As Stacy Simms says, “women are not just small men.” It’s true, we are unique from the way we metabolize to how we respond to stress, process inflammation, store toxins and produce hormones. Our bodies need some extra consideration, and, in today’s world when we are balancing more than ever, we could all use better tools to support true health.
Soluble fiber is one of those tools
When we think of fiber, our minds tend to zero in on digestion, but for women this non-nutritive nutrient is so much more. Soluble fiber has some superpowers when it comes to women’s health. In fact, soluble fiber affects virtually every aspect of our bodies, inside and out. Check out the science.
Hormones are communication molecules and while we are constantly balancing countless hormones, our sex hormones can range from supportive us to sabotaging us. When working in a synergistic balance, these hormones allow us to build bone and muscle, focus, reproduce, get romantic, hit the gym, and feel connection and love. When they are out of whack, we lose sleep, break out, experience increased pain, lose hair, gain weight, develop allergies, and become extra irritable.
One of the primary imbalances that women experience is an unhealthy gap between progesterone and estrogen production. While these hormones balance each other and work synergistically in certain ranges, when the liver and gut aren’t able to move excess estrogen out effectively, we can feel the dark side of estrogen overload.
Because soluble fiber binds excess estrogen in the small intestine and moves it through the colon and into the toilet, daily intake of 15-20g soluble fiber is a simple tool for supporting hormone balance all month long. In hormone transitions such as adolescence and perimenopause, soluble fiber becomes even more magical for keeping hormones in check!
Breast cancer risk is at an all-time high as our bodies are tasked with filtering increasing environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors while we balance elevated stress and countless pressures on our immune system. This means that we need to get any edge on cancer that we can, and soluble fiber provides a measurable edge.
In fact, a 2016 meta-analysis clearly states "Dose-response analysis showed that every 10g/d increment in dietary fibre intake was associated with a 4% reduction in breast cancer risk, and little evidence of publication bias was found. Thus, dietary fibre consumption is significantly associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women."
This connection likely exists for the reasons mentioned in the previous section. We need excess estrogen to leave the body!
With heart disease as the leading cause of death for US women, there is no better focus when it comes to prevention. Consuming high amounts of soluble fiber (15-20g/day) reduces LDL cholesterol, drops inflammation, reduces risk of obesity, helps to balance blood sugar and support blood pressure regulation. This covers virtually every risk factor for heart disease, and it’s SO EASY. Beans, lentils, flax, chia and Florasophy every day means reduced risk and better heart health.
Get glowing skin by increasing soluble fiber. Here’s how - research shows that acne is strongly associated with sugar intake and the body’s glucose response. In fact, interesting data links fungal overgrowth to acne and fungus LOVES sugar. Kicking sugar is a great tool for eliminating acne but slowing the absorption of carbs into your bloodstream is another helpful hack. Soluble fiber has been shown to reduce glucose spikes by doing just that, slowing absorption. Reducing sugar intake along with consuming plenty of soluble fiber at meals can reduce acne breakouts.
Soluble fiber’s ability to slow digestion is another reason that your skin will benefit. This slower transit time means water, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients in the GI tract have more time to absorb into the bloodstream. This means you lose fewer nutrients and less water through elimination.
Metabolism and body composition
Boosting soluble fiber is a fantastic way to support better metabolism and your optimal body composition. The benefits are due to soluble fiber’s wide reach on caloric intake and absorption as well as its effect on hormones and the microbiome. Because soluble fiber helps you feel full, you eat less. Soluble fiber slows transit time which means you absorb glucose at a slower rate, leading to fewer glucose spikes and less fat storage. Soluble fiber also binds to fat in your diet, carrying that fat into your colon instead of into your bloodstream.
In addition, soluble fiber feeds your healthy microbiome which supports increased metabolism. Certain fiber-loving microbes in the colon help to prevent the extraction of excess calories from our food, therefore reducing “calories in” and moving more “calories out”.
For the same reason we love soluble fiber for estrogen balance, we love it for detox. Soluble fiber has a special action in our small intestine—it binds bile. Bile is a molecule made in the liver that not only helps us absorb dietary fat, but it acts as the garbage truck for toxins the liver is trying to get rid of.
As bile (carrying toxins) is secreted into the small intestine by the gallbladder, it has two fates. 1) It can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream with the toxins your liver was trying to get rid of. Or 2) it can be bound to soluble fiber and carried into the colon and into your toilet. Better detox leads to benefits in every system in your body, inside and out.
Ladies, we may not want to talk about poop, but let’s be real…it’s a thing. As a clinician, I rarely see women that don’t have some sort of complaint about elimination. Whether it’s too much, too little, too rarely or too frequently, healthy daily bowel movements are rare. However, what goes in, must come out and achieving silky smooth daily bowel movements is a sign that your body is digesting, absorbing, and eliminating optimally.
Soluble fiber is key for better bowel movements and adapts to what your body needs. It pulls water in when you need looser stool and holds excess water when you need more firmness. It slows digestion when you need less frequency and improves motility when things get stuck. It does all of this while improving waste and toxin removal and boosting metabolism.
I challenge you to find a food or supplement that is more powerful.
Get more soluble fiber
As women, we nurture and care for those around us, but often forget about our own needs. We may be caregivers, storybook readers, CEOs, laundry folders, carpoolers, temperature takers, poop-scoopers, marathoners, mountain climbers, amateur chefs, and a list of other titles and identities, but we are also unbelievably complex and amazing organisms that deserve optimal health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, soluble fiber won’t fold our laundry, but it will give us more resilience to feel amazing and show up every day as the people we want to be. Get your 20g a day and feel the difference.