5 Unexpected Ways Dietary Fibre Benefits Systemic Lupus

In 2012, many in the world were in fear of the Mayan’s “doomsday” prediction. But others were getting on with life. Like some Japanese researchers who were studying the effect dietary fibre has on systemic lupus. Spanning from 1995-to-2005, their study suggests dietary fibre may keep systemic lupus inactive. [1]

What’s more, dietary fibre appears to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of death in those with kidney disease. [2] Suggesting that eating a high amount of fibre a day will help you if you have lupus nephritis.

A more recent Yale research also found that a high-fibre diet lowers the levels of disease-causing bacteria. Keeping the bacteria from moving outside of the gut and triggering autoimmune disease. [3]

The researchers came to the conclusion that…

“A lack of dietary fibre might allow for outgrowth of [disease-causing bacteria] that promote immune pathways in genetically prone individuals. … Dietary or other targeted approaches toward the gut microbiota would restore homeostasis by restraining disease-promoting [bacteria].”

But in short, the 2018 research uncovers an important link between diet (fibre), gut bacteria and autoimmunity. Begging the question…


What is Dietary Fibre?

Ever see that old bran flakes advert in the 90s, where the selling point was ‘they are high in fibre and low in fat.’

Even if you hadn’t ever heard the word ‘fibre’ before, it gave the sense that it was good for us. One thing it did not do though was to explain why.

Marketing like this may be the reason people see dietary fibre as positive, whilst not understanding why. [4]

Dietary fibre is an indigestible carbohydrate found within plant foods.

For the scientist, this includes polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates), lignin, as well as oligosaccharides and resistant starches. [5]

In layman terms, dietary fibre is the part of plant food that we cannot digest, in which there are two main types:

  • Soluble Fibre – Fibre that dissolves in water and is fermented within the colon
  • Insoluble Fibre – Fibre that does not dissolve in water and has a bulking action, as it is not fermented in the colon.

* It is important to note that there are many different types of fibre.


Why is dietary fibre important?

Many health benefits come as a result of dietary fibre. One such benefit is the reduced risk for developing many diseases:

  • Coronary heart disease [6]
  • Stroke [7]
  • Hypertension [8]
  • Diabetes [9]
  • Obesity [10]
  • Some gastrointestinal disorders [11]
  • Certain cancers [12][13][14]

Likewise, increased consumption of dietary fibre:

  • Improves cholesterol levels [15]
  • Lowers blood pressure [16]
  • Improves blood sugar control in diabetes [17]
  • Promotes regularity [18]
  • Aids in weight loss [19]
  • Appears to improve immune function [20]

*As with all scientific research, there is contradicting evidence. For that reason, certain conditions or improvements are not listed. For example, a 2007 study found fibre did not protect against colorectal polyp or cancer. Nor did it treat chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or perianal conditions. [21]

High dietary fibre foods that benefit lupus laid out on a white board

How does dietary fibre benefit us?

In simple terms, fibre feeds the ‘good’ bacteria within our intestine.

Our body contains trillions of microorganisms — outnumbering human cells up to 10-to-1. [22]

The majority live in the colon, but they all have important functions: [23]

#1. Better Bacteria

Fermentable fibres can increase the number of health-promoting bacteria whilst reducing harmful species. [24] This good bacteria then acts as a defensive army against any foreign-microbe invasion. Thus, playing an important part in the prevention of illness and disease. [25]

Also, a fibre-deficient diet may even cause the internal microbes to feed on the inside of the colon. Increasing the risk of infection as a result. [26] An important factor as lupus patients can have a 2-4 times higher chance of serious infections. [27]


#2. Supplies Short-Chain Fatty Acids

Fibre within the large intestine produces “short-chain fatty acids” when fermented. These fatty acids have anti-cancer properties [28] and can inhibit cholesterol synthesis. [18][29] They can even be a source of energy in extreme circumstances. But they can also lower systemic inflammation, as seen in autoimmune disorders like lupus. [30]


#3. Helps Keep You Regular

Fibre increases faecal bulking and viscosity. In other words, it creates a high stool weight and faster throughput. Thus, there is less contact time between the digestive system and potential cancer-causing substances. Low fibre diets and constant constipation are more associated with increased cancer risk. As well as inflammation, gut leakage and autoimmunity. [31]


#4. Steadies Blood Sugar Levels

Fibre gives a feeling of being fuller for longer, this is why fibre can help with weight control. Also, soluble fibre slows the breakdown of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar. Thus, helping with blood sugar control. This is key as both obesity and insulin resistance are more frequent in lupus patients. [32]


#5. Lowers Inflammation

Fibre, itself, seems to decrease inflammation. [32][33] The basis is that high-fibre foods contain plenty of antioxidants. Why this benefits lupus is self-explanatory.


Plate full of dietary fibre-rich food in a circle

How much dietary fibre do we need?

According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), we in the UK, do not eat enough fibre at 14 grams per day.

That said, how much should we be eating:

Age (years) The recommended intake of fibre
2-5 15g per day
5-11 20g per day
11-16 25g per day
17 and over 30g per day


Foods rich in dietary fibre like strawberries, nuts and cherries.

Finally, where do we get our dietary fibre?

Most fibre containing foods include approximately one-third soluble and two-thirds insoluble fibre. [34] So, include a variety of fibre-containing foods, such as:

  • In-season Fruit
  • Gluten-free grains (e.g., buckwheat, millet, and quinoa)
  • Soaked and pressure-cooked Legumes (e.g., peas, beans, lentils)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables (e.g., potatoes, onions, celery)

Any food found in nature with edible skin, as it is the skin that contains the majority of fibre.

This is why eating fruit is much more beneficial than drinking fruit juice. It is also another reason to stop eating so much dead, processed food. Instead, choose healthy, vibrant food.

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