There are other types of bran besides wheat bran (See Home/Background>About Wheat Bran). For example, there is oat bran, corn bran, barley bran, and millet bran. Each type of bran is the high-fiber covering for the respective grain kernel.
Similar to wheat, these other brans can be harvested from grain kernels and then added to processed foods to increase fiber content in the foods. These are cereal fibers – they are different from fruit and vegetable fibers (See About the American Low-Fiber Diet).
However, even among cereal fibers, there are important differences…
For example, oat fiber (oat bran) affects the gut differently from the way wheat fiber (wheat bran) affects the gut.
Cereal fibers differ in regards to a number of characteristics. For example, cereal fibers differ in solubility (ability to dissolve in water). Cereal fibers differ in bifidogenicity (ability to promote the growth of good bacteria). Cereal fibers differ in resistance to digestion – this characteristic affects where in the bowel the fiber breaks down producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that heal the gut (See Digging Deeper>Good Bacteria Heal the Gut).
Today’s food manufacturers add fiber to their products as a way to attract health-conscious consumers looking for high-fiber foods. As manufacturers add fiber, it makes sense to consider food consistency and taste; however, consistency and taste are not the most important criteria for an individual with specific gut needs.
Take my IBD for example…
… the type of Crohn’s disease I have causes inflammation towards the end of the digestive system (distal colon). I benefit from the way that wheat bran shifts digestion distally.1
The distal shift in fiber digestion caused by wheat bran means that SCFAs become concentrated in the area of my intestines where I need extra help from SCFAs.
Thus, my distal colon reaps the benefits when I eat a generous serving of wheat bran cereal every day (See Digging Deeper>Good Bacteria Heal the Gut].
Two Lessons I Learned
Regarding Different Effects from Different Cereal Fibers
First… understand that oat fiber is a highly soluble fiber, and solubility makes oat bran desirable to manufacturers. Solubility means that substantial amounts of oat fiber boost fiber content without changing the food’s texture and taste. People are happy eating these foods because they are high fiber but you can’t tell.
Years ago, I ate oat-bran-fortified, high-fiber wraps to reach my daily fiber goal for weeks. Each wrap had an enormous amount of fiber in it. But after a couple of weeks, I began to realize that the effect of the oat bran on my gut was not to my satisfaction. I returned to wheat bran and my normal incredible gut health was restored.
Second… I once inadvertently switched from wheat bran to corn bran. In those days, I was using a different brand of ultra-high-fiber cereal. the reason for the switch was to reduce my sugar intake.
I had good results for quite awhile, but eventually I noticed that my bowel function was not as amazing as it was when I was eating All-Bran Bran Buds. For the first time in a long time I looked at the ingredients on the label of the box of cereal I was eating. It surprised me when I found that the manufacturer had changed the ingredients — the cereal contained corn bran instead of wheat bran. I called the company to find out when they changed and why. They told me when but would not tell me why. I switched back to All-Bran and again my incredible gut health was restored. I have stayed with All-Bran Bran Buds ever since.
Bottom line… healthy humans benefit from a variety of fiber-types. In the case of IBD, I believe individuals benefit from additional therapeutic levels of specific types of dietary fiber tailored to meet their physiologic needs. More research is needed to investigate different types of IBD in relation to different types of fiber.
I offer my journey as one example of an IBD diet success story!
- Govers M, Gannon N, Dunshea F, et al. Wheat bran affects the site of fermentation of resistant starch and luminal indexes related to colon cancer risk: a study in pigs. Gut 1999;45:840-847.