Need More Fiber? A Bran Muffin per Day Works

© May 28, 2012; by Dan A. Gold, MD

     Peristalsis is a body function many people take for granted. It is the major way that our digestive tract pushes content through the body and consists of wave after wave of muscular constrictions. We never think about peristalsis – that is, until it slows or becomes ineffective. Then, constipation occurs, immediately commanding our attention.

     Certainly, the first solution most people think about is a medication or laxative. These treatments work by forcing the gut to fill with fluid or by irritating the gut so that peristalsis becomes more rapid. The results may give temporary relief, however, a long term solution to constipation is best. While exercise and increased fluid intake are important, one of the big answers is to increase fiber content in the diet. A good way to do this is by eating a bran muffin daily. How does bran fiber work?

     Our products of digestion first enter the large intestine in the right lower abdominal quadrant as a fluid mixture. The colon, begins to pump water out of this mixture and bacterial overgrowth, a natural process, occurs to add additional bulk. If the consistency of this mixture is high in residual fat content or low in fiber content, the resulting waste can become quite compacted and hard.

     Subsequently, the constrictions of the colon may serve to further compress this mass instead of simply pushing it toward expulsion. When hollow organs compress without results, they can become temporarily ischemic and painful. You can demonstrate ischemia by mashing the end of the thumb for a few seconds with the opposite thumb and index finger.

     Observe the nail bed at release. At first it is white or pale since blood has been forced from the tissues of the thumb by the pressure. Almost immediately, however, the nail bed will pink up. When hollow organs – such as the ureters, intestines, uterus or gallbladder – constrict forcefully and without release, the prolonged lack of blood to the organ (ischemia) causes colic, or pain.

     Those who have been constipated know this feeling. Fiber keeps the stool soft or mushy, so that it can be easily mobilized and pushed through the gut. There are, of course, prescriptive (medicinal) ways to accomplish this.

     Three pharmaceutical products come to mind. Fibercon is fiber in a capsule. It is convenient, especially for travel. Metamucil and Citrucel are also products available in canisters of powder for scooping into drink or in packet forms for purse or luggage. My confession, however, is my love for bran muffins.

It is relatively easy to bake a weekly pan of muffins for your daily fiber fix. One a day usually helps to meet your fiber requirements to insure regularity and ease. Also, there are other benefits.

     It is best for intestinal health if the toxic content of the colon is emptied quickly rather than retained to expose the delicate intestinal lining to injurious compounds. Also, the more forceful constrictions can injure the bowel leading to a condition known as diverticulosis.

     Another benefit of fiber is to remove cholesterol from the body in the form of bile salts. Bile is naturally mixed in the digestive stream to aid in fat digestion. It is reabsorbed at the end of the small intestine unless plenty of fiber is present. This liver product will stick to the fiber content of the stool stream resulting in elimination. Bile is essentially a slightly modified form of cholesterol and its removal is a health benefit.

     In closing, it is apparent that a daily bran muffin is a good food to eat. Recipes abound on the internet (see ). Bon appetite and happy regularity.