The Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Last updated: June 2023
We have all heard of fiber and are familiar with what it does. To formally define it, fiber is the part of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans) that the body can't break down. It passes through the body undigested, keeping your digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body.
Should you eat fiber with Crohn's or UC?
For those of us living with Crohn's, fiber can also be defined as a "nightmare." The last thing we want to put into our bodies when we are flaring is something that we cannot break down and that actually speeds up the rate at which we are using the bathroom.
But, did you know that fiber can actually help us when we have diarrhea by bulking up our stools. And, if you are someone who experiences constipation during Crohn's flares, adding fiber to your diet may be the best way to relieve it.
The 2 types of fiber
There are 2 types of fiber, each with its own unique health properties. As patients, it is important to know the difference and understand how they benefit the body.
What is soluble fiber?
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. When it dissolves, soluble fiber creates a gel-like substance thus bulking up your stools should you have diarrhea. As many Crohn's patients know, keeping your bowels regular without frequent diarrhea is the dream, and food that contains soluble fiber may be your ticket to get you there.
Sources of soluble fiber include:
- Black beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Flax seeds
What is insoluble fiber?
Insoluble fiber may be what comes to mind when you think of "fiber." It is an indigestible material that does not dissolve in water and helps stools move more quickly through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is important in preventing constipation, which is also a common symptom for Crohn's disease patients.
Sources of insoluble fiber include:
- Green beans
- Whole wheat flour
- Wheat bran
Keeping our GI tracts healthy with fiber
Both soluble and insoluble fiber play important roles in keeping our GI tracts healthy and happy and can offer other health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, thus making it an essential part of a well-balanced diet.
However, it is also important to point out that not all Crohn's patients can tolerate the aforementioned foods. And, it is wise to skip both soluble and insoluble fiber when experiencing a flare. Be sure to consult with your doctor before diving into these fibrous foods to make sure that your body can tolerate them without exasperating your symptoms.
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