Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology; High Fiber Diet; Frank Jackson
- FamilyDoctor.org; Fiber, How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet; December 2010
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Constipation; July 2007
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Hemorrhoids; November 2010
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; What I Need to Know About Diverticular Disease; June 2007
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.