Unprocessed plant foods are greatest sources of dietary fiber

Denis Burkitt (1911-1993), British surgeonpizzaBy Asunta Simoloka

Dr Denis Burkitt (right) was an Irish doctor who did some work in Africa during and after the Second World War.

Dr. Burkitt noticed that African hospitals had a different pattern of diseases compared to the Western World.

In the western world there were too many cases of non communicable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, Arthritis, and high cholesterol.

bondweIn rural Africa people suffered mainly from communicable diseases like Malaria whereas diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol abnormalities, and other non communicable diseases were very rare.

Dr Burkitt attributed the high rates of non communicable diseases in the western world to lifestyle and inadequate dietary fiber.  Fiber was lacking in most western diets which were high in meat and processed foods.  As a result, people following western diets had fewer bowel movements and dangerously low amounts of stool.

cowpeasIn rural Africa, people followed diets very high in fiber because food in rural Africa was unprocessed and mostly plant based. Unprocessed plant foods are the greatest sources of dietary fiber.  Due to this high fiber diet, people in rural Africa had more frequent bowel movements and very large amounts of stool.

Dr. Burkitt concluded that a constipated society is a sick society.

I absolutely agree with Dr Burkitt, regular bowel movement with large amounts of stool signals a properly functioning digestive system.  The digestive system is an essential system that profoundly affects how all other systems in the body function; Homeostasis, blood pressure, insulin function, hormonal balance, organ function, detoxification, and circulation, to mention a few.  Since digestive health affects almost every system in the body, nearly every non communicable disease can be tied to poor digestion, as Dr Burkitt pointed out.

Dr Burkitt’s recommendation to change habits is a sustainable solution because it addresses the underlying problem by treating imbalances in the digestive system.  It is really interesting that Dr Burkitt used the rural African diet as a model for achieving and maintaining optimum health.