Everyone knows fiber is important, but do you know why?
You’ve probably heard that fiber is a good way to maintain regular bowel movements. Maybe you’ve even heard about its possible role in preventing colon cancer or that fiber is beneficial for immunity. You may not know that fiber can balance your hormones too!
Fiber moves our digestion along at a healthy pace, allowing us to properly eliminate waste products -including excess hormones- rather than reabsorbing them. It is beneficial to properly eliminate both naturally produced hormones and prescription hormones, such as those used for menopause or medical transition.
PMS, mood swings, headaches, acne, heavy menstrual bleeding, spotting between periods, fibroids, endometriosis, hot flashes, breast, thyroid, and prostate cancers can all be caused by an imbalance in hormones.
If you’re not having (at least) daily bowel movements, you’re not eliminating excess hormones as often as you should be and are more likely to suffer from these conditions.
Cisgender “women are more likely affected by constipation by threefold compared with men. The female colon is longer and has more twists and turns, like a rollercoaster… We’re more likely to overuse laxatives, leading to weaker bowel muscles. We’re more likely to have painful hemorrhoids, which occur in 40 percent of pregnancies, and to restrain from pooping in public places.” Sara Gottfried MD.
How does it work?
Every time we eat, our liver produces bile, a substance full of digestive enzymes and other ingredients that help us break down fats and other nutrients into smaller particles. Some of these smaller particles are toxins (from medications, preservatives, etc) and metabolic waste products (including excess hormones like estrogen) which are then soaked up into the bile. When you have adequate fiber in your diet, this toxin-filled bile binds to fiber and together they are excreted from the body through a bowel movement, taking those toxins and waste products with it.
If you don’t have adequate fiber, bile and the associated waste products have nothing to bind to, and they don’t move through your intestines as quickly. This allows those toxins and excess hormones to be reabsorbed into the blood stream and repeatedly recirculated through your system.
That’s not all! Fiber also:
- Improves immunity
- Reduces acne, psoriasis, and eczema
- Prevent and heal leaky gut syndrome
- Ease symptoms of many autoimmune conditions
- Regulate blood sugar and improve weight loss
- Resolve gallstones
- Reduce cholesterol
- Improve heart health and reduce chance of heart attack
- Reduces inflammation of the gut/GI tract
What does this mean for our hormones?
If you don’t eliminate bile fast enough, the estrogen it holds is reabsorbed and your blood estrogen levels rise. “Those estrogens can stimulate the growth of abnormal cells” including cancer cells (Wisconsin-based nutritionist Karen Hurd), as well as increase the liklihood of endometriosis, PMS, and many other issues. The same holds true for other hormones in our bloodstream and the accumulation of these hormones can cause many different hormone imbalances.
How can I prevent this cycle and balance my hormones?
“A special kind of dietary fiber called lignin, present in flax seeds, beans and lentils, binds to estrogen in the digestive tract to ensure it is eliminated and not reabsorbed into our system. Dietary fiber also feeds the beneficial probiotic bacteria living in our gut and keeps them healthy. These probiotic bacteria are important because they can also prevent estrogen being reabsorbed from our colon back into circulation” (Dr. Amanda Tracy, ND).
Are you on board yet? Great! Let’s get started.
Tips for taking fiber:
- When introducing fiber to your diet, it is best to increase it slowly to reduce gas and bloating that can accompany eating too much fiber.
- Drink plenty of water. Water and fiber work together to improve bowel function and balance hormones.
- Do not take calcium, magnesium or a multivitamin with a high fiber meal (over 10 grams). The fiber may bind to these minerals and reduce their absorption.
- Eat fiber regularly throughout the day, not just at one meal.
Nerd out about fiber:
“There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is found in the cell walls of plants and cannot be dissolved in water. This is beneficial as it adds bulk to stools by binding with water and acting as a stool softener to assist in moving it out of the digestive tract. Soluble fiber on the other hand dissolves in water and helps to slow the passage of food through the digestive tract, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce cholesterol. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are essential to a good diet” Brandy Augustine PhD. Soluble fiber also protects the intestinal barrier and contributes to a healthy microbiome.
The following foods contain soluble fiber (to support a healthy microbiome and steady blood sugar levels):
- Oatmeal and oat bran
- Rice bran
- Oranges and other citrus
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
The following foods contain insoluble fiber (to promote regular bowel movements and secretion of hormones and toxins):
- Dark leafy greens
- Whole grains
- Dried fruit
- Broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower
- Turnips, beets, carrots
- Apple skin
BONUS: The following contain prebiotic fiber (to support a healthy gut microbiome):
- Wheat, barley,
- Onions, garlic
All information in this blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or changing or discontinuing your medications.
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