Gut health: Mind the (Fibre) Gap

A high fibre diet with whole wheat pasta, grains, legumes, nuts, fruit, vegetables and cereals with foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins.

In our gut health series, we’ve explored all things prebiotic and interviewed former rugby star Jonny Wilkinson on the benefits of kombucha. Now we’re turning our focus to fibre.

Most of us know that we should aim to include plenty of fibre in our diets because it lowers the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. So, why are most of us still not getting enough?


The British Nutrition Foundation recommends we eat 30g of fibre a day, but the average person eats just 18g. Taking a little time to understand exactly why fibre is so important can encourage us to make better dietary choices.


Researchers are fascinated by the gut microbiome  – the collective name for the trillions of microorganisms that live inside our intestines. A healthy gut is a remarkable piece of biological equipment and by looking after it, you can radically improve your overall health and wellbeing. Your digestive system needs plenty of fibre to keep it in good shape. There are two types of fibre, soluble (which dissolves easily in water) and insoluble. It’s important to include a wide range of different sources of fibre in your diet to make sure you’re getting enough of both.


When fibre is passed into the large intestine intact, it’s broken down by the good bacteria that live there. And that’s where the magic begins. The resulting carbs are used or stored as energy, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are produced.


It’s these SCFAs that researchers are really getting excited about because they’ve been shown to provide a crucial link between the gut and the nervous system, acting as a neurotransmitter to create pathways between stomach and brain.


It’s no surprise, therefore, that depression and neurological disorders are often accompanied by digestive issues. Furthermore, around 80% of our immune cells actually sit within the gut and it’s estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin – the ‘happy hormone’ – is made within the digestive tract.


So, next time you’re at the supermarket, think fibre. Reach for plenty of wholewheat bread, rice and pasta, load up with nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals and bag yourself a rainbow of fresh and ideally organic fruits and vegetables. Chickpeas, pulses and beans are a fabulous source of fibre too.


Beware! Make sure you increase your water intake because fibre tends to sponge up the fluids in the gut and often leads to constipation. Too much fibre can overstimulate the gut and for people with conditions like Crohn’s, diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it can make symptoms worse.


At Balance Box, we create delicious meals and snacks that are rich and diverse in fibre. So, if you want to eat yourself happy and improve your wellbeing, do it the easy way with one of our healthy menu plans.