Healthy intestinal bacteria prefer to digest carbohydrate foods. Intestinal bacteria do digest protein foods but there is a longer transit time out of the gut.

Keep up the fiber

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It is important for all of us to have normal bowel function. Our 26 feet of small and large intestines need a good supply of daily fiber to keep things running smoothly. The length of time that food takes to travel the human gut – the transit time –does vary from person to person. But it is important for food to pass through in timely fashion for the health of the gut bacteria. Here is more from an interesting study from the National Food Institute of the Technical University of Denmark.

Healthy intestinal bacteria seem to prefer to digest carbohydrate foods. Depending upon the fiber content of the carbohydrates, there is a healthier lining of the gut with good bacteria content. Carbohydrate foods are naturally high in fiber if they are not refined: whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Intestinal bacteria do digest protein foods but there is a longer transit time out of the gut. Protein foods include red meats, fish and poultry. This can cause constipation and a less healthy gut environment. Constipation has been linked as a risk factor to colorectal cancer, Parkinson’s disease and chronic renal disease.

Our dietary habits can influence transit time of waste products through the gut. Quicker is better – less time for unhealthy degradation products. Meats slow down transit time but unrefined grain and plant foods speed things up. This is in part why whole-grains such as multi-grain breads, brown rice, barley, whole wheat pasta and oatmeal and other-whole grain cereals are recommended. And of course, ample servings of fruits and vegetables are important daily – either cooked or raw. The fiber is intact either way.

Drink plenty of water for normal bowel function. Physical activity also keeps the travel time through the intestines shorter.

Recipes to try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.