So you have decided to increase your fiber intake in an effort to improve your gut health, to expedite weight loss, or to be more healthy overall? Maybe all three?
And maybe you have found that suddenly increasing your consumption of fibrous fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and of course, beans, have caused you to feel overly full, bloated and cramped. Not to mention the change in your bowel movements now that you have been getting healthy!
Why does this happen? One of the most common reasons is that when we increase our fiber consumption, our digestive system reacts by fermenting some of this (soluble) fiber, thereby causing gas. Some (insoluble) fiber goes through our digestive system without breaking down and being absorbed by the body. We need both soluble and insoluble fiber for a healthy gut.
Soluble fiber is necessary to our gut health because as it breaks down in our digestive tract, and ferments, it creates a good bacteria that populates our gut. It also creates a gel which prevents dietary cholesterol from breaking down in the body, thereby decreasing our cholesterol level. It also promotes satiety, or a feeling of fullness. When a person is very sensitive to the effects of this necessary fermentation in the gut, they experience bloating, gas and indigestion. It is important for them to follow a FODMAPS
diet until the distress is reduced.
Examples of soluble fiber are:
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not break down in water, and is not fermentable. It is important for bulking up our stool and promoting regularity. It does not cause as much gastric distress as soluble fiber does, so make sure you include more insoluble than soluble fiber, when you make changes to your diet.
Examples of insoluble fiber:
Dark, leafy greens
*Soybeans, kidney beans, and pinto beans have high amounts of insoluble fiber, but beans are a great source of both types of fiber.
So hold on, cowboy! When you go from no to low fiber in your diet, which is common when you eat overly processed foods, to a high-fiber diet, you need to take it slow. You need to make sure you drink more water, and increase your fiber intake slowly. The recommended amount for an adult is 25-30 grams per day, but again many people don’t get that much.
How to go slow and start increasing your fiber intake today? Here are some non-whole food choices that can get your started with increasing your dietary fiber and reducing any distress to your gut at the same time.
Start by adding (1) serving of one to three of these soft and low-fiber foods to begin:
Butternut squash soup
Canned peaches or pears
Cantaloupe (orange melon)
Watermelon or honeydew melon
Very ripe banana
Whole wheat toast or crackers
Also, avoid packaged foods with added fiber, as these often contain inulin or chicory, which can cause distress too. Common culprits are ice cream, nutrition bars, cereals and some dairy products.
Adding more fiber to your diet has many benefits, including a healthy digestive tract, improved weight loss and lower cholesterol. So give it a try - but take it slow, amigo!