Mar 2, 2018
Dr. Anna Toker with the USMD Arlington South Colon Rectal Clinic remembers her first day of medical school. “The chief of surgery opened our very first lecture with one sentence. ‘Hippocrates once said no manner of brains is worth a good set of bowels,’ he said and then he walked out of the classroom leaving us to think about that statement. Now that I’m a colorectal surgeon, I spend most of my day preaching that very Hippocratic truth.”
Patients, Dr. Toker has found, have one burning question they want answered: What can I do to get my stomach to act normally? “What they’re really asking is, ‘Why is my intestinal tract abnormal and what instant fix can you offer?’ My answer is always the same—with fiber,” she says.
How do you treat hemorrhoids? Fiber.
How do you treat constipation? Fiber.
How do you treat diverticulosis? Fiber.
How do you treat diarrhea? Fiber.
How do you treat high cholesterol? Fiber.
How do you lose weight? Fiber.
Know your fiber
Fiber comes in two forms—soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is a bulking agent, while soluble fiber is an absorbing and binding agent. These two types of fiber—along with water and good bacteria—make the human intestinal tract sing like Pavarotti.
But first you need to know a bit about how the gastrointestinal (GI) tract works. Your GI tract is a long muscular tube that intermittently contracts to move food from the top to the bottom of the digestive tract. The lining of this tube is responsible for absorbing water, salts and nutrients. It also serves as a protective barrier against bacteria from the outside world. When you have digestive problems, you are either having problems with the GI’s muscular tube, its absorbent lining—or both.
To understand how the muscular portion of the colon works, think of the colon like a hand grasping different items. Small items are hard to hold. You have to squeeze harder to firmly grasp them. This is the reason people with arthritis like kitchen utensils with chunky grips and small children like chunky crayons. Similarly, your colon likes chunky fiber.
Now, to understand how the lining of the colon works, think about a kid’s sand box. Dry loose sand is easier to hold when you grab it loosely. The tighter you squeeze the more the sand wants to slip between your fingers and out from the sides of your hand. Without bulk, the muscular colon squeezes hard causing the lining to squeeze out through the sides (creating diverticular disease) and the bottom (creating hemorrhoids).
Fiber helps prevent this by adding bulk to stool. With the right proportion of water in the mix, fiber helps keep the stool soft—providing chunky texture your colon can grip and easily squeeze while keeping the lining from popping out and causing diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.
Flushing toxins from your body naturally
Soluble fiber absorbs water, toxins, cholesterol, bile, and other substances you consume and that your body makes. This means soluble fiber helps you lower your cholesterol, lose weight and counteract diarrhea. Plus, it detoxifies your body—you don’t need to use a “colon cleanse.” You can find powdered soluble fiber is available at the grocery store or health food store. Just mix it with water, and enjoy all its natural health benefits. Because soluble fiber changes stool consistency to one that the muscular tube can propel easily, it naturally flushes the system without damaging the function of your intestine’s lining the way colon cleanse formulations can.
If you would to like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Toker, please call the USMD Arlington South Colon Rectal Clinic at 214.942.3740.