Did you know that eating too much fiber can cause several ailments? In today’s article, you’ll discover the lesser-known symptoms of fiber excess in the diet. So stick around!
Have you ever wondered if you’re eating too much fiber? I know I have. As silly as it sounds, this question makes a lot of sense.
It’s common to hear that fiber intake is essential for good health, but what if it’s the other way around?
Like any other excess, eating fiber in an exacerbated manner can be harmful to your health. It is necessary to be very careful on the matter since the consequences can be quite uncomfortable.
6 Signs that you’re eating too much fiber
To know if you are eating too much fiber, you only have to think about the type of food you eat. How many times a week do you eat it? Have you ever consulted an endocrinologist?
It is important to pay attention to the following signs:
1. Gases and inflammation
Eating the right amount of fiber helps eliminate gas and reduce inflammation. Ironically, “any excess in its consumption can cause gas and inflammation,” according to a study made by a team of professionals at the UCL Medical School (London).
If you have recently changed your diet for a healthier one, it’s pretty normal to undergo these problems first, but they should disappear. However, if the problem doesn’t go away, you should pay attention to what you are eating and consult your doctor.
Your body needs moderation and variety in the foods you eat. That is why focusing on one group can be very harmful. It’s wrong to assume that excess fiber compensates for a poor diet.
2. Loose stools and diarrhea
Another sign is the presence of loose stools and diarrhea. These symptoms appear because the food doesn’t remain long enough in the digestive tract.
Bear in mind that food needs a certain decomposition process in the stomach. If the food remains the right amount of time, these two benefits will be achieved:
- A correct body cleansing, by separating the nutrients that your body doesn’t need
- Proper nutrient absorption. Your intestine needs to take its time to absorb every nutrient that food provides. Too much fiber can cause many of these nutrients to be lost in the process
Meals should be healthy and balanced. This means including protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Each food needs its own digestion time to be used correctly. The main function of fiber in the organism is to eliminate what you don’t need without any risks and discomfort.
It may be hard to believe, but it can actually cause constipation. This is because the excess fiber in the stomach can plug up the digestive tract.
This problem is prevalent when enough water does not accompany the fiber. That is why it’s advisable to drink between 2 and 3 liters of water a day.
Make sure that the fiber you consume comes from whole grain bread, fruits, or vegetables. You should only drink plain water, sugar, or additive-free.
As mentioned above, poor water intake can lead to constipation. However, even if you drink plenty of water, there can still be an excess of fiber through dehydration signs. The reason is that your body uses water to process it.
Avoid soft drinks in these cases, and always drink plain water and natural fruit juices without added sugars or sweeteners.
If you don’t balance it out, you’ll take up the reserves you have. When it runs out, you will feel very thirsty, and your skin will look dry. One way of knowing if you’re dehydrated is to monitor how often you get thirsty.
5. Weight gain
Another big mistake from people is to eat too much fiber to lose weight. However, doing it the wrong way will only yield the opposite effect. To lose weight, you must speed up your metabolism.
This can only happen when there are no fiber excesses since they can prevent defecation.
A bad strategy would be to eat a big plate of fiber-rich cereal right before bedtime. Your stomach activity will be null during the night, and your digestive tract will not digest it correctly.
If your current fiber consumption is almost null, go little by little. The first week you can consume 10 grams of fiber every day. In the second week, you can increase it to 15 grams. By the third week, 20 grams will be adequate.
This way, your body will adapt to the fiber and work with it to benefit your health.
6. Mineral deficiency
Fiber is an agent that, among other functions, is in charge of “bonding.” If you consume too much of it, it’ll probably stick to most of the other nutrients and, in consequence, eliminate them before even absorbing their vitamins and minerals.
During this process, the organism loses zinc, calcium, and iron. Some studies claim that this can be reversed by consuming enough vitamin C and animal protein.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you may want to review the amount of soluble and insoluble fiber you are eating daily and the length of time you’ve been doing so.
For example, if you have constipation, you can try foods that contain insoluble fiber; or soluble fiber if you have diarrhea. Also, remember to drink enough water throughout the day.
Avoid eating too much fiber and choose the right one
Many people choose commercial cereals as their first fiber choice. They have too many added preservatives and sweeteners that are not good for your health. Instead, foods like beans, broccoli, whole-grain bread, and papaya are natural fiber sources.
Try to eat a balanced diet and drink enough water. Furthermore, by adding physical activity to the equation, you will maintain a healthy weight in a natural, easy, and practical way.
Vegetables help to get all the fiber you need
One of the benefits of consuming fiber is that it helps prevent some illnesses like constipation or hypertension. Nevertheless, most people don’t consume all the fiber needed or in the right amounts.
To begin with, Alfonso Romero Castro, a Nutritionist and member of the Professional Association of Dietitians-Nutritionists of Mexico City (UNAM), explains that “dietary fiber is naturally present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, tubers, and legumes.”
The expert also adds that the proportion of soluble and insoluble fiber in each one of these food groups is variable.
“For example, in an apple, we find insoluble fiber in the skin and the pips, while the pulp itself predominates the soluble one. That is why, whenever we have diarrhea, we are recommended to consume this fruit peeled to achieve greater astringent effect”.
- Foods rich in insoluble fiber: wheat flour, bran, peas, cabbage, root vegetables, cereals, and ripe fruit
- Foods rich in soluble fiber: oats, plums, carrots, citrus fruits, dried beans, and other legumes
How can we guarantee a proper fiber contribution?
By now, you should know which foods are rich in fiber; but what do you have to change to consume the fiber needed?
Dr. Romero recommends having a feeding pattern as varied as possible. In which certain legumes predominate in the diet (lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas, soybean…); integral cereals or their derivatives (“when I say cereals, I do not refer only to those of breakfast, which in most cases contain lots of simple sugars, but also wheat rice and pasta, bread or wheat bars, etc.”).
Also, taking daily portions of dried fruits, fruit, vegetables, and leafy greens is important. It’s always best to eat them raw (salads).
In this sense, Romero indicates that to ensure a good fiber contribution, the general guideline would be:
- 2-3 daily portions of vegetables
- 2-3 daily portions of fruit
- 6 weekly portions of cereals, preferably wholemeal: breakfast cereals, rice or pasta
- 3-4 weekly portions of legumes
Finally, Romero says that enough liquid must always accompany fiber ingestion to contribute to the correct intestinal transit.
Tricks to eat enough fiber without excess
Dietary fiber is the edible part of plants or carbohydrates resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine but can be partially or completely fermented in the large intestine.
Soluble fiber is capable of retaining water by forming gels and contributes to regular bowel movements. It is fundamentally found in legumes, cereals, and some fruits.
The insoluble counterpart diminishes the viscosity of the stool and intestinal transit timing, the reason why it’s advantageous in the prevention of constipation. It predominates in wheat bran, whole grains, some vegetables, and, in general, in all cereals.
Nevertheless, it’s not always easy to consume, Romero says. Increasing the daily dose of fiber to reach the 25-30 gr/day recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) can generate occasional annoyances, like “flatulence, diarrhea or abdominal inflammation, due to the fermentation of the fiber by the anaerobic colon bacteria.”
Consider false myths that exist around this nutrient, and that can motivate in not taking sufficient quantities.
Thus, the popular belief is that you’ll increase your weight by increasing the consumption of fiber-rich foods. Also, many women restrict morning fiber, so they don’t have to go to the bathroom at the office.
To avoid possible discomfort and encourage its incursion in the diet, psychologists and nutritionists give some tricks that are “small changes that silently increase the amount of fiber in the daily diet.”
“Besides, they don’t modify the flavor, they do not affect the number of calories, and it is gained in health.”
One of the main pieces of advice is “to replace the original food with whole wheat versions.” It is also useful to “combine pasta, rice, and legumes with vegetables; add bran to broths and soups, and seeds, to yogurt and salads; boil legumes with Kombu seaweed, and increase the consumption of vegetable protein.”
And to counteract possible gases, they recommend scaring the lentils when the water breaks to boil, change the water, take infusions of plants, and incorporate cumin, oregano, and fennel rosemary, or thyme to stews.
Dr. Romero insists on the importance of a balanced diet that includes all the food groups so that there is no lack of fiber or any other nutrient. Translated in portions, he gives the following guidelines:
“Consume six portions a day of cereals rich in fiber (bread, cereals, pasta, rice); three portions a day of vegetables and two of fruit, preferably whole and with skin, and between three and four portions a week of legumes.”
The main fiber sources
Romero mentions a list with the top ten fiber sources, including wheat bran (40 gr/100 gr), Chia seeds (35 gr/100 gr), legumes (23 gr/100 gr), oats (17 gr/100 gr), almonds and hazelnuts (10 gr/100 gr), artichoke (8 gr/100 gr), dates (8 gr/100 gr), quinoa (7 gr/100 gr), red rice (5 gr/100 gr) and avocado (4 gr/100 gr).
On the seeds, now very fashionable, both nutritionists emphasize their contribution in fiber, “as long as it is not peeled,” says Romero. Now then, you must not take its consumption to the extremes – it insists -, since it can occupy the taking of other foods by excess.
Romero adds: “Seeds have many benefits; however, they are not miraculous. They stand out for their contribution to fiber, vegetable proteins, and their healthy fat content–
–But what I really find interesting about seeds is, on the one hand, for their great satiating power between meals and because they serve as an original dressing in many dishes, complementing them nutritionally”.
Aside from the seeds, Romero emphasizes that we must be attentive to those periods of personal change or seasonal changes that could lead to diet modifications and a decrease in fiber consumption, altering some basic vital functions, thus affecting them.
In any case, it’s always a good idea to visit a nutritionist every once in a while. Professional guidance never hurts, and it’s very well worth it.
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