Gut Issues

We share many experiences with the kings of old:
pastries, for instance, and home entertainment and
vacation trips to far-off lands. Ancient-day
common folk knew nothing of such things. Then
again, they weren\'t constipated... We are. Not all
of us, of course. But enough Canadians so that
some doctors call our a constipated society. And
even if you\'re not constipated, your present day
diet may be leading you to more serious
complaints like disorders of the large intestine or
colon. These, too, were afflictions of of the upper
classes of old. Why? Because in general the rich
refined their food, along with their lives, and so
stripped it of an odd but essential ingredient called
dietary fibre. Like its fellow carbohydrates, the
various types of dietary fibre are the product of
sunlight, water and carbon dioxide combining in
green plants. Most form part of plant cell walls.
But unlike the other carbohydrates, fibres do not
break down into sugars in the human digestive
system and then course through the blood stream
fueling muscles and nerves. Rather, when eaten
they tumble intact through the stomach and small
intestine and end up in the colon where billions of
bacterial feed on them - in turn producing intestinal
gas. No wonder, then, that dietary fibre has been
unwelcome in many of history\'s nicer
neighborhoods. Even 20th century doctors
reasoned that since the bulky material provided
not a single nutrient, it would only strain already
troubled guts. Accordingly, they recommended
low-fibre diets for patients suffering from
hemorrhoids and other colon disorders often
found in the West. But then, about 15 years ago,
the prescription was reversed as researchers
found that poor Africans, who eats lots of fibre,
rarely suffer from such complaints. Fibre, the
researchers learned, actually eases the bowel\'s
burden by mixing with water and other food
residues to create large, Soon, nutritionists came
to see the low-fibre diet of most North Americans
as a culprit in the onset of disorders ranging from
tooth decay to heart attacks. Increasing the
consumption of certain kinds of fibre, they found,
could slow the body\'s absorption of sugars to
which diabetics are sensitive, and of cholesterol,
which may lead to heart disease. Furthermore,
fibres fight obesity. They\'re filling, especially the
pectins in citrus fruit and the gums in some beans.
And they\'re mainly indigestible. So dieters eating
lots of fibre are likely to eat less of other, more
fattening foodstuffs. As for why populations on
high-fibre diets seem to experience fewer colon
cancers, no one knows for sure. In any case, there
is no doubt that fibre is nature\'s laxative, the
dietary key to regularity. Nutritionists therefore
advise you to stay away from foods containing
processed and refined ingredients such as
bleached flour and white sugar. Remember that
meats contain little fibre and that overcooked
vegetables and fried foods have lost much of
theirs. Nevertheless, fibre supplements are usually
unnecessary. Merely ensure that your diet is full of
fresh fruits and vegetables - and some of the most
fibrous foods such as bran cereals, whole wheat
breads, peas, beans and lentils - and you, too, can
eat like an old-time pauper.

Category: Science