Most people could benefit from eating more fiber, but too much isn’t necessarily better.
Fiber is an important nutrient for health. It helps regulate digestion, manage cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. But overdoing it can have the opposite effect.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body does not digest or absorb. Fiber is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber, when mixed with liquids, forms a gel-like substance that is important for good digestive health. They also help lower LDL cholesterol levels – the “bad” type of cholesterol. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and helps remove it from the body. Some sources of soluble fiber are bananas, apples, oats, berries, and avocados.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not absorb liquids. They help manage constipation by adding bulk to stools and moving them towards the intestine. They also promote insulin sensitivity. Some sources of insoluble fiber are nuts, seeds, corn, whole wheat flour, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables.
Eating enough fiber is very important for health. Benefits include:
- Cholesterol management
- Prevention of heart disease
- Blood sugar stabilization
- Promotion of digestive health
- Treatment or prevention of constipation
- Promoting satiety
What happens when you eat too much fiber?
The CDC recommends eating 22 to 34 grams of fiber per day, depending on age and gender. Everyone’s tolerance for fiber varies, so even the recommended daily allowance may be excessive if you don’t eat fiber-rich foods regularly. If you eat much more than recommended levels or increase your fiber intake too suddenly, the following can happen.
You may experience gas and bloating
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, over 90% of Americans don’t get enough fiber. However, if you increase your fiber intake too quickly, it can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas and bloating. If you’re trying to increase your fiber intake, do it slowly. You can try adding a few grams of fiber per week.
You may not be consuming enough calories
Fiber helps add bulk to meals, which can promote satiety. However, foods that contain fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils, also tend to be lower in calories. If you rely too much on fiber, you may feel too full to eat other foods and therefore not get all the nutrients you need (fats, proteins and micronutrients).
While many people worry about overeating, undereating has real consequences, especially when chronic. Ultimately, eating whole meals that contain a balance of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber will help you feel better.
You may become constipated
Too much fiber can lead to constipation for a number of reasons. Often people hear that they should eat more fiber if they are constipated, but it should be done slowly and steadily while increasing your hydration to avoid making the constipation worse. Since fiber absorbs water from the intestines, you should also make sure to stay hydrated by drinking enough water.
You may develop bowel obstruction
It’s rare, but some people can develop a blockage in their intestinal tract if they eat too much fiber. It happens when fiber builds up in the gut and forms a ball that prevents things from passing through. Elderly people or those with certain digestive conditions may be at higher risk due to reduced digestive efficiency and reduced bowel wall elasticity. Improper chewing could also contribute.
How to Relieve the Symptoms of Too Much Fiber
Symptoms of excessive fiber consumption can range from mild to severe. If your symptoms are mild to moderate, here are some ways to relieve them:
This can help your digestive system move stool and prevent dehydration from high fiber intake.
Limit your fiber intake
Until your symptoms go away, choose low-fiber foods to keep symptoms from getting worse and let your body digest the fiber you’ve eaten.
Physical activity can help relieve bloating and constipation. If you want to take a leisurely walk or do some gentle stretching.
Avoid soft drinks or chewing gum
These foods can add air to the gastrointestinal tract, which could lead to bloating and additional abdominal discomfort.
When to consult a doctor
If you consume too much fiber, there is a rare chance that bowel obstruction will occur. If you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, severe abdominal pain, or inability to pass gas or stool, seek medical attention immediately.
If you have certain health conditions, your fiber needs may be different. For example, if you have a digestive condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you may need a low-fiber diet to relieve digestive symptoms. or you may need to be extra careful in terms of increasing fiber intake. A dietitian can help you determine how much fiber you should eat
Currently, there is no maximum recommended daily fiber intake, so be careful not to exceed the recommendations. Also pay attention to how your body reacts to a high fiber intake.
Finally, most of the time, too much fiber causes temporary discomfort without serious harm. However, in rare cases, it can lead to a blockage in the intestine that requires medical attention. If you want to increase your fiber intake, do it slowly to avoid gastrointestinal upset. And remember, it’s all about balance. While fiber is important, don’t overlook protein, fat, and other carbohydrates.