Fiber in your diet is good for you and highly recommended. But it is actually possible to eat too much fiber. (1)
Fiber is among the kinds of things you eat that is indigestible and of no caloric value, things like sticks and rocks and pennies, that just pass through without contributing any nutrition. No don’t eat sticks and rocks – just kidding about that.
Fibers that we actually do eat are carbohydrates, molecules that are different from the carbohydrates that turn into sugars and calories. But fiber is valuable for numerous other reasons that don’t have to do with body building and energy. Things like giving bulk and regularity to bowel movements, help with the regulation of blood fat and blood pressure levels, diabetes control, and weight maintenance. Fiber exists in two forms: soluble and insoluble. The body can’t digest or absorb or use either form. Soluble fiber breaks down in water and forms a gel that keeps stool soft while slowing digestion. Insoluble fiber just adds bulk to stool and decreases transit times. Most research simply focuses on total fiber intake.
But apparently it is possible to get too much of this good thing. Some of the drawbacks of too much fiber are things that seem like part of the good things about fiber – bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea, reduction in appetite, and early satiety. But more pernicious are things like under-absorption of key micro-nutrients, since fiber binds with minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Contrary to the advice of eating more bulk as a remedy for constipation, too much fiber can actually cause constipation and even intestinal obstruction especially in the setting of copious fiber intake but limited fluid intake.
“The American Heart Association recommends fiber intake from a variety of foods. Total dietary fiber consumption should be limited to from 25 to 30 g daily from food—not supplement—sources. More specifically, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 25 g of fiber per day for women and 38 g a day for men. Adults aged 50 years and older should consume less fiber, at 21 g per day for women and 28 g per day for men. Pregnant or lactating women should eat 28 g of fiber per day.”
Benjamin Franklin recommended that we “fart proudly.”
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- [email protected] or phone (740) 354-6605.