Fiber, what mom used to call roughage, can help detoxification. It acts as an "intestinal broom," sweeping out toxins as it winds its way through the digestive tract. It helps relieve constipation. Constipation can lead to a sense of bloating, as well as fatigue, achiness, and mental torpor, all possible signs of a toxic body. There are two types of fiber, insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is not water-soluble; that is, it does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive system largely unchanged. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to feces because it is not digested, and also because it absorbs water. This results in feces moving more rapidly through the colon, and the "sweeping" effect. Insoluble fiber may help protect against cancer of the colon. Insoluble fiber does this either because it dilutes cancer-causing bile acids, or because it moves feces out of the colon more quickly. The less time feces are in the digestive system, the less chance that the carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) the feces are transporting remain in the body.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is degraded by bacteria in the colon. Soluble fiber forms a bulky gel in the colon which regulates the flow of waste materials.

Psyllium, one type of soluble fiber, is used as an herbal detoxifier in many cleansing programs. Jacqueline Krohn, in her book Natural Detoxification comments that psyllium is "A bulking agent that helps eliminate toxins and xenobiotics [substances foreign to a biological system] by binding them in the feces so they are not absorbed back into the bloodstream."

Psyllium has been researched for its effect on both constipation and transit time. A report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (June 1995; 43:6) looks at how psyllium affects constipation in the elderly. A group of people 65 years of age and older were given 24 g of psyllium a day for one month. The psyllium decreased transit time from 53.9 hours to 30 hours. The researchers concluded that "Fiber supplementation appeared to benefit constipated older patients clinically, and it improved colonic transit time."

Constipation is often a symptom of a toxic body and it can lead to other health problems such as hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, and hiatal hernias.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Society (March 1988; 88), researchers looked at how psyllium and wheat bran affect transit time. Women were given 23 g of psyllium a day, and this supplementation did have an effect on transit time. Psyllium decreased transit time by about 11 hours. onger transit time has been linked to a number of health problems. An editorial in the British Medical Journal The Lancet states that "Many diseases and conditions are improved when transit time through the gastrointestinal tract is decreased." (October 20, 1990; 336:8721)

Psyllium has proven to have other health benefits. Recent reports continue to confirm the studies done in the late 1980s on psyllium's cholesterol-lowering effects. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1992; 56) notes that "Adding psyllium-enriched cereal to a prudent low-fat diet may enhance dietary management of hypercholesterolemia."

The research on psyllium and health has not been limited to adults. There is also active research being done on the effects of fiber on children. Recommendations for children's fiber intake now state that children between the ages of 2 and 19 should consume their age plus 5 g of fiber; thus, a 9-year-old would consume 14 g of fiber. A recommendation in Pediatrics (November 1995; 96:5) states that a safe range for dietary fiber is between age plus 5 g and age plus 10 g.

These recommendations were put in place in part because of the recognition that preventive health must start early. The same issue of Pediatrics notes that "The consumption of dietary fiber in childhood is associated with important health benefits, especially with respect to promoting normal laxation. Dietary fiber also may help reduce the future risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and adult-onset diabetes."

Another issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society looks at one of the worries of many older citizens, especially women: The possibility of psyllium interference with calcium digestion. (March 1995; 43:3) This study looked at 15 postmenopausal women. They consumed 219 mg of calcium at three meals, and 3.4 g of psyllium at the first meal, 3.4 g of "neutral" cellulose at the second meal, and no fiber at the third meal. The researchers concluded that psyllium makes little practical difference to the availability of co-ingested calcium.

In sum, fiber is one way to help your body detoxify and maintain a clean and healthy system.

This article is reproduced with the permission of AIM International
© 1997, 1998, 1999 by AIM International.

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