Fiber has many beneficial effects, from keeping the digestive pipes in good working order, to helping us feel fuller longer, to lowering cholesterol levels. The biggest problem with most people’s diets is not that they eat too much fiber but that they eat too little.
Women should consume about 25 grams of fiber per day and men should take in about 35 grams. However, it’s estimated that most of us get less than half of what we need. No wonder constipation will affect nearly 40% of Americans at some point during the course of a year.
So the solution to constipation is to eat more fiber. But can eating more fiber result in the opposite effect?
Turns out that fiber is not the only thing you need to alleviate constipation. You also need fluids. Simply bombarding your system with a boatload of bran won’t do you much good. In fact it could make things worse if there isn’t fluid in the gut to help move the bran along. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, is a great thing to do for your health regardless, but it’s especially important to take in plenty of fluids if you’re eating a high fiber diet.
In addition, rapid changes in fiber intake can be a shock to the system. So if you suddenly add a ton of fiber to your diet, your gut may respond with bloating, gas or diarrhea. Although 10 grams of fiber is not exactly a ton, some people who begin using Step One Foods might notice that it takes time for their digestive systems to adjust. If you’re experiencing any digestive adjustment symptoms, you might want to cut back to one serving per day until your intestines get accustomed to healthy fiber levels.
Finally, some people can have different reactions to different types of fiber. Inulin, also known as chicory root fiber, is a non-gritty, pleasant tasting soluble fiber that is often added to processed foods and beverages to boost fiber content. If you’ve eaten high fiber yogurt, high fiber sugary cereal, a high fiber snack bar or enjoyed a glass of high fiber orange juice, chances are you’ve eaten inulin.
Inulin is naturally present in certain whole foods (like bananas) and is a prebiotic which means it ferments and encourages beneficial bacterial growth in the intestine. But in nature, inulin is present in small amounts while foods fortified with inulin typically contain unnaturally high levels. Although this helps boost the fiber content of the food, it can also result in excessive fermentation causing gas and bloating as well as affecting the bacterial balance in the intestinal tract. For these reasons, it may be wise for patients with irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s, colitis, and/or celiac disease to avoid inulin fortified foods.
1. Fiber is good for us and most of us don’t get enough.
2. Increasing fiber intake should be accompanied by increasing fluid intake.
3. It can take time for the digestive system to adjust to changing fiber levels, so increase your intake slowly if necessary.
4. Be aware of foods fortified with fiber additives. Foods naturally high in fiber are always the better choice.