How many times have you been told to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other foods rich in dietary fiber? Well, the advice you’re getting is all wrong. While it is true that a balanced diet should include fiber, this approach doesn’t work for everyone. Dietary fiber can do more harm than good to those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive problems. A low fiber diet can relieve constipation, reduce bloating, and improve IBS symptoms.
If you have a “perfect” diet by objective standards but you’re always bloated and retain water, dietary fiber may be the culprit.
Fiber and Colon Health: Separating Fact from Hype
Eating fiber may not be so good for your stomach. It can actually make tummy trouble worse. Even though high-fiber diets have become the standard treatment for constipation and upset stomach, they are likely to do more harm than good.
People with IBS and chronic constipation are usually told to eat more fiber. If you’re bloated or have digestive issues, you’ll get the same advice. Studies indicate that fiber should no longer be seen as a staple of a healthy diet, at least for IBS patients. Here is how it works:
When you suffer from chronic constipation or IBS-C, your bowel has a hard time moving waste along the colon. Eating fiber, which is a bulking agent, gives your bowel more work to do. This may worsen constipation, bloating, and digestive discomfort. For those who don’t drink enough water, things are even worse.
Soluble fiber becomes gel-like once it reaches your stomach. Insoluble fiber slows down food as it moves through your intestines. If you eat too much fiber without enough water, constipation will occur. Both soluble and insoluble fiber is excellent for healthy people.
A diet rich in fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels, lowers bad cholesterol, and reduces the absorption of fat. It also keeps you full longer and decreases hunger. High fiber intake ensures good digestion and keeps you regular. This is how things work for people with healthy bowels.
The problem is that a high-fiber diet has the opposite effects for those with IBS and chronic constipation.
Can Too Much Fiber Cause Constipation and Worsen IBS?
Adding fiber to your diet isn’t always the answer for gut problems. Fiber fermentation inside your intestines causes intestinal inflammation and gases. People with IBS may also experience abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, anorectal bleeding, and constipation. Over time, these problems may lead to colorectal perforation, diverticular disease, and megacolon.
These things may shock you, but it’s the pure truth. Insoluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach and expands its volume. If you’re already too full and eat fiber, you’ll feel even worse.
Research indicates that dietary fiber is more likely to be the cause of, rather than a cure for, constipation.
A study conducted on 63 adults with persistent constipation has revealed the following:
According to this study, the strongly-held belief that the consumption of dietary fiber relieves constipation is nothing but a myth. The patients on a no-fiver diet had no strain to pass stools. Digestive problems only improved in those who stopped fiber completely.
If you suffer from IBS or chronic constipation, eating more fiber would only add to the bulk and volume, making constipation worse. The fiber in bran and other grains ferments in the gut and can induce abdominal pain and distension. Insoluble fibers are more likely to cause IBS than they are to cure it.
Are you still having doubts? Just think for a moment:
People who fast and don’t eat solid foods for weeks or months still have bowel movements.
People who live in northern latitudes and have a diet rich in meat still have bowel movements.
Babies who are only drinking breast milk still have bowel movements despite the lack of fiber in their diet.
For most people, a high fiber diet equals bloating and digestive discomfort. The latest studies on fiber and colon health have failed to show a link between colon cancer and fiber intake.
The bottom line is that you don’t need fiber to have bowel movements.
If you suffer from constipation, you should rather increase your fat intake. Stick to a low fiber diet. Avocado, peanut butter, olive oil and other foods rich in healthy fats relieve constipation.
Fiber is not your enemy. However, it can make things worse for people who already have bowel issues. To relieve constipation and reduce bloating, you should gradually remove grains, bread, oats, bran, and other high-fiber foods from your diet. These foods contain insoluble fiber, which may irritate an already sensitive bowel. A low fiber diet works best for those with IBS-C and slow gastrointestinal motility.