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Pectin & Digestion

by
author image Christy Callahan
Christy Callahan has been researching and writing in the integrative health care field for over five years, focusing on neuro-endocrinology. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, earned credits toward a licensure in traditional Chinese medicine and is a certified Pilates and sport yoga instructor.
Pectin & Digestion
Pectin is a natural fiber found in apples and other fruits and vegetables. Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

You may have already begun adding more fiber to your diet, possibly by trying to eat more whole grains or oatmeal. Fruits, vegetables and legumes also contain fiber, according to the mayoclinic.com. Pectin is a naturally occurring fiber found in certain fruits, like apples and grapefruits, and some vegetables. Bringing more meaning to the old saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," adding pectin can help with your digestion when taken in accordance with your doctor's instructions.

Benefits of Soluble Fiber

The mayoclinic.com says that there are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble means that it does not dissolve in water. This type is mainly used to move stool through the intestine. According to Dr. Andrew Weil's website, soluble fiber, like pectin, does more than just move stool through the intestine. It helps to bind cholesterol in the intestines, increasing its elimination from the body. A study published in the "Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry" in June of 1998 demonstrated that rats fed apple or orange pectin saw decreases in cholesterol levels.

Pectin and Diarrhea

According to "The New Healing Herbs," pectin works with natural intestinal bacteria, or good bacteria, which turns the fiber into a soothing coating for irritated intestinal walls. The book also states that apple pectin has been found to counteract bacteria that causes diarrhea, such as Salmonella, E.Coli, and staphylococcus. Pectin adds bulk to the stool, which can help to ease diarrhea symptoms as well.

Pectin and Constipation

An article published in a Russian journal, "Voprosy Pitaniia," in January of 2006 studied patients with constipation caused by irritated intestinal linings. Beet derived pectin was given to some of the patients in the experiement, while the comparison group was given kefir, which contains natural digestive bacteria called probiotics. The group given the pectin found more relief from constipation and irritations in the intestinal lining than the comparison group. The Mayo Clinic website also states that soluble fiber can help relieve symptoms of constipation, giving more bulk to the stool which helps it to move through the colon more easily.

Other Benefits

In addition to aiding digestion and removing cholesterol, pectin has also been studied for its effect on diabetes and cancer. According to "The New Healing Herbs," pectin binds to cancer-causing compounds, helping them to be safely eliminated from the body. A study published in "Integrative Cancer Therapies" in June of 2010 showing that modified citrus pectin helped to inhibit cell growth and increase cell death in prostate cancer cell lines. Research is not complete, however, therefore you should not add pectin to your diet to treat these disorders without consulting your doctor.

Pectin Supplements

Pectin occurs as a course powder that is white or yellowish in color, states vitamins-supplements.org. It is practically odorless and has gelatin-like properties. It is often used to make jams and jellies, and forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water. You can buy grapefruit and apple pectin capsules that are made from what is typically considered the "waste" peels of fruits. Follow the package instructions and check with your doctor to ensure you are taking the proper amount. Drinking enough water is crucial if you are taking pectin or any other fiber supplement as both soluble and insoluble fiber need water in order to pass through the digestive system effectively, states mayoclinic.com.

Natural Sources of Pectin

Apples, grapefruit, peaches, currants, and plums contain pectin. Pectins are also found in root crops such as carrots and beetroot as well as in tubers, such as potatoes, states vitamins-supplements.org. The Mayo Clinic website recommends that men and women under the age of 50 include 25 to 38 grams of fiber in their diet per day, respectively. Men and women over 50 need between 21 and 30 grams per day. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, pectin alone should not be used to treat high cholesterol levels, diabetes, or any other type of disease or disorder. Always be sure to discuss your health and any potential supplements with your doctor before beginning use.

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