Too Much Fiber in Your Diet? Symptoms and Effects of Fiber Overload
Symptoms and Effects of Fiber Overload
There is no doubt that fiber is an important element of your diet. It is what makes up plan tissue, and even though it is a type of carbohydrate, our bodies cannot digest it.
Fiber is important because it adds bulk to your diet, helps to make you feel fuller faster, and can help with weight control (1).
While fiber is essential in the right amounts, is it possible to go overboard with it? While it is rare, you can, indeed, consume too much. The symptoms of too much fiber are not serious, but they are anything but fun.
What are the Health Benefits of Fiber?
There are two types of dietary fiber: insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber provides “bulk” needed for stool formation and the movement of food through the digestive system. This helps to prevent constipation (8).
Soluble fiber is responsible for the health benefits to the heart and circulatory system. It also helps to slow digestion and nutrient absorption to prevent blood sugar spikes (8.)
In addition to adding essential bulk to your diet, fiber plays an important role in promoting overall health.
Some of the health benefits of a high-fiber diet include:
Reduced total cholesterol:
High cholesterol, particularly LDL (bad) cholesterol is associated with heart disease. Some people have naturally high cholesterol, while others have high cholesterol due to dietary and lifestyle factors. Consuming fiber helps contribute to lowering those factors (2, 6).
Reduced blood pressure:
People who consume the FDA recommended amount of dietary fiber may experience small, but significant, reductions in blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is also a risk factor for heart disease and heart events (2, 6).
Reduced risk of stroke:
Several studies, including one with an 18-year follow up with 78,779 women, found that increased consumption of dietary fiber from whole grains is associated with a lower risk of total and hemorrhagic stroke (3, 6).
Reduced risk of diabetes:
People who consume high amounts of refined carbohydrates (like white bread and processed snack products) and low amounts of dietary fiber have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (4, 6).
Reduced risk of obesity:
People who are most at risk for weight gain tend to consume low amounts of dietary fiber coming from fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. Indeed, one study published in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition found that women who consumed more whole grains consistently weighed less than those who did not, meaning that consuming more fiber is associated with a reduced risk of being overweight and obese (5, 6).
After reading all of these benefits of fiber, it is no wonder why some people might take it to heart and be at risk of actually going overboard!
What Foods Contribute Fiber to the Diet?
Foods that are high in fiber include:
- Fruits: Raspberries, pears, apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, figs, raisins
- Grains: Whole-wheat spaghetti barley, bran flakes, oat bran, oat meal, popcorn, brown rice, rye bread, whole-wheat bread
- Legumes, nuts and seeds: lentils, black beans, lima beans, almonds, pistachios, pecans
- Vegetables: Artichokes, peas, broccoli, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, sweet corn (7)
How Much Fiber is Enough? How Much Fiber is Too Much?
For a 2000 kcal diet, the Daily Value for dietary fiber is 25g per day. This increases to about 38 grams if you are an adolescent or adult male, or up to 30 grams if you are a woman over 50 years old. Foods that provide 20% of the Daily Value of dietary fiber (or 5g) per serving, is considered high (8, 9).
Most Americans get about half the amount of fiber they should be getting per day. Evidence shows that the average American consumes only about 15g of fiber a day, less than half what they should, for some people (10).
However, it is possible to consume too much fiber, and if you aren’t accustomed to it, it can cause unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms can begin to appear after consistently eating about 50g of fiber per day, though this may vary for some people (11). Someone who has taken on a new dietary regimen that is drastically different from his or her customary dietary pattern, with the goal of increasing fiber intake or losing weight could be someone who could be at risk of experiencing symptoms of fiber overload.
What are the Effects of Fiber Overload?
Some of the signs and symptoms you are consuming too much fiber include:
- Gastrointestinal distress: bloating, constipation, cramping, and diarrhea.
- Decrease in appetite
- Feeling full very quickly
- Inability to consume enough calories due to the above.
- Weight and muscle loss (11).
Some other potential negative effects of consuming too much fiber include blocking the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Over time, this could cause deficiencies.
Intestinal blockage is rare, but it is serious. It occurs when someone consumes too much fiber while not drinking enough fluid (11).
You Think You Might Be Consuming Too Much Fiber: Now What Do You Do?
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above and if you suspect you might be consuming too much fiber, the first thing you need to do is consult with a holistic nutrition professional. They will be able to determine if, indeed, you are consuming too much fiber and they will be able to suggest changes to correct your dietary patterns. It is possible that your digestive problems are due to other factors (see 6 Root Causes of Digestive Problems for more information).
If it is confirmed that you might be consuming too much fiber, there are a few actions you can take to relieve symptoms (11). These include:
- Removing cereal bars and high fiber cereal from your diet, in addition to other foods with added fiber. Often foods with added fiber are more problematic than foods with natural fiber.
- Avoid foods that cause excess gas a bloating.
- Identify which parts of your meal are high fiber. If all parts are high fiber, consider switching out one element for a lower-fiber option.
- Cook vegetables, rather than eating than raw.
Consuming too much fiber (fiber overload) is uncommon, especially in the United States, where the average person consumes about half of the dietary fiber that they should on a daily basis. The health consequences of not consuming enough fiber tend to be more devastating than the discomfort caused by consuming too much fiber, but nonetheless, it is important to strike the right balance.
If you have recently made changes to your diet with the goal of including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds, it is possible you might experience digestive distress or a loss of appetite. It is important to consult with a health professional before making any drastic changes to your diet and eating patterns to make sure your daily choices are the best for you overall health and wellbeing.
If you’re ready to get help with your health, contact us at the Burlison Clinic today to schedule an appointment.
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