Is It Possible To Consume Too Much Fiber?

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested by your body’s enzymes. Found in edible plant foods like cereals, fruits, vegetables, dried peas, nuts, lentils, and grains, fiber can be consumed in its natural form or in the processed form as supplements and non-digestible carbohydrates.

When your diet is rich in fiber, there are plenty of health benefits that you stand to gain, such as these:1

  • Regular bowel movements
  • Healthy gut bacteria
  • Decreased blood cholesterol levels
  • Weight management
  • Insulin and blood sugar stability
  • A reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and bowel cancer

While dietary fiber is extremely beneficial, too much fiber could spell trouble for you. Here’s the lowdown on how to know if your fiber intake is in excess.

Optimal Daily Fiber Intake

Recommended fiber intake is about 19–38 g per day depending on your age and gender

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The recommended minimum amount of dietary fiber you can consume daily depends on your age and gender. For adults aged 50 years or younger, the recommended minimum daily fiber intake is 38 g for men and 25 g for women. For adults over 50 years of age, the recommended minimum daily fiber intake is 30 g for men and 21 g for women.

Young children require significantly lower fiber intake than adults. The recommended minimum daily fiber intake is 19 g for children aged between 1 and 3 years and 25 g for children aged between 4 and 8 years. For children aged between 9 and 13 years, the recommended minimum daily fiber intake is 31 g for boys and 26 g for girls. For adolescents aged between 14 and 18 years, the recommended minimum daily fiber intake is 38 g for boys and 26 g for girls.2

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Consistently consuming fiber in excess of these recommended amounts – about 45 g and above – is likely to result in discomfort and painful symptoms.

Effects Of Consuming Too Much Fiber

Excess fiber consumption can lead to cramping, constipation, and intestinal gas

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While it’s more likely to fall short of the recommended minimum daily fiber intake, it’s also entirely possible to consume more fiber than needed. If your fiber intake increases too quickly over a short period of time, you may experience these symptoms.

  • Cramping: When you consume too much fiber, digestion may slow down or even stop because your body fails to break down all the fiber properly. This way, you may end up with intestinal cramping and discomfort.
  • Constipation: Eating too much fiber without drinking enough water can result in digestive distress. Your digestive tract needs fluids to help move things along. Without a sufficient amount of fluids in your system, your intestines fail to work properly, making you feel constipated.3
  • Nutrient Malabsorption: Increased consumption of dietary fiber can lead to the malabsorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc among other nutrients in your system.4 The excess dietary fiber you eat binds to these vitamins and minerals and eliminates them without allowing your body to absorb them properly. However, this malabsorption is usually minimal so it isn’t a major cause for concern.
  • Diarrhea: Excess fiber consumption could also drastically increase the rate at which food gets processed in your digestive tract and prevent your body from adjusting to the enhanced consumption rate, leading to diarrhea.
  • Intestinal Gas And Blockage: Eating too much fiber over a short time period can result in flatulence (passing excessive gas), bloating, and intestinal gas.5 This is a direct reaction of the natural bacteria in your digestive tract to the increased fiber content. Consuming too much fiber without drinking enough water can also lead to intestinal blockages, which can turn out to be quite serious and may even require surgery.

Apart from these symptoms, you may also experience abdominal pain, temporary weight gain, and reduced blood sugar levels, if you have diabetes.

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Steps To Relieve Excess Fiber Intake Symptoms

Drinking enough water, avoiding high fiber foods, and exercising can relieve excess fiber intake symptoms

If you’re wondering how to combat those high fiber intake symptoms, here are a few simple steps you can take.

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  • Drink as much water as you can to improve fiber digestion.
  • Avoid foods with high fiber like beans, lentils, processed meats, whole grains, and raw vegetables for a while.
  • Exercise every day to help your body process the excess fiber. Yoga, walking, and biking are great ways to start off.
  • Try fermented foods like yogurt to enhance the functioning of your gut bacteria and improve fiber digestion.

Remember that when you’re increasing or reducing your fiber intake, you should do it gradually to avoid any harm to your body. Eating a diet with the right balance of all nutrients is the best way to stay healthy. However, you should consult your doctor if you continue to experience the painful symptoms without any relief.

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