First of all, if you’re wondering if there even is such a thing as too much fiber, there is. While dietary fiber is a necessary nutrient for your digestive health, you can have too much of a good thing. This article has the information you need to identify how much fiber is too much fiber, and what to do to remedy the situation.
Too Much Fiber: Symptoms
The recommended daily intake of fiber for adults is between 25 (women) and 38 (men) grams per day. Most people (up to 95%) don’t get enough fiber each day.
Fiber is important for comfortably passing stool through your digestive system and for feeding your “good” gut bacteria so that they can outnumber the bad and provide a first line of defense against opportunistic bacteria and germs.
While most of us need more fiber in our diets, it is nevertheless possible to have too much, especially if you’ve recently changed your eating habits and rapidly increased your fiber intake. Your body needs time to adjust to processing a new diet, and eating too much fiber can bring you great discomfort. Here’s what you have to look forward to if you eat too much fiber in those instances:
- Abdominal pain
- Intestinal blockage
- Reduced blood sugar levels
- Short-term weight gain
If you were wondering what too much fiber does to your poop, the answer is it can stop it in its tracks, possibly causing a bowel obstruction. If you experience a complete inability to pass stool or gas, you should seek immediate medical care.
What to Do When You Eat Too Much Fiber
You’ll want to remedy the negative side effects of too much fiber as quickly as possible. Here are a few tips to help you naturally process high levels of fiber in your digestive tract.
- Cease taking any fiber supplements.
- Discontinue eating high-fiber foods.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Check your food labels for fiber-fortified foods (and avoid eating them).
- Take up frequent light exercise like walking.
- Possibly keep a food diary.
- Consider switching to a new diet like FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) to lessen your intake of fermented and fibrous foods, especially if you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Low-fiber diets are not meant to be permanent, but instead are recommended for those with bowel disorders or who have an upcoming bowel procedure to rest the digestive tract and clear the way. You can (and should) reintroduce fiber-rich foods back into your diet once you feel better, taking care to spread out your fiber foods between multiple meals (whole grains for breakfast, veggies at lunch, beans for dinner) so that fiber doesn’t have the chance to concentrate before your body starts moving it through your digestive channels.
How Much Fiber Is Too Much? What’s the Recommended Limit?
Let’s talk numbers. The ideal amount of recommended daily fiber intake for different age groups and populations is as follows.
Adults Over 50
- Men: 30 grams of fiber
- Women: 21 grams of fiber
Adults Under 50
- Men: 38 grams of fiber
- Women: 25 grams of fiber
Children Under 18
- Boys: 38 grams of fiber
- Girls: 26 grams of fiber
Children Under 13
- Boys: 31 grams of fiber
- Girls: 26 grams of fiber
Children Under 8
- Boys: 25 grams of fiber
- Girls: 25 grams of fiber
Children Under 3
- Boys: 19 grams of fiber
- Girls: 19 grams of fiber
Ingesting more fiber than the recommended amount could lead to getting bunged up with too much fiber and experiencing the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous symptoms listed previously.
The Two Main Types of Fiber
The more you know about the type of fiber you’re eating, the better you’re prepared to diversify your fiber intake. There are two main types of fiber we’ll discuss first, each with their own health benefits and each with an important role to play when it comes to proper digestion.
Soluble fiber can absorb water and become gel-like in consistency (like chia seeds). For those who are constipated, water-soluble fiber could be the very thing they need, along with sufficient amounts of water to help moisten their stool so it can slide comfortably towards the end of its journey.
Soluble fiber also helps with weight management, as it can increase feelings of satiety and satisfaction during a meal and slow stomach-emptying, both of which lead to a lower daily calorie intake and more stable blood sugar levels. This type of fiber can also help improve your risk factors for heart disease.
Food Sources of Soluble Fiber
You can find soluble fiber in:
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, important in preventing loose stools, i.e., diarrhea. It helps food move quicker through the digestive system, feeding your good gut bacteria along the way and helping to balance intestinal pH. Insoluble fiber may also help prevent inflammation of the intestines (diverticulitis) and may help reduce your chances of developing colon cancer.
Likewise, insoluble fermented fiber can provide probiotics that add to the microbiome of your gut. That’s another line of protection for your colon and better aid in future digestion.
Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber
Fiber in Moderation
While it’s hard to go wrong with fiber, it is still possible to overwhelm your system with more than it can handle. The negative effects associated with too much fiber are thankfully temporary, and once you sort out your fiber intake, you can return to enjoying high-fiber foods in moderation, and maybe even taking fiber supplements when needed like psyllium husk fiber.
Your fiber intake is a very thin line between too much and not enough, so if you’re having a hard time with proper digestion, ask a nutritionist for advice regarding what to eat and how regularly. Regular fiber habits make for regular bowel movements, and there will always be some amount of fiber in a healthy diet, regardless of whether you need more or less for the time being.