in rural China, an average of 77 grams of fiber is eaten each day. In rural Africa, nearly 60–120 grams of fiber are eaten daily. Americans, with their Western diet, only consume, on average, between 15 and 18 grams of fiber per day—less than nearly half of the daily recommended amount of 25 and 35 grams for women and men, respectively. Unfortunately, these recommended daily amounts still fall extremely short of the 100 grams our Paleolithic ancestors consumed each day. Whether the fiber is soluble, insoluble, or resistant, the correlation between high fiber intake and lowered disease risk is indisputable.
The past few decades have seen increased scientific research focused on fiber’s effect on the human body. Unfortunately, the focus has not centered on fiber’s complex relationship with the body's bacterial environment—its microbiome. Fortunately, research is now being conducted with regard to fiber’s interaction with the gut’s 100 trillion cells—and its 1,000 different bacterial species. Studies now show that the gut’s microbiome influences human physiology, metabolism, pathogenic protection, nutrition and immune system modulation, and nutritional absorptive ability (of extreme importance to nutrient assimilation instead of nutrient excretion). Disruption to this bacterial environment has been linked to obesity, malnutrition, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, chronic depression and pain, autoimmune disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis, and celiac and Crohn’s diseases. Ultimately, human health is highly dependent upon the well-being and variety of the gut’s bacteria. Without it, the bacteria starve, leaving the gut incapable of effectively processing the nutrients extracted from the foods that are eaten.
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very few people outside of the scientific community are familiar with how the body breaks down fiber, and it’s not something widely published in popular media. The following is an overview of how fiber is processed within the gut. Let’s imagine you’ve just eaten a fiber-rich meal, like a serving of our pasta. Once the food reaches your large intestine, bacteria breaks down its fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs then activate receptors located on the surface of your intestinal cells, which then stimulate the release of hormones. These hormones are responsible for decreasing your appetite, causing you to stop eating. That’s the short version, of course. Now let’s say that you ate a low fiber meal. The bacteria in your gut now have less food to eat so they produce fewer appetite-suppressing hormones. You eat even more food, yet you get hungry sooner. It’s a vicious cycle, repeated as your body attempts to get the nutrients it needs to keep itself healthy and functioning properly. Consuming adequate amounts of fiber each day is vital to the body's overall well-being.
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