The use of fiber in a well-balanced diet is essential to the well-being of the colon. Waste from the body is obviously disposed of through the colon. A healthy colon will function by getting rid of waste in a timely manner, not allowing it to “build-up” within itself. Fiber (the parts of fruit, vegetables, grains, etc. that cannot be digested – i.e. the skin) assist the colon in two ways. First, insoluble fiber has great water retention properties, making it a natural laxative. Because the colon can absorb large amounts of water, this type of fiber aids in the formation of waste and in the speed in which it is processed through the body. The second type of fiber, called soluble, forms almost a “gel” as it is broken down in the colon by bacteria. That gel helps to aid in the elimination of wastes, as well as keeping the cells walls of the colon in good working order.
Proper and timely elimination from the colon is important for many reasons. Toxins within the colon are absorbed by the blood and carried to the liver to be detoxified. Too many toxins can overload the liver and cause many problems from fatigue to skin problems. In addition, a colon that doesn’t have enough fiber can lead to problems with constipation and irregularity, not to mention the more serious issue of increasing the potential for cancer-causing agents to remain in the body for long periods of time.
Although it is generally accepted that fiber is crucial to a healthy colon, Americans rarely eat enough recommended fiber on a daily basis, usually less than 10 grams per day. The USDA, American Cancer Society and the United States Department of Agriculture suggest at least 20 to 45 grams per day for an adult. The medical journal, the Lancet, lists some studies done correlating the importance of fiber in the diet with a healthy colon.
In a European study, done in 10 countries with over half a million people (over an average of 4+ years), found that those who averaged more fiber (around 35 grams daily) had less a chance of getting colon cancer (25% lower risk) than those who consumed an average of about 15 grams of fiber per day. The study, led by Sheila Bingham, PhD, of the UK Medical Research Council, also determined that those in the lower fiber group could reduce their risk of colon cancer by up to 40% by increasing their fiber intake another 50%. Another study was conducted through the lead of Ulrike Peters, PhD with his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute in the US. Their study examined over 34,000 people and found that those who ate the most fiber within their diets (36+ grams per day) had a lower incidence of colon polyps (27% lower risk) than those who at the least fiber (12 grams per day).
One theory in relationship to a high-fiber, low-cancer risk follows the thought of reducing the time of potential toxin causing agents within the colon. The longer the colon walls are in contact with these toxins, the greater the risk of the cells becoming cancerous. Because the fiber acts as a broom, the more fiber within the diet, the quicker waste is “swept” from the body.
Whatever the exact connection, it is wise to see fiber as a integral part of the diet in helping to keep the colon, and subsequently the rest of the body, in good working order.