Have you been told to add fiber to your diet? According to the American Society for Nutrition, only 7% of Americans get enough. But did you know that not all fiber is created equal? And eating the wrong kind could actually make digestive symptoms worse. We have the information you need on soluble vs. insoluble fiber, and the best strategy for your digestive health.
How Much Fiber Is Recommended?
The DRI or “daily recommended intake” of fiber for adults is 25-38 grams per day (women should aim for 25, and men 38). The average adult consumes only 15 grams per day, a significant deficit. One must make an effort to consume fiber-rich foods at every meal and most snacks in order to hit this target goal.
Why Is Fiber Important?
Fiber is an essential nutrient for overall health as it provides benefits for a multitude of health conditions including IBS (when chosen correctly), cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, weight management, and more.
Several fiber sources are considered prebiotics which stimulate the growth of the beneficial gut bacteria leading to a more diverse and healthier gut microbiome.
Fiber intake is often compromised with a typical American diet, which can have adverse effects on beneficial gut bacteria and IBS symptoms. Constipation may worsen if fiber intake plummets.
Soluble fibers dissolve in water, pull water into the stool, and form a gel like substance that helps move contents down the GI (gastrointestinal) track. Soluble fibers are found in many foods such as oats, strawberries, citrus fruit, rice, potatoes, beans, broccoli, and carrots.
Large, coarse insoluble fibers help regulate bowels in healthy individuals by irritating the lining of the large intestine inducing a bowel movement. These fibers are often referred to as roughage and add bulk to stool. Insoluble fibers pass through the GI tract without change. Insoluble fiber sources include wheat bran, nuts, seed hulls, kale, blackberries, cauliflower and fruit skins to name a few.
IBS-C: As In Constipation
Fiber is crucial for regular bowels. If you feel that you all already hitting or exceeding your fiber goal and you are still experiencing gas and bloating, you may also be experiencing back up bloating due to inadequate elimination.
Back up bloating can occur in those with slow gut transit time and constipation, due to a build up of stool and gas. It is important to ensure you have an effective bowel regimen in place to allow for adequate laxation when fiber intake is high, this may require modifications such as postural changes when toileting (check out the squatty potty), the addition of osmotic laxatives, and/or magnesium salts. Read more here.
IBS-D: As In Diarrhea
IBS- D patients think fiber is bad since it is associated with more frequent bowels. It is important to remember that fiber (specifically soluble) can act as a bulking agent AND can help bind stools, working magic for those suffering from diarrhea.
Try increasing soluble fibers such as oats, beans, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fruits and vegetables to boost this beneficial fiber.
Hydrate, Hydrate Hydrate!
Always remember to drink adequate water intake when increasing fiber intake since risk of constipation is more likely to occur if we are dehydrated, plus the extra fiber requires extra water for digestion.
Fiber At Breakfast
Try these fiber-rich ideas for breakfast: ⅓ cup (34 g) dry oats cooked in water or milk (lactose-free, if desired), 2 tablespoon walnuts pieces, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, and ¼ cup (40 g) fresh or frozen blueberries. Or how about Overnight Oats & Chia?
Fiber At Lunch
Try these fiber-rich ideas for lunch: 3 cup (112 g) mixed low greens (such as arugula, kale and lettuce), ¼ cup (42 g) canned and drained chickpeas, 1-2 tablespoon shredded cheese, 10 chopped almonds, and ⅓ cup (52 g) cooked quinoa, and salad dressing.
Fiber For Snacks
Try these fiber-rich ideas for snack: Brown Rice Cake + 1 small ripe banana + 1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter. How about a couple cups of popcorn? Roasted chickpeas, edamame, or how about some chia pudding?
Fiber at Dinner
Try these fiber-rich ideas for dinner: 3-ounces (85 g) protein of choice (chicken, fish, beef, etc.), 12 green beans, 1 cup cooked carrots, and 1 cup (180 g) cooked brown rice.
Should you be taking a fiber supplement? Remember this is not a one size fits all situation. There are several fiber supplements that are appropriate for IBS. Please speak with your dietitian or health care provider to see if a fiber supplement is appropriate for you.
Which Fiber Is Right For You?
Please make sure you work with your Registered Dietitian to determine which fiber food or supplement is right for you. Fiber might make a huge difference for your digestive health, but only if you are eating or taking the right one for your personal needs.
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