fiber

We’re always being told that we should eat more fiber, but did you know that you can have too much of it?

Eating too much fiber can lead to bloating, gas and intestinal discomfort. This tends to happen to people who eat more than 70 grams of fiber a day. You may think that very few people will consume that much fiber, but vegans and people who follow a whole food or raw food diet can easily eat that much in one day.

If you had oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich with fruit or vegetables at lunch, and a dinner or lentils or other whole grains, you could easily top that 70 gram threshold. Some people may experience uncomfortable side effects after just 40 grams of fiber.

Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of eating too much fiber are:

• stomach cramps • nausea • dehydration • gas • bloating • feeling too full • constipation or diarrhea • weight gain or loss

In rare cases there has been intestinal blockage due to eating too much fiber.

If you feel you are eating too much fiber, there are several things you can do to solve the issue. You can reduce your fiber intake, drink more fluids, get more exercise and avoid foods that can increase bloating.

If you have severe symptoms, you can choose to adopt a low-fiber diet of 10 grams a day until your symptoms are manageable. You should choose to eat bread and grain products with less than two grams of fiber per serving, canned or cooked fruit and vegetables, and well-cooked meats.

Look out for and avoid hidden fibers such as:

• maltodextrin • oat fiber • guar gum • soy hulls • inulin, which is a hard to digest polysaccharide

You can eat healthily on a low-fiber diet, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.

How Much Fiber is Healthy?

Only an estimated five per cent of Americans actually meet the daily recommended fiber intake, so eating too much is much less common. The best amount of fiber varies by individual, and is based on age, gender and whether a woman is pregnant.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provide the following guidelines for fiber consumption:

• adult women – 25 g per day • adult men – 38 g per day • 50 years or older women – 21 g per day • 50 years or older men – 30 g per day • pregnant or lactating women – at least 28 g per day