Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, daily fiber intake for women and men should be between 25 and 38 grams. Common sources of fiber include whole grains, produce, nuts, seeds and legumes. There are many benefits of eating a fiber-rich diet, including improved bowel health, reduced cholesterol, and weight control — however, too much fiber can have some unpleasant side effects. Always talk with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or fiber intake.
Gas and Bloating
Eating too much fiber or increasing your intake too quickly can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating. Many types of fiber bind with water in the intestines, adding volume and softening stools. This helps with regularity, but the increased volume in your gut can make you feel bloated. Fiber can also cause flatulence because as bacteria in your intestines digest fiber, they produce gas. You can generally limit these effects by slowly increasing your fiber consumption and staying within guidelines for recommended intake.
Fiber is usually considered a remedy for constipation, but be careful when supplementing for regularity — too much fiber can actually cause constipation. A 2012 study published in the “World Journal of Gastroenterology” investigated the effects of fiber in patients suffering from constipation. During the study, participants who reduced or eliminated dietary fiber experienced constipation relief, while those who continued with high fiber intake experienced no change. Researchers concluded that the bulking of stools caused by fiber can make it harder to pass waste, so fiber supplementation can actually exacerbate constipation.
Eating too much fiber can interrupt the absorption of some minerals, including zinc, magnesium and calcium. Because fiber increases the speed at which food moves through your digestive system, the body may not have sufficient time to absorb important nutrients before they’re eliminated. However, for most people this isn’t a major concern, because high-fiber foods tend to also be rich in minerals.
Warning to IBS and IBD Sufferers
Certain types of dietary fiber can have a negative effect on suffers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disease (IBD). Soluble fiber, from sources such as apples, citrus fruits and psyllium, may potentially relieve constipation in those with IBS. However, insoluble fiber from foods such as bran, nuts and beans can make IBS symptoms worse. Sufferers of IBD are often advised to avoid fiber during flare-ups because the roughage can cause further irritation to digestive walls, worsening the condition. People with IBS and IBD are especially sensitive to fiber intake that is too high or that is increased too fast. Of course, whether or not you have IBS or IBD, always check with your doctor before increasing your fiber intake in any significant way.