We know that fibre is key for our digestion and keeping us regular, but how does this actually work? How does fibre move through our body and contribute to our health?
Fibre is found in all plant food that we eat and there are various forms including insoluble and soluble fibre. Digestion starts in the mouth when special enzymes in our saliva start to breakdown the carbohydrates that carry the fibre. The food then begins its journey through the body as it travels down our esophagus to our stomach.
Once in the stomach, the soluble fibre begins to mix with partially digested food creating a thick paste of broken down food that can pass through the rest of the gastrointestinal tract easily. This is called the “bolus” which moves through a muscle at the bottom of the stomach into the small intestine.
As the food continues through into the small intestine, it takes on water and soluble fibre becomes like a gel. Special enzymes breakdown sugars and fats into smaller molecules, which then become trapped in the gel. This slows down absorption into the bloodstream. This slower release of sugar (glucose) helps to regulates blood sugar level. The gel can also trap cholesterol so less is re-absorbed into the blood. The remaining cholesterol is then carried into the large intestine to be eliminated as waste. This is one of the ways fibre can help with our heart health.
LARGE INTESTINE OR COLON
Food moves from the small intestine past the appendix and into the large intestine or large bowel. The fibres that are left (fermentable and insoluble fibres) begin to perform their functions. Fermentable fibres feed the good bacteria and insoluble fibre helps to push the food waste through to the rectum for it to be eliminated. This helps to remove toxins too. The journey is close to being complete.
The insoluble fibre pushes everything that is left through the large intestine, into the rectum, ready to leave the body when we go to the toilet.