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Menopause and Fibre

Podcast Episode 22 transcript.

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Today, I'm talking about Menopause and Fibre.


Fibre is a carbohydrate that the body can't digest because we cannot make the enzymes to break it down. Fibre is found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. It is mainly made up of indigestible parts of plant material, which move through the gut relatively unchanged. 


From the moment food is swallowed, it is moved along the gut by various muscles through a process called peristalsis. Fibre's primary role is to keep the digestive system healthy.


There are three types of dietary fibre - soluble, insoluble and resistant starch.


Soluble Fibre, like pectin, soaks up water to become a thick gel to slow down digestion. This, in turn, slows down the absorption of sugar into the body, which helps manage diabetes and lowers bad LDL cholesterol. It promotes feelings of fullness and normalises bowel movements.


Sources of soluble fibre include beans, lentils, peas, flaxseed, fruit, vegetables and soy products.


Insoluble fibre, like cellulose, does not absorb water and speeds up the time food travels along the digestive tract by adding bulk to prevent constipation and related problems like haemorrhoids.


Sources of insoluble fibre include bran, fruit skins, nuts, seeds and whole grains.


Resistant starch shares characteristics with both insoluble and soluble fibre. It is resistant to digestion and reaches the large intestine undigested, but once there, it behaves like soluble fibre and is digested by good gut bacteria that live there. Resistant starch, also called a probiotic, is known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, blood cholesterol levels, and bowel cancer.


Sources of resistant starch are whole legumes, cold-cooked potatoes, unripe bananas, pasta and corn.


As oestrogen levels swing around in menopause and decline in post-menopause, women have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. They may develop gut issues like IBS, constipation, bloating or flatulence. Research shows that a variety of the three different types of fibres in diet have the best health benefits.


If you plan to increase fibre in your diet, do it gradually and drink a lot of water. If not, you might experience side effects like constipation and stomach pain.


Here are some easy ideas to help you increase your fibre intake:

  • Swap to wholemeal or whole grain pasta, rice and bread

  • Have oats for breakfast

  • Make sure you have at least one vegetable with your dinner

  • Swap your crackers for carrot or cucumber to dip in hummus 

  • Have a small portion of nuts and seeds every day

  • Add chia seeds to your cereal or smoothies


It is also important to reduce processed foods high in fats, sugar, and salt and focus on nutrient-rich foods.


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