It’s easy to spot the media stories telling us to eat more fiber for a healthier life and better gut health.
We can see them almost every day, whether it’s online, on TV, or in the newspapers. Additionally, there are dozens of studies supporting the benefits of dietary fiber for digestive health.
However, consuming any food compound in excess can be problematic , and fiber is no exception.
In fact, research shows that there are some side effects that eating too much fiber can cause. This article examines this topic in more detail.
Can You Get Too Much Fiber?
Just because fiber has benefits doesn’t mean we should eat as much as we can. On the one hand, it is possible to experience adverse effects if we consume too much , especially when we take supplements.
Some of the possible symptoms of excessive fiber consumption include stomach and digestive problems such as bloating, cramps, and gas.
But how much fiber is too much?
The “officially” recommended daily fiber intake is set at about 30 grams, depending on gender. Anyone on a standard whole-food-based diet is unlikely to exceed this amount by much.
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However, those who overindulge in green smoothies, fiber supplements, and excessive amounts of grains can exceed this number.
More is not always better, and research shows that too much fiber can cause problems.
Potential problems caused by excess fiber
Here are some signs, symptoms, and problems that eating too much fiber can cause.
Constipation is generally thought to occur due to a lack of fiber consumed, however, it can also be caused by a very high intake. In fact, it can be even worse than on a low fiber diet.
Research explains that consuming too much fiber can cause constipation through the accumulation of undigested matter in the digestive tract, when fiber is increased in the diet. In this part, it is important to increase fiber slowly if you plan to make any significant changes to your diet.
Finally, a higher fiber intake increases the body’s water needs, not drinking enough can cause dehydration and make the problem worse.
Key point: Too much fiber can lead to this problem, but reducing fiber has also been shown to be an effective remedy for relieving constipation.
2- Malabsorption of nutrients.
In reality, most people already eat relatively low-fiber diets. As a result, it is rare for nutrient absorption to be impeded through excessive fiber intake.
However, insoluble fiber , found primarily in whole grains, can reduce our absorption of certain nutrients – specifically, fiber can bind essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Whole grain fiber sources are also sources of antinutrients such as phytic acid, while phytate may have some beneficial effects on our body, it is also capable of binding minerals.
Key point: Dietary fiber decreases the bioavailability of some essential minerals. However, this effect is only mild for people with a reasonable fiber intake and would likely require excessive amounts of fiber to do harm.
3- Gas and bloating.
Gas and bloating are two of the most common complaints against a high fiber diet plan. Because we think of it as the healthiest thing to do, many people go overboard and include too much high-fiber food at every meal.
As the microbiota in our gut digests fiber, the process produces various gases. This gas can lead to belching, flatulence, and abdominal bloating, causing considerable discomfort to those who suffer from it.
If this sounds familiar, then consider how much fiber you are consuming; This digestive upset is especially common when fiber intake is suddenly increased.
Foods like beans and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, and sprouts are common culprits for gas production.
Key Point: Eating few vegetables at meals is perfectly healthy, but the massive amounts are over the top. Too much fiber often causes gas and bloating.
4- Abdominal cramps.
Stomach cramps can be painful and frustrating, and can sometimes be a sign of excessive fiber intake.
Gases released from the breakdown of large amounts of fiber are to blame, and studies show that reducing fiber intake can ease abdominal pain.
In this case, it is a buildup of gases in the colon that causes the problem by putting pressure on the walls of the colon.
Although stomach cramps can be a sign of excess fiber, if they persist, it is important to see a doctor for a more accurate diagnosis.
Key point: Several studies show that too much fiber can cause abdominal pain.
5- Intestinal blockage.
Fortunately, this condition is very rare and unlikely. However, there are documented cases of blockages of the gastrointestinal tract, which are a serious medical emergency.
Notably, too much fiber can increase the risk of developing a phytobezoar . This condition is a large mass trapped in the digestive system that consists of fibers from fruits and vegetables.
Along with improper chewing and a high intake of high-fiber foods, the risk for a phytobezoar is high, so a low-fiber diet is often the default recommendation for those at risk of intestinal obstruction.
Key point: A bowel obstruction is pretty much the worst case scenario, but a serious fiber overload can lead to a bowel obstruction.
Dehydration as a result of eating a lot of fiber depends on the amount of fluid that the individual is consuming in the first place.
If it is an inadequate amount and your fiber intake is increasing , then it is a possible cause of dehydration. For larger amounts of dietary fiber, it is important to ensure a sufficient intake of water.
The reason is that soluble fiber absorbs water in the digestive tract, increasing the body’s hydration needs. You may have heard the “eight glasses a day” suggestion for water intake, but there isn’t much evidence behind it.
It is incredibly difficult to determine how much water each individual needs, as this depends on many different things. For example, climate, physical activity, diet, and a person’s unique biology can all influence hydration levels.
With this in mind, judging water needs by listening to thirst and urine color (ideally pale yellow) is ideal.
Key point: Insufficient water on a high fiber diet will lead to dehydration.
7- Acid reflux and GERD.
Recently, evidence suggests that small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can cause some cases of acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Key Point: Higher amounts of fermentable carbohydrates like fiber may play a role in GERD symptoms.
How to counteract excess fiber
What can you do if you eat too much fiber?
If you have symptoms of consuming too much, then the most important ways to counteract them are:
- Stop Fiber Intake – Until the condition subsides – Consuming more fiber when there is a large amount not yet digested will make the problem worse.
- Drink lots of water : adequate hydration will help in the digestion process.
- Get some light exercise like walking – Exercise and movement are known to help improve constipation and speed up digestion.
Despite all the health claims we read about fiber, it is important to be aware of the potential for adverse effects at higher levels of consumption.
It’s also worth remembering that some foods that contain fiber are incredibly nutritious: avocados, raspberries, and cocoa, just to name a few.
I hope this information has been very useful to you and I invite you to continue browsing my blog, to find other tips, outstanding information and natural alternatives to improve your stomach health.