Dietary Fiber

Roughage, or fiber, plays an important role in the passage of chyme. Roughage increases the digestive juices in the gastrointestinal tract. In the intestine the roughage swells due to its absorption of water. It serves as a culture medium for the bacteria in the colon, allowing them to multiply more quickly and contribute to the volume increase. The breakdown of the fibers by bacteria creates gases and acids, which in turn stimulate the peristalsis of the intestinal wall. The consistency of the stools becomes softer, and the distension of the intestinal wall and increased propulsive motility shortens the transit time and reduces water resorption.

For roughage to have the optimal effect, it is important to drink enough liquids. Children between the ages of 1 and 4 years should drink at least 950 ml, children between 4 and 10 years of age should drink at least 1100 ml, between 10 and 13 years at least 1200 ml, and children between 13 and 15 years at least 1300 ml [5,6]. The more roughage the food contains, the more should be drunk. It is also important to increase the fluid intake if there is increased sweating, for example during sports. Insufficient fluid intake may lead to bowel obstruction. Mineral water, still mineral water, unsweetened fruit tea or herbal teas, and sugar-free fruit juices diluted with mineral water are all suitable. The amount drunk can be monitored using a checklist. Certain types of receptacles, drinking bottles, or jugs are useful aids to monitor fluid intake. To begin with, the current fluid intake should be monitored by recording all fluids ingested and then the amounts should be slowly increased until the desired daily amount is reached. Milk is not considered as a drink, but as a liquid meal. Too much milk often results in too little being eaten or drunk.

Roughage is indigestible vegetable material, which can be found in leaves, fruits, or roots. It is also referred to as raw fiber, vegetable fiber, or indigestible carbohydrate. Roughage cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes, but it can be partially broken down by the bacteria in the colon. The most important types of roughage are water-insoluble cellulose, lignin, and the partially water-soluble hemicellulose, together with water-soluble pectins. No single type of roughage is an essential food; however a certain amount of roughage is indispensable, beginning in the second half of the 1st year of life at the latest, to ensure that the bowel functions properly [7,8].

Nonpurified vegetable fibers are the fibers found in cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Purified vegetable fibers are fibrous and polymer substances such as lignin, cellulose and pectins, if they are ingested alone. These must be differentiated from synthetic fibers, such as crystalline cellulose, lignin, and cellulose, which are used in synthetic products. They are referred to as fillers because they have only a limited ability to swell. Hemicellulose and pectin are both bulking agents; however, pectin absorbs more water. Vegetable foodstuffs usually have less than 15% roughage. The declaration of the raw fiber content of foodstuffs in nutritional indices always refers to cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin [7,8].

To increase the roughage intake, the amount of vegetable foodstuffs should be increased and the amount of animal products ingested should be reduced. This will result in a mechanical stimulation of the bowel. An increase in roughage can be achieved not just by increasing the percentage of vegetable foodstuffs ingested, but also by choosing products with more roughage. As fruits and vegetables largely consist of cellulose, such a substitution is limited, because the roughage in fruits and vegetables, with the exception of pulses, is only around 1-3% [7,8]. Berries and dried fruits have the highest roughage content. The vegetables with the highest amount of roughage are green peas, leeks, cabbages, and pulses; however, they are also more indigestible and can lead to flatulence. One should eat four to five portions of vegetables, uncooked vegetables, salads, fruit, and/or fruit juices every day.

Cereals consist in the main of hemicellulose that has a high capacity to absorb water. If wholegrain, multigrain, or wholemeal breads, pumpernickel, Graham bread, crispbread, or products such as granola, linseed, wholemeal gruel, wholemeal noodles, or brown rice are eaten instead of white bread, the roughage intake can be increased without increasing the size of the portions.

The roughage intake can also be increased by eating wheat bran, oat bran, or products containing wheat or oat bran. The volume of chyme is increased by the coarse bran's capacity to bind water and swell. Products made with coarse meal are more effective than those made of finely ground meal or bran flour, as their water absorption is limited. Wheat and oat bran are both available as supplements that can be added to granola and can be purchased either roasted or crisped.

Due to the hydrophilic nature of bran, ingesting around 5-10 g bran will require an additional 200 ml of liquid to be drunk; in other words, after the ingestion of bran it is important to drink enough. If it is not possible to ensure sufficient liquid intake, then the bran should be soaked prior to consumption, for example in water or juice. If sufficient amounts of liquid are ingested together with the bran, the time required for passage can be reduced. Bran can also be added to milk products, compotes, soups, and stews, and even to dishes with minced meat, to potato dumplings, and potato pancakes [4,9].

Various roughage supplements with different effects are available. These supplements have a high capacity to bind water and can increase the moisture content in the stools, increase the volume of the stools, and/or serve as a nutrient substrate for colon cells. The choice of supplement is an individual decision [4,9,10].

Nuts, almonds and sesame seeds also contain relatively high amounts of roughage and can promote the passing of stools.

Foodstuffs made of very finely ground meal (for example white bread rolls, toast bread, milk bread rolls, cake, and biscuits), are very unsuitable because these foodstuffs contain very little roughage. Other products with little roughage are noodles made of semolina wheat flour, white rice, desserts, sweets, and confectionery [10].

Foodstuffs that consolidate the stools, such as bananas, blueberries, boiled carrots, rice, low-fat curd cheese, hard-boiled eggs, cocoa and black tea, should initially be avoided. If the symptoms improve it may be possible to reintroduce them.

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