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The veins around the anus drain into larger veins that carry the blood through the liver and up to the heart. This part of the system of large veins has no valves in it, and the whole weight of the blood bears down on the lowest veins in the system, that tend to stretch. Anything restricting the free upward flow of blood through these veins leads to an increase in pressure in them. This is why haemorrhoids are so common in pregnancy.

Do you have a low fibre diet?

What is fibre?
Dietary fibre is the undigested remains of plant materials, particularly indigestible plant carbohydrates (i.e. the non-starch polysaccharides). Fibre is found only in foods derived from plants, and all plant food provides some fibre; how much depends on whether it has been processed. Unpeeled fruit and vegetables and whole meal or whole-grain cereal foods (which still contain the outer layers of the grain) will provide the most. For example, brown rice can contain seven times more fibre than white rice. The exact balance of the various components of dietary fibre (cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin and lignin) varies between foods.

Soluble and insoluble fibre
Dietary fibre can be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in the gut, to form a viscous gel that slows down the release of some nutrients, particularly the sugar glucose, into the bloodstream; it is therefore good for diabetics. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease, by reducing blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fibre is present in fruit, vegetables, pulses (e.g. kidney beans, baked beans, lentils) and foods containing oats, barley or rye. Insoluble fibre has a sponge-like effect in the gut, soaking up water and swelling in size. This effect produces a feeling of fullness and adds bulk to the gut contents, making waste matter heavier and speeding it through the large intestine, and thus reducing the risk of constipation, and possibly even cancers of the digestive system. Cereal and grain products (e.g. bread, flour, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta), especially whole meal varieties, and fibrous vegetables (e.g. carrots and celery) are primary sources of insoluble fibre.

Fibre is good for us
Unlike, sugar, salt and fat, fibre is something most people should eat more of. The overall nutritional balance of our diets could be improved just by eating a few more high-fibre foods. However, fibre in an isolated form such as bran (the outer layers of cereal grain, which are removed when grain is milled such as in the preparation of white rice or white flour) is not the answer because bran can actually reduce the absorption of minerals. Fibre is thought to be far more beneficial if it is consumed as an integral part of food, rather than as bran supplements or fibre-containing drinks.

 Sources of dietary fibre

Wholemeal bread, 
Wholewheat pasta, 
Dried apricots, 
Baked beans, 
Jacket potato, 
All-bran breakfast cereal.

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