It’s true – as we age, metabolism slows, and unfortunately, so does digestion, meaning food hangs around longer in your body, fermenting and causing menopause bloating and gas. The slowing can also mean estrogen constipation, which brings its own menu of delights.
However, just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re stuck with constipation, weight gain, and wind. Making sure you get enough fiber to keep your gut happy can go a long way towards dealing with tricky digestion. Fiber is what good gut bacteria thrive on, and a happy gut means better overall health.
Oddly, though fiber is in a lot of foods, many of us just don’t get enough of the good stuff. So we chatted with Kristin Hirano, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, about why fiber matters and how to get more of it.
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and our bodies need both for optimal function.
Soluble fiber, as its name indicates, dissolves in water. It helps keep cholesterol in check, keep our hearts healthier, and manage blood sugar levels.
Insoluble fiber passes right through us, assisting us in eliminating solid waste from our bodies comfortably and appropriately.
According to Harvard Health, eating enough fiber from veggies, fruits, and whole grains can decrease your risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. And the more fiber you consume, studies show, the more benefits you get.
And yet, says Kristin, despite the fact that it’s in a whole lot of foods, 97 percent of us fall far short of the USDA recommended daily intake. Women should get 25 grams a day; 38 for men (after 50, it’s 21 for women, 30 for men). Yet most of us top out at 10 to 15 grams a day.
Learn more about the benefits of fiber.
People may not make the effort to eat high-fiber foods, not realizing how important fiber truly is. Additionally, Kristin says, preparing high-fiber foods is more work.
“It’s ideal to get all of our fiber from whole foods,” she says, “but this is a challenge for people with busy, fast-paced lifestyles or special diets. Many people just don’t have time to plan, shop, prep, chop, and cook whole foods on a daily basis.
“Busy people often choose highly processed convenience foods which are often low in fiber. And unfortunately, many weight-loss diets restrict grains as well as fruits and vegetables.”
If you don’t get enough fiber from your food, you may need to supplement to get the benefits. Gennev dietitians frequently recommend the following products to their patients who are seeking to supplement some of their daily fiber:*
To understand how these products can benefit your body, you need to understand the process going on in your gut, says Kristin.
“Probiotics are the good bacteria in our gut. We need to replenish and feed them on a daily basis to stay healthy and keep bad bacteria from taking over and making us sick. Probiotic bacteria come from fermented gut health foods like yogurt, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and so on.
“Prebiotics are soluble fiber that probiotic bacteria feed on. Nourish them with the right prebiotics, and the probiotic bacteria will thrive and colonize your gut (in other words, take up real estate and make babies!).” Result? Happy gut = better health!
According to Kristin, “If you are trying to lose weight, adding extra fiber to your diet may be helpful to achieve your health goals. Fiber expands in the stomach, making us feel full faster. Fiber also coats the inside lining of the intestine, which slows the rapid absorption of sugars into the blood stream. This is what helps us feel full longer by preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes. This also helps to curb sugar cravings.
“Researchers have determined that prebiotic fiber also plays another roll in weight loss. When probiotic good bacteria eat the prebiotic fiber, they make chemicals called SCFAs (short chain fatty acids). When this happens, a signaling pathway is activated. A message is sent to the stomach and intestines that there is plenty of food.
“Also when there is an abundance of SCFAs, this increases digestive motility, which makes food move though the digestive tract more quickly, allowing less time for calorie extraction. When SCFAs are scarce (a low-fiber diet), motility is decreased and the message sent to the stomach and intestines is that there is not enough food. This causes food to move though the digestive tract more slowly to provide for MORE caloric extraction.
Proper nutrition is key to warding off disease as we age. If you need guidance on how to incorporate more fiber into your diet on a daily basis, consider working with our integrated care team who are experts in supporting women in menopause. They will create your personalized plan that will optimize your nutrition and other lifestyle factors, plus provide the support to create healthy habits for the long-term.
*Gennev is not affiliated with and does not profit from any mention or sale of these products.
The information on the Gennev site is never meant to replace the care of a qualified medical professional. Hormonal shifts throughout menopause can prompt a lot of changes in your body, and simply assuming something is “just menopause” can leave you vulnerable to other possible causes. Always consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of Gennev's telemedicine doctors before beginning any new treatment or therapy.