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The Hunger Project Bolen Report
Ohm Society
Fiber in Nutrition Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy You can think of fiber as the skeleton of a plant. It is more difficult for your body to digest and usually passes through you without being 100% digested, thus adding bulk to the food you eat. Some digestion of fiber by bacteria occurs in your colon. You do not have the enzymes to digest cellulose yourself. The digestion of fiber by friendly bacteria in the colon supplies short chain fatty acids, including butyric acid, which are the major source of energy for the cells lining the colon.

The digestive value of fiber cannot be overemphasized. For approximately the past sixty years, the major thrust in the processed food industry has been to reduce or eliminate the amount of fiber left in food. Flour has been "purified" and comes from the wheat kernel stripped of the fiber-containing shell or chafe. Rice has been treated in an identical fashion. The result is that the average diet has had fiber largely replaced by fat, protein and simple carbs.

Constipation has become a common complaint, and the incidence of gastrointestinal disorders of many different varieties — for example, hiatal hernia, diverticulitis, appendicitis, gallbladder disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hypoglycemia and intestinal cancers — has shot up to unprecedented levels.

The processed food industry has made a lot of money in this transformation of food and so have physicians and surgeons! The losers have been the millions of people who trust the food industry to deliver healthy products for their consumption and who trust their doctors to know how to advise them to prevent illness.

The advantage of bringing fiber into your diet is that it moves food through your digestive system quickly, it protects you from absorbing toxins, which may be associated with your food (pesticides, for example), it modulates the absorption of simple carbs, and it keeps the walls of the intestine clean by removing toxins which are believed to cause cancer. Fiber also modulates the amount of salt you consume, containing just the right amount, and thus works to prevent hypertension and the results of hypertension: kidney and heart disease. Fiber is good stuff! You can get some at your local vegetable store.

The choice to be vegetarian, in my opinion, is a spiritual choice. Our ancestors were omnivores, eating food from both meat and plant sources. It is clear that our physiology is not prepared for large amounts of cereals and grains, made available only in the last ten to fifteen thousand years through agriculture.

On the other hand, we are quite well-prepared to consume a portion of our calories in the form of dead animals but only in the raw state, because fire was mastered by man only 80,000 years ago, and it takes 200,000 years for genes to transform themselves and fully adapt to such a change. Nevertheless, one can add enzymes to cooked flesh, and providing there is nothing in the flesh other than flesh, such as pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and synthetic hormones, it makes a pretty healthy meal when combined with the proper portions of vegetables and fat.

One must ask oneself if it is right to take the lives of sentient beings to satisfy one's hunger when there is a viable choice to handle it another way. If the answer is yes, be a meat eater. If the answer is no, make yourself a vegetarian. I suppose it has to do with the ability, or lack of ability, to feel compassion for other creatures.

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The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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