Clean Sweep

Oat fiber helps cleanse the intestines, a crucial step in body detoxification.

July/August 2014

by Lisa James


Death begins in the colon” is a long-time principle in holistic medicine. At first this statement sounds a little overly dramatic. But think about it: Everything you ingest enters your bloodstream through the digestive system, which also carries away a lot of your body’s total toxic load. So poor digestive function isn’t merely a case of abdominal upset; it represents a very real danger to your continued well-being.

No wonder proper intestinal care is so important. Oat fiber can play a key role in keeping the intestinal tract active and healthy.

Sluggish Function

The last five feet or so of the gastrointestinal tract consists of the large intestine, or colon, where water, any remaining nutrients and substances called electrolytes are absorbed. The colon also hosts gut flora, the friendly (probiotic) microbes that aid in digestion, create certain vitamins and help defend the body against harmful microbial agents.

Problems ensue when movement through the colon stalls. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 42 million Americans experience constipation each year, with poor diet and lack of physical activity among the main culprits (along with certain medications and disorders). Occasional mild constipation isn’t harmful. However, ongoing bowel dysfunction interferes with proper digestion and toxin elimination, which in turn disrupts other bodily processes.

Improved Movement

Fortunately, nature supplies a solution to this pervasive problem. “The health of the colon is largely determined by the amount of dietary fiber a person consumes,” say naturopathic doctors Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, authors of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Atria). “Without enough fiber, waste material tends to accumulate.”

People have long used oat bran—the oat seed’s outer casing—to boost their fiber intake, now available in a more concentrated form called oat fiber. Unlike bran, oat fiber contains practically no starch, making it a useful low-carbohydrate alternative.

Like bran, oat fiber mixes with water in the colon to form a gel that gently cleanses the intestinal lining while promoting proper bowel function and helping you feel fuller longer. What’s more, evidence suggests that oat fiber (combined with the amino acid taurine) can inhibit the release of bacterial endotoxins, inflammatory substances linked to obesity (Chemico-Biological Interactions 3/30/10).

Oat fiber provides additional health benefits. It has long been known that the soluble fiber in oats can reduce cholesterol levels; now it appears that oat fiber can reduce glucose levels as well. Oats has also been found to contain antioxidant compounds known as avenanthramides, which research has linked to reduced inflammation and inhibited colon cancer cell proliferation (Nutrition Journal 2014, Nutrition and Cancer 2010).

Unlike bran’s rougher, denser texture, oat fiber has a fine, powdery consistency that allows it to be used in a number of ways. While home chefs value the plain variety as a healthy baking ingredient, chewable oat fiber wafers with flavorings such as honey provide fiber’s many benefits in a convenient, portable form. (Because detoxification agents should themselves not contain toxins, look for products that use organic oat bran.)

Take care of your intestines and they’ll help take care of you. Using oat fiber on a regular basis can lead to a new motto: “Health begins in the colon.”

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