It is possible to get too much of a good thing, it seems, and fiber is no exception. Although the majority of Americans are eating well below the recommended daily amount of fiber, there are also dangers in eating too much.
Fiber is essential for moving food through your digestive system effectively and eradicating waste. But there can be a fine line between not getting enough and getting too much. The key is to slowly ramp up your fiber intake over time until you are in the 25-35 grams per day range. Otherwise, there may be some unpleasant side-effects.
1. Excess Gas and Bloating
Since fiber, especially non-soluble fiber, is not actually absorbed by the body, but rather passes relatively unchanged through the intestines, eating a lot of it at once can be a shock to your system. The fiber can cause a tight, bloated feeling in the stomach area that can result in excess gas.
An important point to remember when increasing your fiber intake is that all the extra fiber needs a lot of extra water in order to pass through your system effectively. Soluble fiber absorbs water from your stomach to form a thick gel that travels slowly through your digestive system until it reaches your bowels. This process leeches moisture from your body. If there is not enough water present for the gel to become sufficiently soft, it can reach the bowels in the form of hard and uncomfortable stool.
On the flip side, if too much water is taken in conjunction with the increased amounts of fiber, then the gel becomes too thin in your digestive system. This can result in diarrhea. The condition can become a serious problem if it persists over several days, as valuable fluids and nutrients are being lost before they are absorbed by the body.
Closely coupled with the excess gas and bloating symptoms, nausea can be another common symptom of eating too much fiber–especially if it is consumed too quickly and other foods are not consumed along with it. The stomach and digestive system are not used to having to deal with the excess fiber in the diet and need time to adjust. Drinking warm water can help to alleviate the sick feeling.
Sometimes people have reported experiencing sharp pains in their stomach, sides and even lower back after drastically increasing their fiber intake. Again, this seems to be due to a lack of water in the system when fiber is being consumed. This slows the passage of the food in the stomach, and coupled with trapped gas, can cause very uncomfortable and painful sensations.
So if you are considering increasing your daily fiber intake, remember to increase the amount you consume slowly, day by day, and drink plenty of water. Otherwise a variety of unpleasant symptoms may occur.