The Fiber Fraud
What is fiber?
an insoluble substance which is the main constituent of plant cell walls and of vegetable fibers such as cotton. It is a polysaccharide consisting of chains of glucose monomers.
It is the major cell wall component in plants, an unbranched linear chain of several thousand glucose units with β-1, 4 glucosidic linkages. Cellulose’s mechanical strength, resistance to biological degradation, low aqueous solubility and resistance to acid hydrolysis result from hydrogen bonding within the microfibrils. Aspinall (1970) studied that cellulose is insoluble in strong alkali and there is portion (10–15%) of cellulose, referred to as “amorphous”, that is more readily acid hydrolyzed. Cellulose is not digested to any extent by the enzymes of the human gastrointestinal system.
The question of whether humans need fiber is a simple one, but the hard question is to understand if a zero fiber diet is risky or optimal and why fiber is said to be so healthy.
Can humans live without eating carbohydrates?
"The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed. However, the amount of dietary carbohydrate that provides for optimal health in humans is unknown. There are traditional populations that ingested a high fat, high protein diet containing only a minimal amount of carbohydrate for extended periods of time (Masai), and in some cases for a lifetime after infancy (Alaska and Greenland Natives, Inuits, and Pampas indigenous people) (Du Bois, 1928; Heinbecker, 1928). There was no apparent effect on health or longevity. Caucasians eating an essentially carbohydrate-free diet, resembling that of Greenland natives, for a year tolerated the diet quite well (Du Bois, 1928). However, a detailed modern comparison with populations ingesting the majority of food energy as carbohydrate has never been done."
I’m used to the downvote parties whenever I mention that fiber isn’t essential, I get it, you grew up being accosted with the “fact” that fiber is good for you and it does all these magical things.
Frankly, they are nearly all completely wrong, and you’ve been led up the high-fibre garden path for too long - I just hope there are some of you still capable of abandoning the dogma. Just funny that today a guest post on Mark’s Daily Apple is about this, a couple years ago > I’d brought up Fiber Menace on r/keto and nobody liked the idea that fiber might not be the mystical unicorn-grade asshole cleanser with god-like powers. Oh well, seeing as it’s gone “mainstream” on MDA, may as well give it another shot.
Over time I’ll be adding more information/data to this thread which I just happened to be tinkering with before this all started, in the mean time seek out the evidence for yourself - I’ve done tons of research and have found NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that fiber is something you should be consuming much of (if any), and almost certainly should NOT be supplementing.
Before you start a citation war with us few anti-fiber folk, please ensure it IS NOT epidemiological - you know, the same shitty “studies” that tell us fat is bad and meat is cancer etc etc.
My go-to line about it all: “Fiber is great if you live on junk food”
TL;DR - Fiber is NOT good for you in and of itself, but in naturally occurring sources (eg, leafy greens etc) it’s there to help, sort of.
Ash Simmonds http://highsteaks.com/fiber/
AIM: To investigate the effect of reducing dietary fiber on patients with idiopathic constipation.
METHODS: Sixty-three cases of idiopathic constipation presenting between May 2008 and May 2010 were enrolled into the study after colonoscopy excluded an organic cause of the constipation. Patients with previous colon surgery or a medical cause of their constipation were excluded. All patients were given an explanation on the role of fiber in the gastrointestinal tract. They were then asked to go on a no fiber diet for 2 wk. Thereafter, they were asked to reduce the amount of dietary fiber intake to a level that they found acceptable. Dietary fiber intake, symptoms of constipation, difficulty in evacuation of stools, anal bleeding, abdominal bloating or abdominal pain were recorded at 1 and 6 mo.
RESULTS:: At 6 mo, 41 patients remained on a no fiber diet, 16 on a reduced fiber diet, and 6 resumed their high fiber diet for religious or personal reasons.
Patients who stopped or reduced dietary fiber had significant improvement in their symptoms while those who continued on a high fiber diet had no change.
Of those who stopped fiber completely, the bowel frequency increased from one motion in 3.75 d (± 1.59 d) to one motion in 1.0 d (± 0.0 d) (P < 0.001); those with reduced fiber intake had increased bowel frequency from a mean of one motion per 4.19 d (± 2.09 d) to one motion per 1.9 d (± 1.21 d) on a reduced fiber diet (P < 0.001); those who remained on a high fiber diet continued to have a mean of one motion per 6.83 d (± 1.03 d) before and after consultation.
For no fiber, reduced fiber and high fiber groups, respectively, symptoms of bloating were present in 0%, 31.3% and 100% (P < 0.001) and straining to pass stools occurred in 0%, 43.8% and 100% (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Idiopathic constipation and its associated symptoms can be effectively reduced by stopping or even lowering the intake of dietary fiber.
There is recent evidence that low fiber intake does not equate to constipation. Patients with chronic constipation also have similar fiber intake to controls[10-13]. Patients with chronic constipation may also have worsening symptoms when dietary fiber intake is increased.
This study has confirmed that the previous strongly-held belief that the application of dietary fiber to help constipation is but a myth.
Constipation is often mistaken by the layman as the state of not passing stool, with the subsequent false notion that making more feces will allow easier defecation.
In truth, constipation refers to the difficulty in evacuating a rectum packed with feces, and easier defecation cannot possibly be affected by increasing dietary fiber which increases bulky feces.
It is well known that increasing dietary fiber increases fecal bulk and volume. Therefore in patients where there is already difficulty in expelling large fecal boluses through the anal sphincter, it is illogical to actually expect that bigger or more feces will ameliorate this problem.
More and bulkier fecal matter can only aggravate the difficulty by making the stools even bigger and bulkier.
The role of dietary fiber in constipation is analogous to cars in traffic congestion. The only way to alleviate slow traffic would be to decrease the number of cars and to evacuate the remaining cars quickly. Should we add more cars, the congestion would only be worsened.
Dietary fiber is also associated with increased bloatedness and abdominal discomfort.
Insoluble fiber was reported to worsen the clinical outcome of abdominal pain and constipation[18-20].
In our recent study, patients who followed a diet with no or less dietary fiber intake showed a significant improvement, not just in their constipation, but also in their bloatedness.
Patients who completely stopped consuming dietary fiber no longer suffered from abdominal bloatedness and pain.
It is not logical to increase both the volume and size of stool in patients with idiopathic constipation and indeed for anybody with difficulty in passing stools.
We have shown that decreasing the bulk and volume of feces immediately enables the easier evacuation of smaller and thinner stools through the anal sphincter mechanism.
The results of this study should lead us to reexamine popular beliefs in benefits of dietary fiber and more studies should be undertaken to confirm or repudiate these results.
In conclusion, contrary to popularly held beliefs, reducing or stopping dietary fiber intake improves constipation and its associated symptoms.
“‘Fiber’ comes from the cell walls of plants. It provides shape and architectural support to the plant. Animals do not contain any fiber; we use bone and cartilage to support our bodies instead. Fiber is by definition indigestible by humans.”
“We are told that soluble fiber is good for us because it slows things down and we are told that insoluble fiber is good for us because it speeds things up.”
“Foods high in insoluble fiber include grains, seeds, nuts, vegetables and certain fruits. Insoluble fibers pass through our digestive system practically untouched, because even bacteria can’t easily digest them.”
“Why expose the smooth inner surfaces of our intestines to these abrasive indigestibles?”
“We are told that we need them to sweep our innards clean of potential toxins. Oddly enough, I was unable to locate a single scientific article explaining what these toxins are and how insoluble fiber removes them”
“The ability of soluble fiber to hold water is what allows fruits and soft vegetable parts to contain water and yet maintain their firm shape.”
The Bottom Line about Fiber:
Fiber is not essential for human life or health.
Adding fiber to your diet cannot cure any health problem, because it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
If you eat risky refined and high glycemic index carbohydrates regularly, soluble fiber may soften your blood sugar (and insulin) spikes and may reduce your cholesterol a little by interfering with their digestion.
If you find soluble fiber supplements useful, take care to drink plenty of water with them.
If fiber bothers your digestive system, or you don’t like eating it, you can safely avoid it, since it is not essential to your health.
List of myths - read the article itself for the realities:
Myth #1: For maximum health, obtain 30 to 40 g of fiber daily from fresh fruits and vegetables.
Myth #2: Fiber reduces blood sugar levels and prevents diabetes, metabolic disorders, and weight gain.
Myth #3: Fiber-rich foods improve digestion by slowing down the digestive process.
Myth #5: Fiber promotes a healthy digestive tract and reduces cancer risk.
Myth #6: Fiber offers protection from breast cancer.
Myth #7: Fiber lowers blood cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and prevents heart disease.
Myth #8: Fiber satisfies hunger and reduces appetite.
Myth #9: Fiber prevents gallstones and kidney stones.
Myth #10: Fiber prevents diverticular disease.
Myth #11: Fiber is safe and effective for the treatment and prevention of diarrhea.
Myth #12: Fiber relieves chronic constipation.
“Many studies have demonstrated that excess intake of fiber may actually be harmful, particularly for gut health.”
“Yet when tested in the lab, controlled intervention trials that simply add fiber supplements to an otherwise consistent diet have not shown these protective effects.”
“A recent report by NPR commented that despite the lack of significant evidence linking fiber intake to health outcomes such as reduced heart disease or cancer, many consumers are buying foods that are fortified with synthetic fiber additives under the guise of health promotion.”
“Tan and Seow-Choen, in their 2007 editorial on fiber and colorectal disease, call insoluble fiber ‘the ultimate junk food’, as ‘it is neither digestible nor absorbable and therefore devoid of nutrition’.”
“The addition of insoluble and soluble fibers to processed foods may actually cause these foods to be even less nutritious than if they were not enriched with any fiber at all.”
“When researchers tested the theory that a high-fiber diet prevented diverticulosis, they not only found that a high intake of fiber did not reduce the prevalence of diverticulosis, but that a high-fiber diet and greater number of bowel movements were independently associated with a higher prevalence of diverticula.”
Fiber and colorectal diseases: separating fact from fiction. World Journal of Gastroenterology - August 21, 2007
Whilst fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our dietary intake, the role of fiber in the prevention of colorectal diseases remains controversial. The main feature of a high-fiber diet is its poor digestibility. Soluble fiber like pectins, guar and ispaghula produce viscous solutions in the gastrointestinal tract delaying small bowel absorption and transit. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, pass largely unaltered through the gut. The more fiber is ingested, the more stools will have to be passed. Fermentation in the intestines results in build up of large amounts of gases in the colon. This article reviews the physiology of ingestion of fiber and defecation. It also looks into the impact of dietary fiber on various colorectal diseases. A strong case cannot be made for a protective effect of dietary fiber against colorectal polyp or cancer. Neither has fiber been found to be useful in chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also not useful in the treatment of perianal conditions. The fiber deficit - diverticulosis theory should also be challenged. The authors urge clinicians to keep an open mind about fiber. One must be aware of the truths and myths about fiber before recommending it.
Gut Microbiome of the Canadian Arctic Inuit
Diet is a major determinant of community composition in the human gut microbiome, and “traditional” diets have been associated with distinct and highly diverse communities, compared to Western diets. However, most traditional diets studied have been those of agrarians and hunter-gatherers consuming fiber-rich diets. In contrast, the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic have been consuming a traditional diet low in carbohydrates and rich in animal fats and protein for thousands of years. We hypothesized that the Inuit diet and lifestyle would be associated with a distinct microbiome. We used deep sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to compare the gut microbiomes of Montrealers with a Western diet to those of the Inuit consuming a range of traditional and Western diets. At the overall microbial community level, the gut microbiomes of Montrealers and Inuit were indistinguishable and contained similar levels of microbial diversity. However, we observed significant differences in the relative abundances of certain microbial taxa down to the subgenus level using oligotyping. For example, Prevotella spp., which have been previously associated with high-fiber diets, were enriched in Montrealers and among the Inuit consuming a Western diet. The gut microbiomes of Inuit consuming a traditional diet also had significantly less genetic diversity within the Prevotella genus, suggesting that a low-fiber diet might not only select against Prevotella but also reduce its diversity. Other microbes, such as Akkermansia, were associated with geography as well as diet, suggesting limited dispersal to the Arctic. Our report provides a snapshot of the Inuit microbiome as Western-like in overall community structure but distinct in the relative abundances and diversity of certain genera and strains.
Dr. Barry Groves
Part 1: Introduction
The belief that regular bowel movement is important for health is very ancient. In 1932, a ‘New Health’ movement was promoted in which people were urged to include plenty of roughage in their diets and it was hoped then that the prompt passing of stools after each substantial meal would reduce the incidence of intestinal diseases. Thirty years later Dr Dennis Burkitt, while working as a doctor in Africa, discovered that there were far fewer cases of colon cancer among rural black Africans than among Europeans and Americans. He attributed this to the Africans’ relatively crude diet. The theory was that fiber— that part of a vegetable which passes undigested through the human gastrointestinal tract — hastened the passage of the bowel contents thus allowing less time for cancer-inducing agents to form. This, of course, presupposed that food became carcinogenic in the gut; there was no evidence that it did. Neither was there any evidence that moving food through the intestine at a faster rate decreased the risk of cancer.
So the theory was unsubstantiated at the time and it was to be disproved later when the rural Africans moved into towns and adopted a western-style, low fiber diet, and it was noticed that they continued to have a low incidence of colon cancer. This pattern has also continued with the second generation. It should also be noted that the rural Africans’ lifestyle is quite different from that of the western city dweller: their diet is different in that their energy intake is lower and they eat less protein, fat and sugar; they are also not exposed to so many pollutants, toxins or mental stresses and any of these factors could be responsible for the difference in disease patterns. Other studies have also shown that there are western communities (the Mormons of Utah, for example) who also enjoy a low incidence of colon cancer but eat a low fiber diet. Nevertheless, the later findings were not publicized; Burkitt’s theories caught the attention of the media who, always ready to exploit a good story, expanded what was at best a very weak hypothesis into a treatment dogma which teaches that fiber is a panacea for all manner of illnesses.
Commercial interests were quick to see the potential in the recommendation. Although Burkitt’s recommendations were based on vegetable fiber, bran has a far higher fiber content than vegetables and bran was a practically worthless by-product of the milling process which, until then, had been thrown away. Bran is quite inedible — there is no known enzyme in the human body that can digest it; nevertheless, backed by Burkitt’s fiber hypothesis, commercial interests could now promote it as a valuable food. Virtually overnight, it became a highly priced profit maker. The late Dr John Yudkin, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at London University, pointed out that ‘perhaps one reason for the wide acceptance of the suggestion that fiber is an important, if not essential, dietary component is that it had the enthusiastic support of commercial interests.’
Dr Hugh Trowell, Burkitt’s partner and another strong advocate of dietary fiber, confirmed this in 1974, saying that: ‘a serious confusion of thought is produced by referring to the dietary fiber hypothesis as the bran hypothesis, for many Africans do not consume cereal or bran but remain almost free of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease.’
Bran is the tough outer covering of cereal grains. Every civilization in history has devised methods and implements solely for the purpose of separating bran from the grain so that they would not have to eat it.
Part 2: Fiber and Colon Cancer
Animal studies have variably suggested that dietary fiber bre reduces risks, increases risks, or has no effect on bowel cancers. Epidemiological studies on humans have also found that intakes of dietary fiber are either protective, or have no effect; there is also a growing skepticism in the US that lack of fiber causes cancer; some studies have even suggested that a fiber-enhanced diet may increase the risk of colon cancer.
In the mid-1980s, dietary fiber was shown to increase the risk of colon cancers. In 1990 the British Nutrition Foundation admitted that the hypotheses that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulosis and colorectal cancer were caused by a deficiency of fiber had not been substantiated; and neither had claims that fiber might protect against diabetes, obesity and CHD.9. The Seventh King’s Fund Forum on Cancer of The Colon and Rectum commented that: ‘cereal fiber does not offer protection against cancer.’
In 1995, Dr M. Inoue and colleagues published an investigation of cancers at several colorectal subsites: ascending, transverse, descending, sigmoid, and rectum, within a Japanese hospital environment. They concluded that loose or soft feces are a significant risk factor for cancer at these sites, but bran loosens and softens feces — that’s why it is recommended.
The following year Drs H. S. Wasan and R. A. Goodlad of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund showed that bran can increase the risk of colorectal cancers. ‘Many carbohydrates,’ they said, ‘can stimulate epithelial-cell proliferation throughout the gastrointestinal tract,’ and concluded: ‘Until individual constituents of fiber have been shown to have, at the very least, a non-detrimental effect in prospective human trials, we urge that restraint should be shown in adding fiber supplements to foods, and that unsubstantiated health claims be restricted. Specific dietary fiber supplements, embraced as nutriceuticals or functional foods, are an unknown and potentially damaging way to influence modern dietary habits of the general population.’ This study spawned several critical letters. It comes as no surprise that half were from people connected with the breakfast cereal industry.
The results of a very large, long-term trial also suggest that, contrary to popular belief, high dietary fiber intake does not protect against colorectal cancer. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, both in Boston, Massachusetts, studied 88,757 women over 16 years. They say: ‘no significant association between fiber intake and the risk of colorectal adenoma was found.’ But there was what they call an ‘unexpected’ finding, in that, according to their data, a high consumption of vegetable-derived fiber was actually ‘associated with a significant increase (35%) in the risk of colorectal cancer’.
That fiber increased the risk of colon cancer was confirmed six years later by a large analysis of 17 studies of the effect of dietary fiber on colorectal cancer. Although the abstract of the study said that people with the highest intakes of fiber had a reduced risk of colon cancer, that was exactly the opposite of what the study data showed. Using the study’s Table 3, dividing the number of cases of colorectal cancer by person-years of exposure, and multiplying by 10 to obtain number of cases per 10-person-years, since the mean study length was about 10 years, the effect was not a reduction in cancers as fiber intake increased but an increase. This is graphically illustrated in Figure 1. Lead researcher, Yikyung Park, said that ‘There are more questions to be answered but clearly this adds to the growing body of evidence finding that high fiber intake does not lower the risk of colorectal cancer.’
Part 3: Fiber and Heart Disease
The idea that fiber could protect against coronary heart disease was hypothesized by Dr Trowell in 1973, again based on research on rural Africans. But while pectin, guar gum, fruit and vegetables lowered blood cholesterol levels, they were not lowered by wheat fiber (bran), or a diet containing wheat and whole maize. There is little evidence that fiber of any type is effective in reducing levels in the blood of triglycerides or other fats. The paucity of evidence, however, did not stop COMA (the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy) seeing advantages in compensating for a reduced fat intake with increased fiber-rich carbohydrates, although it makes no specific recommendations. On dietary fiber, the report at paragraph 4.3.3 says: ‘However, epidemiological data suggest that cereal fiber is protective against coronary heart disease.’ Yet COMA’s own reference for that statement says: ‘However, wheat fiber appears to have no consistent effect on plasma cholesterol or triglycerides in man.’ The report also says at 4.3.5 that: ‘the protective effect in relation to coronary heart disease has not been adequately tested.’
Chapter 12. The Low-Fiber Advantage
Your body is the only “authority” you can trust unconditionally. It lets you feel and evaluate the advantages of a low-fiber diet literally “by your gut.” If that’s not enough for you, or if it seems too subjective, consider comparing your past and current blood tests. You should observe a drop in your triglycerides and HbA1c (the average amount of blood sugar over the past six to eight weeks), and most likely, a rise in your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. If you want to investigate things even further, ask your doctor to review your past and present metabolic (kidney- and diabetes-related) and hepatic (liver-related) test results, and you should see them normalizing as well.
Just keep in mind that it takes years, perhaps decades, to develop diet-related health disorders. Hence, it would be nuts to expect that any diet—low-fiber or not—can magically undo all of the damage in a day, a week, or even a year. Still, all things considered, getting better, even slowly, is a far better option than getting nowhere.
So what’s so magical about a low-fiber diet? In a nutshell, two things: (1) it makes the digestive process quick and efficient, and (2) it’s naturally low in carbohydrates. Here’s a brief summation of its most important advantages. First, in terms of your digestion:
The healing properties of a low-fiber diet
The impact of a low-fiber diet on the digestive process is recognizable from the relatively rapid reduction of functional (reversible) side effects caused by excess fiber: the disappearance of heartburn (because there is less indigested food inside the stomach), the absence of bloating (because there is less bacterial fermentation), the easy passing of stools (because the stools are smaller), the reduction of hemorrhoids (because there is less straining), and the gradual vanishing of nagging abdominal discomfort (because of all of the above). You can’t miss these signs.
The progress doesn’t end with just the relief of side effects: as the quality of digestion improves, your body begins to absorb more essential nutrients from pretty much the same diet you consumed before, because fiber is no longer there to impede their assimilation. The improved availability of nutrients accelerates tissue regeneration throughout the body, rejuvenates the endocrine system, and increases the output of digestive enzymes. This, in turn, accelerates the healing of the digestive organs, which in turn improves digestion, and in turn accelerates the healing… well, you get the picture.
This process of recovery is the direct opposite of the harm fiber causes. The harm starts with fiber’s interference with digestion: as digestion becomes less efficient, so does the body’s ability to resist harm. As the harm increases in scope, digestion becomes even less efficient, and the harm more apparent. This step-by-step decline of health accelerates with aging. Therein lies yet another important advantage of the low-fiber diet:
A Low-Fiber Diet Decelerates Age-Related Decline
The decline may be slow and imperceptible in the case of young people, and precipitous and apparent in older people, but the aspects of the decline caused by fiber come to a halt the moment you stop overconsuming it.
I emphasize this point to instill a dose of optimism in you: it doesn’t matter how old you are, nor does it matter how far this or that disorder has progressed. What really matters is that as soon as you take action, you put a stop to the self-inflicted downfall, because you remove one of its most prominent causes. This in itself, even when complete recovery may not be feasible, is worth the effort.
Diseases aside, the impact of fiber’s reduction on satiety is yet another important advantage of the low-fiber diet. While appetite makes you want to eat, a lack of satiety causes you to overeat. The mechanisms behind satiety are mainly physiological—you don’t feel satisfied from eating until the stomach is filled to a certain capacity. That’s why stomach-reduction surgeries are so effective for morbidly obese people: after surgery they need just a fraction of food to feel “stuffed.”
But we aren’t actually born with huge, hungry stomachs. They stretch out gradually as we keep filling them with a high-bulk diet. In fact, fiber advocates hawk this phenomenon as an advantage: fiber fills you up and promotes satiety, they claim. But that’s a devil’s benefit, as each new “fill-up” keeps stretching your stomach a teeny bit more, so that the next time around you need a teeny bit more food to fill it to satiety again. Do this for some years, and eventually you “grow” a stomach that’s indeed hard to please. This is yet another aspect of fiber addiction.
Fortunately, it also works in reverse: as soon as you stop consuming a high-fiber diet, your stomach begins to gradually shrink in size, and with each new meal you’ll need less and less food to feel satisfied. All this without a gastric bypass (GBP) or a stomach band (LAP-BAND®) squeezed around it—the two most popular surgical options to reduce the stomach’s capacity and “speed up” satiety.
The advantages of a low-fiber diet don’t stop with just no longer overeating. Here’s a brief recap of its other undeniable benefits:
A low-fiber diet improves dental health, because it reduces bacterial fermentation inside the oral cavity. The by-products of fermentation are the leading cause of dental caries (cavities), gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth loss.
Esophagus. A low-fiber diet prevents heartburn. In turn, this eliminates the causes of esophageal inflammatory disease (esophagitis), which may result in the development of dysphagia (difficulties swallowing), Barrett’s disease (irreversible change of the esophageal epithelium), and cancer.
Meals without fiber and carbohydrates promote rapid and complete stomach digestion. The improvements are particularly apparent in people over the age of 50 (the group most often affected by indigestion, GERD, gastritis, and peptic ulcers).
A low-fiber diet prevents duodenitis and duodenal ulcers. The extended contact of the duodenal epithelium with fiber soaked in hydrochloric acid and gastric enzymes is a primary cause of these inflammatory conditions.
Pancreas. A low-fiber diet protects the pancreatic ducts from obstruction and from ensuing pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is a leading cause of type I diabetes symptoms in children, whose small organs can get clogged by fiber quite easily.
A low-fiber diet prevents cholecystitis, which is the obstruction of the billiary ducts, through which the gallbladder and liver discharge bile into the duodenum. Again, fiber is the only outside substance capable of causing the primary obstruction (the secondary obstruction comes from gallstones and bile salts). Acute cholecystitis is a leading cause of gallbladder disease caused by gallstones, gallbladder inflammation, or both. Each year over half a million Americans undergo a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery). As you might expect, obesity and diabetes—both conditions brought about by a high-carb/high-fiber diet—are the leading causes of cholecystitis. And yes, women are twice as likely as men to have gallstones. No surprise there: women consume more fiber than men because twice as many women are also affected by constipation.
Intestinal obstruction isn’t possible with foods that digest completely. The small intestines are supposed to transport liquid chyme only, not large lumps of undigested fiber. Intestinal obstructions on a low-fiber diet are as likely as a rainbow during a snowstorm.
A low-fiber diet prevents herniation of the abdominal wall by the small intestine, or its protrusion inside the scrotum. These two conditions are likely to occur when the intestines expand beyond the capacity of the abdominal cavity to retain them. There is only one food component capable of causing this kind of expansion: indigestible fiber.
A low-fiber diet protects the intestinal epithelium from inflammation caused by mechanical contact, from chemical irritation caused by gastric juices and enzymes (absorbed by fiber while in the stomach), and from obstructions caused by lumps of fiber.
Enteritis, whether caused by the mechanical properties of insoluble fiber, chemical properties of soluble fiber, or allergenicity of plant proteins, blocks the digestion of nutrients, including essential, health-sustaining amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and microelements. This causes a broad range of degenerative diseases, ranging from pernicious anemia to kwashiorkor, osteomalacia to birth defects, and everything in between. A low-fiber diet, especially one free from wheat (a source of gluten) is essential for the proper assimilation of nutrients.
Bloating and flatus.
The fermentation of fiber inside the large intestine produces copious gases, which cause pain and bloating. A fiber-free diet eliminates intestinal bloating and the source of the pain (from pressure).Flatus is particularly bothersome in terms of social interactions for all people, and it’s outright painful for most. A low-fiber diet reduces the presence of gases to the barely perceptible.
A low-fiber diet is key to preventing appendicitis. The accumulation of fiber inside the cecum obstructs the appendix, and causes its inflammation. There is no other dietary factor that can cause appendix obstruction, because under normal circumstances the cecum’s content is fluid. Children are particularly vulnerable because their cecum is tiny, taut, and prone to obstruction.
A low-fiber diet prevents diarrhea. Without exception, all kinds of soluble fiber are diarrhea-causing agents. For this reason fiber is widely used in medicinal and home-made laxatives. Intestinal inflammation caused by insoluble fiber blocks the absorption of fluids, and causes diarrhea, too. Combine both irritants, add (as widely recommended) even more fiber to treat diarrhea, and you’re assured of diarrhea becoming chronic, or turning into ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
A low-fiber diet eliminates constipation caused by large stools. If you don’t want your children to ever experience constipation, eliminate fiber-rich foods from their diets. Unfortunately, a low-fiber diet alone isn’t sufficient to treat constipation after the large intestine has already been irreversibly transformed by large stools. This complicated subject is discussed throughout this book.
Hemorrhoidal disease and anal fissures. A low-fiber diet is key to the prevention and treatment of these two conditions (caused by large, hard stools, and the straining required to expel them) and their numerous side effects.
Irritable bowel syndrome.
A low-fiber diet relieves IBS symptoms as soon as large stools “depart” the bowel. No irritant inside the bowel equals no irritable bowel. It’s as simple as that.
Crohn’s disease is IBS gone too far. A low-fiber diet is key to treating and preventing Crohn’s disease.
This tragic disease is the final straw—the sum total of all of the above. Naturally, the treatment of ulcerative colitis must begin with a zero-fiber diet in order to eliminate its diarrhea-, constipation-, and inflammation-causing effects.
Cancers of the digestive organs.
A low-fiber diet reduces the chances of the digestive system getting struck by cancer, because it eliminates the major dietary cause of digestive disorders. It’s axiomatic that healthy organs are less likely to get affected by malignancies than unhealthy organs. The unfortunate fact that ulcerative colitis increases the risk of colon cancer 3,200% provides us with all the proof we need about the fiber-cancer connection.
A low-fiber diet alone isn’t a guarantee of vibrant health and boundless longevity.
It is, however, an important step toward attaining these treasured things. And it’s never too late to make it happen. Besides benefiting your digestive system, a low-fiber diet works wonders for your endocrine system and metabolism.
The metabolic advantages of a low-fiber diet
While the endocrine system governs the metabolism of energy, it’s you who governs the supply of nutrients that provide the energy in the first place. A true breaking down of the metabolism is a rarity: only about 5% of diabetes victims, for example, suffer from a failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. The other 95% overpower the body with so many carbohydrates that their pancreas either can’t keep up with the demand (for insulin), or their bodies simply ignore the insulin, which is already plentiful.
Thus, true recovery from metabolic disorders like diabetes lies not in taking more drugs to trick the pancreas into producing even more insulin, or taxing the liver into converting excess blood sugar into even more body fat, but in balance. The plain, simple, elementary balance between how much energy you really need and how much you’re actually getting from food.
Most people can’t find that balance, not because they aren’t willing, or are foolish, but simply because they’re misinformed about the role of dietary carbohydrates and natural fiber in health and nutrition. That’s why so many well-meaning and health-conscious individuals prefer getting their fiber from abundant “natural” sources, believing it’s healthier, while in fact it’s as far from the truth as New York is from Paris.
Natural fiber—both the soluble and insoluble kind—is present only in plant-based foods, such as grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also found in foods processed from these plants, such as cereals, bread, pasta, and baked goods. Most of these foods contain anywhere from five to twenty times more carbohydrates than fiber, which is enough to overpower even the most robust endocrine system with excess energy. Thus, when you cut down on the fiber-rich foods in your diet, you’re also cutting out accompanying carbs, and bringing the energy supply and demand back into balance.
Assuming you won’t be rushing to replace these excluded carbohydrates with refined sugar, fruit juices, and soft drinks, your diet will become not just low in fiber, but decidedly low in carbs as well. Thus, serendipitously, you’ll be accruing the benefits of a low-carb diet, too.
While simple carbs (i.e. mono and disaccharides, such as sugar) digest rapidly and cause a brief spike in blood sugar, complex carbs (i.e. polysaccharides, such as starches in grains) digest for hours at a time. All along, while digestion is taking place, the pancreas secretes insulin to keep up with the steady supply of glucose entering the bloodstream.
A chronically elevated level of insulin is called hyperinsulinemia. Besides extremely rare pancreatic tumors and extraordinary stress, there is only one factor that can cause hyperinsulinemia: dietary carbohydrates. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin your pancreas produces to utilize them.
Elevated insulin is a potent vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows major and minor blood vessels throughout the body. When this happens, blood pressure and pulse rates go up, while the supply of oxygenated blood delivered to the essential organs and extremities goes down. For these reasons, hyperinsulinemia is a primary cause of elevated blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, liver disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, peripheral vascular disease, dementia, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), incessant appetite, and obesity. And that’s just the big ones.
Not so long ago, the sum of most of these symptoms was called Syndrome X. Now it’s called “prediabetes,” because the “X” in the syndrome is no longer a mystery. It stands for hyperinsulinemia, which is obviously caused by too many carbohydrates in one’s diet. Consider an average “healthy” breakfast: a glass of orange juice (26 g of carbs), a cup of Kellogg’s Crispix (25 g) with a cup of milk (12 g), and one medium-sized banana (27 g). That’s 90 g of carbs, or the equivalent of six tablespoons of sugar, which is almost half the daily requirement for the average adult. While this modest breakfast keeps digesting, the body keeps secreting insulin, almost half the daily dose. And that’s before several snacks, sodas, lunch, and dinner.
Of course, if you don’t consume prodigious amounts of carbs, the pancreas doesn’t flood your body with insulin. So as soon as your consumption of carbs goes down, the state of your health goes up, and you can expect to see the following improvements just from taming the hyperinsulinemia:
When blood sugar drops down below 40–50 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl), a person loses consciousness (i.e. coma, syncope), and may actually die, often not from the coma episode itself, but from an ensuing accident, such as a fall or car crash. Hypoglycemia occurs when there is more insulin in the system than available glucose to satisfy demand by the central nervous system. Its symptoms are hard to miss: fatigue, drowsiness, irritability, hunger, headache, memory loss, vision disturbances, speech impairment, unsteadiness, dizziness, tingling in the hands or lips, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, low blood pressure, and some others. When insulin levels are normal, hypoglycemia isn’t likely even on a zero-carb diet, because the body can maintain a steady level of blood glucose from other sources of energy, such as dietary fats and proteins, or stored energy in the form of glycogen in the liver, fat from adipose tissue, protein from muscle tissue, and so on.
A high level of triglycerides is considered to be a more objective marker of advancing heart disease than any other factor. As soon as carbohydrates are reduced, the level of triglycerides follows suit, because the liver no longer needs to convert excess blood glucose into triglycerides, which, incidentally, becomes body fat. Chronically elevated triglycerides increase blood viscosity, which is another major cause of elevated blood pressure.
Your blood pressure will normalize because insulin no longer constricts your blood vessels, and no longer forces your heart to pump more blood more vigorously to overcome the resistance of narrow vessels as well as viscous (from triglycerides) blood.
Your heart condition will improve because your heart muscles will get more well-oxygenated blood, and also because it will not have to pump the blood extra hard to overcome the counteraction of constricted blood vessels and the friction caused by triglycerides.
If you suffer from atherosclerosis, it may gradually reverse itself because insulin no longer contributes to vascular inflammatory disease, which damages the vessels on the inside and leads to the accumulation of vascular plaque—a primary cause of permanent narrowing of the affected vessels. The reversal of atherosclerosis is described in detail in mainstream medical literature.
The two most prominent dietary causes behind migraine headaches are the constriction of cerebral blood vessels by insulin, and cerebral edema caused by excess dietary potassium. Carbohydrate-rich foods are at once the largest source of dietary potassium and the triggers of insulin. In this respect, a low-carb diet is truly the best headache “medicine.” Alcohol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), naturally occurring and added sulfites in wine, and the amino acid tyramine, found in aged wines, cheeses, and many other foods are also triggers for headaches, unrelated to insulin or carbohydrates. When these are added on top of too many carbs, a headache can become one giant migraine.
Attention deficit disorder in adults.
This condition is caused by impaired cerebral circulation, low-blood sugar, and general fatigue. These three factors depress the central nervous system (CNS), and interfere with normal day-to-day functions and activities.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.
Since both elevated glucose and insulin are potent stimulants of the CNS, children respond to them with alternating patterns of hyperactivity and fatigue. Both states interfere with concentration and cause behavior patterns that are considered abnormal. Shortly after affected children are placed on a low-carb diet, the symptoms of ADHD gradually diminish and eventually disappear. It just takes time for a child’s pancreas to reduce the production of insulin and adapt to a new pattern of behavior.
A combination of elevated levels of insulin (an energy hormone) and elevated levels of blood sugar (a fuel for CNS) are the primary causes of functional (i.e. reversible) sleeplessness. How can one sleep when the body is so overstimulated with energy? That’s why you’ve been told from childhood not to eat several hours before bedtime. As people get older, digestion and utilization of energy stretches from the customary 4–6 hours to 8, 10, or even 12 hours. So even if you’ve completed your dinner by 7 p.m., it may continue digesting until 3, 5, or even 7 a.m. When you finally doze off, the sleep is superficial, because the level of insulin remains high long after the blood sugar has gone down. Not surprisingly, the quality of sleep goes up as soon as the amount of dietary carbs goes down. As with ADHD, it takes time to tame and adjust the unconditional (not dependent on the diet) release of insulin.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
A combination of fatigue from low-blood sugar, mental and muscular apathy related to constricted blood vessels (i.e. inadequate supply of blood), and general weariness stemming from chronic insomnia are the primary ingredients of chronic fatigue syndrome. The reduction of dietary carbohydrates eliminates the causes of low blood sugar, blood-vessel constriction, and insomnia, and brings welcomed energy back. If this doesn’t occur, seek out and eliminate other possible causes, such as celiac disease, anemia, dehydration, low thyroid function, chronic infections, autoimmune disorders, depression, and so on. Not surprisingly, a high-carb diet contributes mightily to all these conditions.
Susceptibility to colds.
An elevated level of glucose in healthy children stimulates metabolic rates and raises body temperature, which causes profuse perspiration. When children perspire, they’re more likely to get chills from the ensuing rapid evaporation—a condition that makes them susceptible to colds. Adults may get colds for similar reasons, except that in their case constricted blood vessels lower body temperature, and facilitate bacterial infections. In addition, elevated levels of blood glucose provide plentiful feed for fledging bacteria to invade, procreate, and overpower the immune system of children and adults alike. In essence, excess carbs make you a walking Petri dish, ready and willing to shelter, feed, and grow any bacterial pathogen that happens to be around. A reduction of dietary carbohydrates in the diet significantly reduces the chance of bacterial infections.
Hormonal changes in teenagers has little to do with acne. Puberty happens to coincide with the appearance of fully-functional sebaceous glands on one’s face and body. Excess oil excreted by these glands clogs them, while the bacteria lodged within them causes the infection and eruption. A zero-carb diet is one of the most effective means of acne control because (a) it curbs oil production by reducing the level of triglycerides in the blood, and (b) it doesn’t stimulate bacterial growth as much because of a reduction in the level of blood sugar.
Besides “dandruff,” the term seborrhea means “too much oil.” A low-carb diet controls seborrhea for the same reasons it “treats” acne: it eliminates excess triglycerides (derived from glucose and fermentation of fiber), which are the leading source of “too much oil.” The dietary fats from plant oils found in dressings and mayonnaise also contribute to seborrhea and acne. A low-fiber diet, along with a moderate consumption of essential fats from animal sources, helps control dandruff and acne without resorting to medical treatments.
Candida albicans, a yeast-like fungus, is commonly present in the mouth, vagina, and intestinal tract. In healthy people its proliferation is kept well under control by symbiotic bacteria and other immune co-factors. It’s believed that a deficiency of vitamins B12, folate, zinc, and selenium contributes to candidiasis, an abnormal growth of fungus. This growth is further sustained by an elevated level of blood sugar. Intestinal inflammation caused by gluten (a wheat protein) and the fermentation of fiber (a source of elevated acidity), are the two primary causes of vitamin and mineral deficiencies even among people who take supplements or eat a “balanced” diet. A reduction of carbohydrates (especially from the grain group) and the elimination of fiber is an effective preventative from recurring yeast infections, especially when combined with quality supplements.
A condition known as fatty liver, which is caused by the continuous onslaught of carbohydrates, is reversible in people who adopt a low-carb diet. Its reversal greatly benefits those who have been affected by hepatitis, because a healthy liver has a high degree of resistance to these viruses.
Type II Diabetes.
If you have type II diabetes (non-insulin dependent), its symptoms should gradually reverse. You may be able to get off side effects-prone medication, because the normalization of blood sugar is an almost immediate response to a low-carb diet. Don’t judge your recovery progress just on self-testing, or on fasting plasma glucose tests. Take the HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin) test instead. Unlike the fasting plasma glucose test, which takes a direct snapshot of widely fluctuating daily levels of glucose, the HbA1c reflects the average concentration of glucose in the blood during the preceding six to eight weeks. It presents a true picture of diabetes, irrespective of external circumstances such as a fast, medication, or recent meal. Wait for at least two months from the day you begin a low-carb diet before taking this test.
Type I Diabetes.
If you have type I diabetes (insulin-dependent), you should be able to significantly reduce your doses of insulin to a much safer level. In many cases, you may find that you have been misdiagnosed, that your pancreas is still functional, and that it can manage blood sugar on its own. According to some experts, the rate of misdiagnosis of type I diabetes among children is up to 50%. It isn’t just elevated blood sugar that’s eventually harming these children, but also the large doses of insulin prescribed to support their high-carb diets.
Your eyes aren’t as likely to succumb to diabetic retinopathy, a condition commonly related to diabetes, hypertension, hyperinsulinemia, and elevated triglycerides, and the leading cause of blindness among adults with either type of diabetes, and (even more often) with undiagnosed diabetes.
A low-carb diet may boost your libido just as well as Viagra does, because both things dilate and relax the blood vessels that govern erections. In addition, unlike Viagra, a low-carb diet will not cause headaches or blindness. If you recall Graham’s and Kellogg’s rational for vegetarian, high-fiber diets, it wasn’t to keep people from screwing up their health, but to keep people away from having sex, even with their lawful spouses.
Low-carb diets protect you from nerve damage caused by hyperinsulinemia. Diabetes- and prediabetes-related nerve damage is associated with a loss of sensitivity in the extremities. Nerve damage of the anal canal is one of the primary causes of constipation, and dependence on fiber to move the bowels. Penal and vaginal nerve damage affects intercourse, because the victims aren’t able to reach orgasm. Premature ejaculation also results from indirect overstimulation of the nervous receptors by elevated insulin. That same overstimulation eventually causes the receptor’s demise.
Insidious hunger and incessant appetite are very much the symptoms of hyperinsulinemia, both of which are provoked by low blood sugar. This narcotic-like effect of insulin is also hard to overcome, because the urge to consume carbohydrates is beyond simple conscious control, but driven by the body’s survival instincts and unconditional responses. For anyone wanting to lose weight, or at the very least wishing to not gain any more, this effort-free curbing of the appetite is one of the most pleasant aspects of a low-carb lifestyle.
If you are overweight, you may stop gaining weight, and may begin to gradually lose body fat, because body fat is made almost exclusively from the carbohydrates in your diet. If you consume less than 200 g of carbohydrates daily (an average for the medium-sized adult), the balance is drawn from body fat (the physiology of weight loss). If you consume more than 200 g, you just get fatter, and fatter, and fatter.
If you’re underweight, you may begin gaining weight gradually. The combination of your genetics, insulin resistance, and hyperinsulinemia is the primary cause of weight loss. Genetics determine the ability of your adipose tissue to store fat. Hyperinsulinemia causes insulin resistance, or the inability of cells to respond to the insulin signals in order to start absorbing glucose. In turn, this metabolic disorder turns on lipolysis (a conversion of body fat into energy), and gluconeogenesis (a metabolic function that produces glucose from muscle tissues). The simultaneous inability to accumulate fat, and the use of body fat and muscle tissues for energy, causes weight loss and prevents weight gain. The process is similar to the weight loss experienced by people with type I diabetes, except in their case the elevated insulin comes from the injections.
If you have kidney disease, you’ll see an improvement for two reasons: (1) When the level of glucose in the blood exceeds 200 mg/dl, the hyperosmotic pressure forces the kidneys to filter out excess sugar with urine. (2) Hyperinsulinemia causes increased blood pressure, which destroys delicate kidney tissues. The combined onslaught of both forces (hyperosmotic pressure and blood pressure) doesn’t give the kidneys a chance to regenerate and recover from the preceding damage.
You’ll no longer get up in the middle of the night to urinate as often, if at all. Children, whose sleep is so much deeper than that of adults, aren’t as likely to have embarrassing episodes, either. Bedwetting and nighttime urination occur because of two factors: (1) elevated levels of glucose cause hyperosmotic pressure and a correspondingly high urine output; and (2) a frequent urge is caused by inflammatory bladder disease, resulting from elevated levels of acidity and glucose in the urine. Both conditions contribute to bacterial infection of the bladder and ensuing inflammation.
As you recall from Chapter 10, Colon Cancer, researchers determined a direct connection between the intake of dietary carbohydrates and cancer. All malignancies begin with just one cell. The likelihood of this cell taking hold and growing into a full-blown tumor increase substantially when the immune system is suppressed by dysbacteriosis, by carbohydrate-related disorders, and when blood circulation is impeded by hyperinsulinemia. It’s also a well-known fact that blood sugar (glucose) is a primary metabolic fuel for cancerous cells: the more glucose in the system, the faster the proliferation of primary cancer and secondary metastases. When the onslaught of carbs is reversed, the greenhouse conditions for cancers are also reversed, however indirectly.
Should I go any further? Even this long list is far from comprehensive. You may read a good deal more about the benefits of low-carb diets from numerous diet books. Luckily, a low-carb diet happens to be a low-fiber diet as well. Finders keepers!
Human digestive organs can accommodate a limited amount of undigested fiber, but aren’t intended for its unlimited consumption across the span of many years.
When the digestive organs are exposed to large volumes of indigestible fiber, they experience numerous disorders from chemical, mechanical, and fermentative damage.
A low-fiber diet is the least taxing diet for the digestive organs, because it doesn’t impede gastric digestion, doesn’t affect the transport of digested food, doesn’t interfere with the assimilation of nutrients, and doesn’t obstruct the elimination of biological waste.
A low-fiber diet is effective for the prevention and treatment of most digestive disorders, because it enables the natural healing and recovery of the digestive organs.
A zero-fiber (i.e. low-density) diet is prescribed to all patients before and after any surgical procedure related to the digestive organs, in order to prevent harm and to speed up recovery. Similarly, a low-fiber diet protects healthy digestive organs from harm and illness.
A high-fiber diet happens to be a very high-carbohydrate diet, because most natural foods contain ten to twenty times more carbohydrates (by weight) for every unit of fiber. The extended overconsumption of carbohydrates causes metabolic disorders such as hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, diabetes, and others.
A chronically elevated level of insulin causes extended constriction of the blood vessels. Constricted blood vessels resist blood flow, and cause elevated blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is associated with heart disease, atherosclerosis, and stroke.
The adoption of a low-fiber diet coincides with a significantly reduced consumption of dietary carbohydrates (low-carb diet). Low-carb diets are an effective preventative for cardiovascular and endocrine disorders, including diabetes and obesity.
Effective and lasting weight loss is one of the most desirable aspects of a low-fiber diet. When fiber is removed from the diet, weight loss is aided by a general reduction of appetite and faster satiety—two factors crucial for permanent weight loss.
The advantages of a low-fiber diet come from the combined effects of better digestion and improved endocrine functions, which impact health, well-being, and longevity.
Quality of life and the preservation of health should be key considerations for anyone considering a low-fiber diet while they’re still relatively healthy. The reversal and prevention of disease should be a key concern for people who are already experiencing digestive and metabolic disorders.