FIBRE - AN ESSENTIAL PART OF YOUR DOG'S FOOD
Elevate Your Dog’s Food Beyond Simple Nutrition
Welcome to ‘Ingredients with a Purpose’ - a series of science informed articles on the role the ingredients in your dog’s food plays in achieving their best health and wellbeing at every stage of their precious lives at the same time helping to reduce the environmental impact feeding them has on our precious planet.
We understand there are a LOT of options when it comes to what you feed your dog. We also understand you want to offer them the best food possible, and labels can be confusing. The goal of this series is to give you clear insight into the reason for the inclusion of every ingredient in our super premium food, the role it plays and what is necessary to guarantee you are feeding your dog an all-natural, complete, and balanced, diet.
These are the key elements necessary for positive nutrition.
Good Fibre, Bad Fibre - How the Different Types Affect Your Dog
Fibre can influence many aspects of health and is only found in plants.
From gut bacteria to weight loss, it is often considered a fundamental part of a healthy diet.
The truth is that not all fibre is created equal. Some types are highly beneficial, while others can cause digestive problems.
“Fibre” refers to a diverse group of carbohydrates that you and your dog cannot digest.
Our dogs lack the digestive enzymes required to break them down, so they pass through most of the digestive system unchanged.
Fibre is mostly found in plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
There is actually a huge variety of different fibres found in foods.
The problem is that they are often classified in different ways, which can be highly confusing.
Fibre is formally classified into two main types ( 3):
- Dietary fibre: Fibre found naturally in foods.
- Functional fibre: Fibre that is extracted and isolated from whole foods, then added to processed foods.
However, there is a major problem with classifying fibre in this way. It tells us absolutely nothing about their health effects.
A popular alternative method is to classify fibre based on its solubility (soluble vs insoluble), viscosity (viscous vs non-viscous) and fermentability (fermentable vs non-fermentable).
Then there is yet another class of nutrients called resistant starches, which are often classified as dietary fibres.
The solubility of fibre refers to its ability to dissolve in water.
Based on this, fibre has often been categorized as either soluble or insoluble:
- Soluble fibre blends with water in the gut, forming a gel-like substance. It can reduce blood sugar spikes and has various metabolic health benefits (4).
- Insoluble fibre does not blend with the water and passes through the digestive system mostly intact. It functions mostly as a “bulking” agent and may help speed the passage of food and waste through your gut (5).
Soluble fibres include gums, pectins, psyllium, beta-glucans and others. Insoluble fibres include lignin and cellulose.
Different plant foods have varying proportions of soluble and insoluble fibres.
An estimated 100 trillion live bacteria reside in your dog’s gut (you have the same number) mainly in the large intestine.
These bacteria are actually crucial for optimal health in humans and dogs. They play various roles related to weight management, blood sugar control, immunity, brain function and mental health.
They are so important that they are often referred to as the “forgotten organ”.
Because humans and dogs can’t digest fibre, it ends up reaching the large intestine mostly unchanged.
This is where fermentable fibre comes into play. These are fibres that the friendly gut bacteria can digest (ferment) and use as fuel - often referred to as prebiotics.
This increases the number and balance of friendly gut bacteria, which also produce short-chain fatty acids with powerful health benefits.
Most fermentable fibres are soluble, but there are also some insoluble fibres that can function in this way.
Fermentable fibres include pectins, beta-glucans, guar gum, inulin and oligofructose.
The best whole-food sources of fermentable fibres are beans and legumes.
Some types of soluble fibres form a thick gel when they blend with water. These are known as viscous fibres.
Put simply, the viscosity of a fluid refers to its “thickness.” For example, the sweetener honey is more viscous than water.
When you eat viscous fibre, it forms a gel-like substance that “sits” in the gut.
This slows down the digestion and absorption of nutrients, resulting in a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite.
A review of 44 studies on fibre treatments found that only viscous fibres reduced food intake and caused weight loss ( 19).
Viscous fibres include glucomannan, beta-glucans, pectins, guar gum and psyllium. Good whole-food sources include legumes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, oats and flax seeds.
Starches are the main types of carbohydrates in the diet.
They are long chains of glucose molecules, found in potatoes, grains and many other foods.
Some starch is actually resistant to digestion, so that it passes through the digestive system unchanged.
This type of starch is called resistant starch, and it functions like soluble, fermentable fibre in the gut ( 20).
There are several good food sources of resistant starch, including green bananas, various legumes, cashews and oats. A more detailed list can be found here.
Additionally, certain starchy foods tend to form large amounts of resistant starch if they are cooled down after cooking. This includes white potatoes and white rice.
Several fibres have specific health implications and are worthy of highlighting.
A fructan is the term used to describe a small chain of fructose molecules.
Oligofructose and inulin are the two main fructan varieties in the diet. They can feed the friendly bacteria in the gut and have been shown to help treat certain types of diarrhoea.
However, fructans are also types of carbohydrates known to cause digestive issues in many people and dogs.
In fact, fructans trigger adverse symptoms in 3 out of 4 people with irritable bowel syndrome, a common digestive disorder (28).
The biggest source of fructans in the modern diet is wheat. Wheat is also one of the foods that causes digestive sensitivities in dogs.
The health benefits of beta-glucans ( β-glucans) have been extensively researched. These fibres have a specific molecular structure that makes them highly viscous in the gut.
Beta-glucans can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. They can also significantly reduce cholesterol levels and increase feelings of fullness and satiety ( 30).
Glucomannan is a viscous fibre that is commonly marketed as a weight loss supplement.
Numerous studies have shown that glucomannan can cause modest weight loss, fight constipation and improve risk factors for heart disease.
Fibre plays a similarly important role in your dog’s diet and health to your own.
Fibre may help reduce the risk of colon cancer in dogs, because it speeds elimination and therefore reduces the exposure of any carcinogens your dog has consumed. Not surprisingly, fibre can also reduce diarrhoea and constipation symptoms, should your dog be suffering from either. Fibre functions to increase bulk and absorb excess water, which aids in bowel regularity and helps produce firm, formed stools.
Managing a Healthy Weight
Fibre is an excellent nutrient for dogs on a weight management program. Obesity is the leading cause of many chronic illnesses in dogs, but owners are reluctant to decrease the amount of food they feed their pets. Fibre allows dogs to feel full while consuming very few calories, so switching to a high-fibre dog food is often a good choice for those trying to take weight off their dogs.
Supporting Healthy Anal Glands
Your dog’s anal glands play a very important part in their social communication with other dogs. Their glands, 2 of them, are positioned at about 8 and 4 around your dog’s anus.
Every time they poo the faeces pass by these glands helping to express them. The pheromones expressed form part of the communication by smell dogs use to identify who has passed their way and when in much the same way dogs urinate on lampposts!
If their stool is too soft to aid this expression, their anal glands eventually build up and impact. This can be very uncomfortable, and even painful, for your dog. It is the reason many dogs scoot their bottoms on the ground in an attempt to express full glands.
The easiest way to help alleviate this unpleasant condition is to ensure your dog is getting sufficient fibre in their diet to promote firm stools which in turn facilitate anal gland expression.
Improving Diabetes Mellitus
Certain fibres slow digestion, which keeps blood-sugar levels from spiking. This causes fewer fluctuations in the blood sugar of dogs that eat high-fibre diets; meaning they may be able to maintain better management of their illness.
Veterinarians have found that fibres can reduce a dog’s sensitivity to insulin, although researchers aren’t quite sure exactly how this works yet. What is known, though, is that many veterinarians put diabetic dogs on high-fibre diets.
Bonza’s food has been scientifically formulated to provide an excellent blend of plant-based sources of all the fibre types, balanced to deliver maximum health benefit for your dog.
Our fibre sources include oats, reishi mushroom, fava beans, peas and chickpeas, sweet potato and potato, seaweed, nutritional yeast, pumpkin, baobab and carrots. (click on each ingredient to see the health benefits they offer your dog)
The number one thing we can do for our dogs is giving them food that enables their body and mind to flourish.
Much like us, the healthier your dog’s lifestyle, the more likely they’ll be able to fight off any disease or infection. Often the food we feed our dogs is not doing them justice. It’s filled with artificial flavours, low-quality protein sources, and not enough fibre.
Bonza is a Veterinary nutritionist -developed food that is balanced, varied protein, high fibre source of complete nutrition. Our food is packed with beta-glucans, a powerful digestive fibre that helps to fight off disease and increase immunity. It contains a carefully formulated balance of soluble and insoluble fibre providing your dog’s gut with healthful prebiotics to support a healthy digestive system, which together with PhytoPlus®, a proprietary blend of superfoods, super herbs and botanicals, supports your dog living its longest, carefree life all the while reducing the harm to the planet of feeding them.
Bonza. Nose to Tail Good Health.