There's so much information out there about fiber, but the general consensus is it's great for you if you tolerate it well.
And this confuses people because, what does 'tolerate' really mean?
Generally speaking, well-tolerating a food means it doesn't change your gut, mood, bowels, sleep, energy or any symptom in a negative way. You feel the same as you usually do or even better!
Fiber can have great benefits for your:
- bowel movements
- gut microbiome
- inflammation levels
- blood sugar
- cholesterol levels
- weight homeostasis
But what's not so well known is the type of fiber that is super beneficial for detoxification. It can quite literally act as a 'drain' on your liver.
The Power of Soluble Fiber
You may already know that there are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber turns into a gel-like substance in your digestive tract whereas insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool.
Most fiber-rich foods contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. However, there are a few foods that are predominately soluble fiber. These being:
- beans/legumes (by far the highest food-accessible source)
- some whole grains (especially oat bran and barley)
Soluble fiber has the unique ability to act like that of a sponge. It absorbs bile (and the toxins within the bile) that are released into your small intestines when you eat a meal. The soluble fiber is able to soak up and trap more toxins than other kinds of food matter for removal from the body in your stool. This is due to soluble fiber's ability to turn into a gel-like substance.
Most people don't know that toxin-containing bile is released into the first part of your small intestines, the duodenum. Then at the end of your small intestines (called the ileum) it is reabsorbed and recycled, with only approximately 5% naturally making it's way out of your body in your stool. That means 95% of your bile acids are absorbed and recycled at the end of your small intestines in a process called enterohepatic circulation. So if you don't have enough soluble fiber to absorb and carry toxins out of the body, they can recirculate, building up over time.
In short, soluble fiber short-circuits enterohepatic circulation and forces more bile and toxins to make their way into your stool. This helps to alleviate an overworked and sluggish liver.
This is why eating processed food and the standard American diet can be harmful and toxic decade after decade, it just doesn't provide enough support in the way of soluble fiber to help 'drain' your liver on a regular basis. A low fiber diet can lead to a build-up of toxins and a decrease in overall health.
The Caution of Soluble Fiber
Getting more soluble fiber in your diet can do really great things for your gut-liver axis. But some people just aren't ready for it yet. It's not uncommon for people to not tolerate high soluble fiber foods at all. This is especially true for those who are sick and dealing with a lot of chronic health symptoms. They might not be 'healthy enough' yet for soluble fiber in their diet and might do better on a low-fiber diet or foods higher in insoluble fiber. After you work on other parts of your diet (minerals, nutrient excess, protein deficiency) you may be better able to tolerate different kinds of fiber with time.
Always look out for the most common signs of not tolerating soluble fiber. They include bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, edema/puffiness, fatigue and an increase in symptoms of any kind. These are all signs you're pushing your detoxification too hard and should slow things down by reducing the quantity of soluble fiber in your diet. Never ignore what your body is trying to tell you, as it will lead to more health imbalances in the long run.
Add Soluble Fiber In Gradually If it Works For You
In summary, soluble fiber can help support liver function by binding to toxins and bile acids, ensuring that they are excreted from the body. This process can reduce the workload on the liver, allowing it to function more efficiently. A healthy liver means better overall health (especially gut, metabolic and circulatory) and a lower risk of diseases such as liver cancer, cirrhosis, and hepatitis. Always add soluble fiber into your diet gradually and see how your body responds before slowly increasing it.