Getting ample daily fiber is very important
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By Julie Ann Anderson  September 20, 2013 12:00 am

The American Cancer Society recommends eating a variety of plant-based, fiber-filled foods as one way to help prevent diseases such as colon cancer. It is recommended that men get 38 grams of fiber per day and women get 25 grams.

 Why is fiber important?

Eating a high-fiber diet is thought to help prevent development of pouches (diverticula) in the colon. It may lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar levels. And it may help with reaching and staying at a healthy weight.

 What is the recommended daily amount of fiber?

The daily adequate intake amount for fiber has been calculated by the Institute of Medicine. Men 19 and older should strive for 38 grams a day and women 19 and older should aim for 25 grams a day.     

How can you get more fiber?

Fiber is in many foods, including beans, peas, other vegetables, fruits and whole grain products. You can figure out how much fiber is in a food by looking at the nutrition facts label. 

If a food has fiber, it will be listed under the total carbohydrate on the label. The food label assumes the daily value (DV) of fiber is 25 grams a day (g/day) for a 2,000-calorie diet.

 Be sure to increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly so that your stomach can adjust to the change. 

Adding too much fiber too quickly may cause stomach upset and gas.

 Some doctors recommend adding bran to your diet to help boost the fiber content. If you do this, start slowly with one teaspoon a day. Gradually increase the amount to several teaspoons a day.

 Are there any risks from fiber?

Some people who have diverticulitis avoid nuts, seeds, berries and popcorn (because of the hulls). They believe that the seeds and nuts may get trapped in the diverticula and cause pain. But there is no evidence that seeds, nuts and berries cause diverticulitis or make it worse.

 Does fiber help digestion?

If your diet is high enough in fiber, your stools should become softer, larger and easier to pass.

Changing your diet may relieve constipation, but it may not help relieve abdominal pain. If you don't have any improvement within a week or two, talk to your doctor about your diet.

Talk to your doctor if constipation continues or gets worse. Another medical problem or a medicine may be causing constipation. Drink lots of fluids every day to help keep your stool soft. High-fiber diets need lots of fluid in the body to work properly.

Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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