Okay, so coeliacs know that high levels of fibre in food is good for them. It can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and improve digestive health.
Gluten free food can be nutritionally poor and so nutrients and fibre are added to many gluten free staple foods such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereals. Over the last year, I’ve seen an increase in the levels of fibre that is being added and I do wonder whether this is becoming too much of a good thing for some of us?
I decided to look more into fibre and what I found has surprised me a bit.
High fibre diets aren’t necessarily right for everyone!
You might have thought high fibre was best but high levels of fibre, particularly insoluble fibre, can cause bloating and too loose stools or too frequent urges to go to the smallest room.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t tolerate high level of fibre and now believe that many intestinal disturbances I’ve had over the last year or so were actually due to high levels of fibre and not gluten contamination as I’d believed!
You might have heard of soluble and insoluble fibre and most foods which naturally contain fibre contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. My layman’s understanding of their effect on our bodies is as follows:-
Insoluble fibre isn’t digested, it pretty much goes straight through our intestinal tract. It’s action is to bulk up our stools and in general it speeds up progress which is helpful in combating constipation but can be too helpful!
The food groups that are high in insoluble fibre are typically what you might regard as breakfast cereals – so grains, perhaps nuts and seeds but also whole grains, many vegetables and their skins have high proportions of insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre is digested and counts in terms of calories. It dissolves in water and becomes a gel in the intestines which makes stools easier to pass and can slow down progress through the gut.
The food groups that are high in soluble fibre are typically fruits and root vegetables but specifically:- citrus fruits, apples and pears; beans and pulses; white rice and pasta; soy, quinoa, corn meal; root vegetables such as potatoes; winter squashes.
Additionally, eating soluble fibre before insoluble fibre can slows down the the transit speed of food through your gut, not to the degree of constipation but it can tame the sometimes too-fast speed produced by high levels of insoluble fibre.
What’s in your gluten-free staple foods?
Whilst many gluten free food providers provide the levels of fibre in their nutrition information, this isn’t split between soluble and insoluble. It’s not a statistical analysis but I decided to ask what this proportion is of a few suppliers for specific products:-
- Breakfast cereals – Juvela said their Fibre Flakes have around 90% insoluble fibre and 10% soluble fibre
- Bread – Glutafin said they don’t analyse fibre at this level but helpfully added that seeded loaves would have a higher proportion of insoluble fibre. Genius said they don’t test for this but their ingredients suggest that mostly their fibre is insoluble from psyllium husk.
Small changes I’m making which may be helpful
- Coffee is known to speed up progress through the gut particularly at breakfast time so coffee is now for afternoons. This hasn’t anything to do with caffeine btw.
- Chocolate, prunes, figs and curries have legendary effects as moving everything along the gut too which you may like to avoid or encourage!
- I’m moving to Glutafin Select fresh brown bread (now free of codex wheat) as it has a moderately high level of mostly soluble fibre at 7.4% and not the too high (in my view) level of 10% of Genius fresh brown bread from mostly insoluble psyllium husk.
- Have an orange before anything else at breakfast time
- Adding a small portion of beans or pulses daily to lunch or dinner
- Look up typical soluble and insoluble proportions in different foods:-
About me: I’m just a coeliac sufferer in the UK trying to find my way and asking questions.