Juleyka is a nutritionist from Manchester; she is passionate about food sustainability in relation to health and nutrition. She has partnered with dissertations for good contributing to research around the U.N Sustainable Development Goals and food sustainability practices, volunteered for Dimension's charity; creating meal plans for people with complex needs. More recently, she has also joined with YouGen as a content writer on the link between sustainability and health.
Fatigue is an ever-present issue for many people. It can be due to many reasons, for some it can be part of long COVID symptoms, meanwhile for others it can be due to leading a stressful life or even vitamin deficiencies, such as low Iron or B12 levels.
Medical conditions, such as diabetes or high cholesterol, can contribute to fatigue and can be very debilitating and in extreme cases and even lead to long term conditions like M.E/chronic fatigue syndrome.
Fatigue can feel like you are dragging you heals through the day; you avoid stressful or challenging tasks due to the limited capacity energy you might have and miss out on things that matter to you. If fatigue continues despite any lifestyle and dietary changes, or it creates a significant disruption to your daily life, please see your doctor.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of options that you can try which may also help and it may be just as simple as adding a little bit of fibre…
Why fibre is important?
Let’s begin with why fibre is so important.
It is due to two main reasons; fibre allows you stay fuller for longer but also on a cellular level, it provides energy directly to cells in the intestine. These simple effects have an overarching effect on the whole body. Although fibre is classed as calorie-free nutrient, the breakdown of fibre in the gut provides energy in the gut in the form of short chain fatty acids.
Eating fibre also leads to a highly diverse gut microbiome- it specifical contributes an ‘’alpha diversity microbiome’’- which means that a large variety of beneficial gut bacteria in your stomach. The more variety of gut bacteria, the more health benefits, and resistance to chronic diseases.
The scientific low down behind how fibre works:
1.Satiating effect: Fibre is also filling and has a satiating effect, which means you will feel fuller for longer. Sensory neurones in the gut detect how full your stomach is, which then signals to hunger centre in your brain in two ways, either to increase appetite or reduce appetite. The presence of fibre in the stomach causes the sensory receptors to signal fulness, which then reduces satiety. See below with how this indirectly supports fatigue management.
2.Reduces decision fatigue: the brain is a highly metabolic organ with a lot of energy use. Psychological factors like level of concentration and the number of decisions you make per day also has an impact- this is classed as decision fatigue. However, the psychological benefit of increasing fibre is that due to the feeling of ‘fullness’, you will feel less hungry and therefore more likely to focus on other tasks instead of thinking what meal you are going to eat next, consequently reducing the feeling of decision fatigue.
3.Energy for gut bacteria: there is a specific type of fibre, soluble fibre, which provides energy for bacteria in the gut to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are then used as a direct source of energy for the large intestine which contributes to overall wellbeing. A happy healthy gut leads to a happier and healthy body.
4.Balances Blood Glucose levels-
Fibre plays a key role in supporting waste, such as excess blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which is excreted with bile into the intestines. The absence of fibre would mean that such wastes would be reabsorbed into the body. Oats in particular support cholesterol reduction.
This is due to the insoluble fibre, beta glucan, which prevent absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream. A 2012 study also showed an increase in beneficial gut bacteria, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Simply adding 1-2 servings to your diet will provide a multitude of benefits; especially when with paired with nuts /seeds or even mixed in with a nut butter for extra protein and healthier fats.
A higher fibre diet can support the stabilisation of blood glucose levels and cholesterol. The consumption of a high simple carbohydrate diet can leave you feeling lethargic. However, the consumption of either fibre or protein (even better if it’s both) can help mitigate this effect as the fibre will help slow the release of glucose into the body. A slower release of glucose will ensure steady energy levels throughout the day.
- Satiating effect of fibre allows stomach to feel fuller for longer.
- Minimises chance of decision fatigue around food choices.
- High-fibre diet can be a significant aid to reducing high blood sugar and cholesterol once the underlying medical cause is treated.
- Balances Blood Glucose levels and prevents lethargy.
- Breakdown of fibre leads to SFA’a for cells in the intestines as a source of energy.
- The Role of Fibre in Energy Balance - PMC (nih.gov)
- Koh AS, Pan A, Wang R, Odegaard AO, Pereira MA, Yuan JM, Koh WP. The association between dietary omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular death: the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2015 Mar;22(3):364-72.
- Nutritional and therapeutic perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.): a review - PMC (nih.gov0
- (PDF) Breakfast cereal, fibre, digestive problems and well-being (researchgate.net)
- Consumption of Dietary Fiber in Relation to Psychological Disorders in Adults - PMC (nih.gov)
- Oat-Based Foods: Chemical Constituents, Glycemic Index, and the Effect of Processing - PMC (nih.gov)
- Oat β-glucan increased ATPases activity and energy charge in small intestine of rats - PubMed (nih.gov)