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What is fibre? Soluble and insoluble fibre and more

Fibre is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. As well as helping to 'keep us regular', fibre has a role in preventing heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and managing weight.

High fibre foods help you feel full up for longer, which can be beneficial when trying to lose weight.

The NHS advises getting about 30g of fibre a day, but most people only eat less than this.

To get the best out of fibre, it is also important to drink enough fluid. The NHS suggests around 6-8 glasses of water a day.

Types of fibre

Fibre comes from plants, fruit and vegetables, and some people take extra fibre in the form of supplements.

There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. The difference is soluble fibre is digested by the body, insoluble fibre isn't.

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre helps prevent constipation by making the stool - the word doctors use for poo - softer.

Good food sources of fibre include fruit, oats, barley and rye, root vegetables, including carrots and potatoes and golden linseeds.

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre passes through the body without being broken down. On the face of it that doesn’t sound very useful, but it does help keep other food keep moving through the digestive system more easily and help in preventing constipation.

Too much fibre can affect the digestive system in the opposite way, causing diarrhoea.

Good sources of insoluble fibre in food include wholemeal bread, bran, cereals, and most nuts and seeds, except golden linseeds.

Fibre supplements

Fibre supplements used to treat constipation are also known as bulk-forming laxatives.

Like fibre from food, these supplements help the stool retain fluid and bulk so it is easier to go to the toilet.

Some people also use pysllium husk supplements to get the benefits of additional fibre for digestive health.

Seek medical advice before trying any new remedy, even ones which may be described as natural, as these may still affect existing medicines or conditions.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 07, 2017

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