Earlier in the year I wrote a blog post containing fibre that you may have read (if not, read this blog post). Today we are talking about fibre in a different way. Fibre has tons and tons of health benefits to it- but why is it specifically beneficial to women?
Fibre comes in handy in all stages of a woman's life- from childhood to adolescence, to hormonal balancing, fertility, pregnancy, post-natal health, and menopause.
So first of all, what is fibre, an how much do we need?
There is essentially two types of fibre: insoluble and soluble fibre. These two fibres do different jobs for the body, but we need a combination of both for our systems to work properly. The daily requirement for women in Canada is 25g of fibre per day- but can be recommended to take up to 45g per day. The average woman only consumes 12g of fibre per day- less than half of the required amount!
We need to get the "gross" part out of the way before I can explain the specific benefits fibre has on women's health:
Soluble fibre dissolves in water, but in the body it forms a gel-like substance to increase water in the stool and make things slippery. Soluble water binds to toxins and rids the body of excess blood cholesterol and sugars. Soluble fibre also encourages beneficial bacteria in the lower gut to boost our gut flora for overall health, but especially our digestion.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water- if you take an insoluble fibre supplement (like psyllium husk) and mix it with water, it will turn gelatinous immediately- the longer you let it sit in the water, the more it soaks up the water, the more thick it becomes. Insoluble fibre does the same thing in our bodies- it bulks up through our digestive tract, scooping up everything in it's way to flush it out. It sweeps the colon, getting in through the creases, making sure no bacteria, hormones, or toxins are left behind. Where soluble fibre is good for constipation by letting things move more quickly through the body, insoluble fibre is good for diarrhea for bulking up the stool.
Fibre for Children
Many children have issues going to the bathroom- they tend to force themselves to resist the urge. By increasing fibre and water intake (their age +5= g of daily fibre) will prevent them from being able to hold that urge, without giving them diarrhea. Fibre also fills children up, lessening the cravings for sugar- every parents dream!
Fibre in Adolescents
Fibre helps excrete excess estrogen from the body (more on that below), with young women starting puberty, it has been found to delay early menarche (first period)- early menarche would be between the ages of 6-7 opposed to ages 8-14. Fibre is also very important for skin health- it is a detoxification system, pulling excess toxins and estrogen's out, thus fighting acne.
Fibre for Hormones
As mentioned above, fibre pulls excess estrogen from the body. When we lack the proper amount of fibre, estrogen continues to be recycled through the blood- but your body does not stop making estrogen just because there are leftovers still lingering- this causes estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance can include symptoms of acne, depression, fatigue, irritabiility, fluid retention, loss of sex drive, period problems (irregular, long, short, heavy), hot flashes, weight gain- and is associated with estrogen-dominant conditions like uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breats, ovarian cysts/PCOS, PMS, and endometriosis.
Women who have fewer than 3 bowel movements per week experience more problems with PMS than women who have at least 1 bowel movement per day.
Women have also been shown to excrete 2-3 times more estrogen through bowel movements who have a high fibre diet.
Women with endometriosis may benefit from a high fibre diet to rid excess estrogen's from the body. Fibre also reduces inflammation in the body.
Women with PCOS may benefit from a high fibre diet as fibre controls blood sugar levels in the body.
Fibre and Menopause
When a woman enters menopause, cholesterol levels increase. As we age, blood sugar becomes harder to control as well. Fibre can help lower cholesterol levels and balance blood sugar! As we age, it may become harder for us to control our weight- more on that below.
Additional Benefits of Fibre
Weight management- Fibre expands in the stomach, making you feel full for longer while slowing the absorption of sugars. Fibre also curbs cravings and increases transit time so that we don't store excess fat!
Sexual health- Women who experience chronic constipation may experience painful sex. Penetration is painful due to the pressure on your rectum.
Gut health- As breifly mentioned earlier, fibre is a prebiotic, meaning it is food for probiotics- the beneficial bacteria in the body. By giving our beneficial bacteria food, it will multiple, helping to fight off bad bacteria's, and keeping our digestive systems clean, helping us absorb nutrients from foods, and preventing gut problems in the future.
Acne- Fibre is a detoxification system- by pulling out excess toxins, bacteria, and estrogens, it promotes skin health.
Pregnancy- During pregnancy, the woman's organs get shifted around to fit baby. This makes it more difficult for you to have a proper, health bowel movement. Since fibre makes things slippery and speeds up transit time, it can be beneficial to pregnancy related constipation.
Post-natal- The first few days are always the hardest- on your downstairs I mean. While parts of your body are extremely sensitive, it only makes it harder to have a bowel movement. Fibre helps soften up stool for an easier exit. Fibre is also slow-releasing energy making you feel full for longer while keeping your energy up (as much as possible).
Women should strive for a minimum of 25g of fibre every single day. It is beneficial for all aspects of a woman's (and man's) life. You should be having 1-3 bowel movements per day to rid your body of toxins, bacteria, and excess estrogen that make us feel less than fabulous. With increasing fibre, make sure you are increasing your water to half your body weight in lbs (100lbs= 50z of water daily).
Below are some examples of high fibre foods:
(PS- FIBRE is the Canadian spelling, FIBER is the American spelling)
In addition to these foods mentioned above, there are plenty of supplements you can choose from as well if you feel you need extra help. Feel free to contact me for a consultation.