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Fiber and diabetes

Fiber is a very important aspect of a healthy diet, but unfortunately, odds are that you aren't getting enough of it. Dr. Madelyn Fenstrom of the University of Pittsburgh's Medical Center's Weight Management Center says that most adults get only 14 grams of fiber in their daily diet, and many get even less. That is in sharp contrast to the 25 to 30 grams per day that the American Diabetes Association recommends.

Why fiber matters

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber stays mostly intact during its trek through your digestive system. Both types of fiber are necessary in a healthy diet.

According to the Mayo Clinic, good fiber intake offers many health benefits, including regular digestion, lower cholesterol levels, help with weight loss, an increase in good bowel health and the possibility of decreasing your chances of colon cancer. Fiber has also been shown to help maintain normal blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber can prevent absorption of sugars, thus helping to lower blood sugar levels; in addition, a diet high in insoluble fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Fiber and diabetes

But there is more to the fiber and diabetes connection. Numerous studies have been done over the years on the effect of a high-fiber diet on glucose levels, and the results are consistent: A diet high in fiber reduces the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream after meals. A 2000 study by Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago found that the greater the viscosity of the fiber, the more pronounced the glucose-lowering effect.

Therefore, the higher the fiber intake, the better control of glucose levels can be achieved; the result is a reduced risk of complications. A 2011 study by researchers in India found that those with a diet high in fiber had a reduced risk of kidney damage and diabetic retinopathy. A German study in 2007 also found that constipation, a problem often faced by up to 60 percent of individuals with diabetes, could be helped with adequate liquids, exercise and dietary fiber.

Make sure you get enough fiber

Sources of soluble fiber include beans, barley, oat products and some fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, whole grains and vegetables. Processed foods have lower levels of fiber than raw foods. When eating vegetables and fruits, consuming the skins can increase your fiber intake.

If your best eating habits still don't give you enough fiber, consider supplements. Some supplements, such as guar gum or psyllium seed husk, are more than 90 percent fiber. These all-natural supplements can easily be added to a regular diet to bulk up the fiber intake. Some popular, over-the-counter fiber pills or supplements can help with fiber intake but might have side effects, such as bloating and abdominal discomfort.

Remember, if you choose to use these, clear it with your doctor first, and consider gradually adding the supplement to your diet to give your body an opportunity to adjust.

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