Dietary fiber, or roughage, includes parts of plant foods that your body is unable to digest or absorb. The average adult consumes around 10 to 15 grams of fiber daily. The recommended amount is 20 to 35 grams. Varying your diet to include cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help ensure that you get the optimal amount of fiber for good digestive health. Probiotics, or good bacteria, also assist with digestion by fighting harmful bacteria.
Insoluble and Soluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of food through the digestive system. It does not dissolve in water and helps prevent diarrhea by adding bulk to the stool. Foods with insoluble fiber include whole-grain breads, seeds, brown rice, couscous and wheat bran. Vegetables with insoluble fiber include carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery and tomatoes.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance that slows digestion. It can help lower blood cholesterol, lower blood sugar and promote good cardiovascular health, according to MedlinePlus. Oatmeal, barley, beans, dried peas and oat bran contain soluble fiber, as do apples, pears, strawberries and blueberries.
Eating large amounts of fiber during a short period of time can cause discomfort such as intestinal gas, bloating and, more seriously, abdominal cramps. It can also interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, as reported on MedlinePlus.
Probiotics support the natural balance of organisms in the intestines, according to WebMD. They are used for treating conditions in the stomach and intestines, such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, and are also beneficial in resisting vaginal, yeast and urinary infections and skin infections, as reported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Probiotics are available in supplement form as capsules, tablets or powders. Dietary sources of probiotics include miso, tempeh, some soy beverages and yogurt that contains natural live cultures.
Warnings and Side Effects
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements, but most probiotics are considered safe, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. Probiotics, however, may have a negative interaction with certain medications. Side effects can include gas and bloating or possible allergic reactions. Talk with your health provider before taking supplemental probiotics to be sure they are right for you.