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If there’s one thing that all the health gurus out there seem to agree on, it’s that Americans should eat more fiber.
We love our refined, processed foods, so getting the requisite 21 to 38 grams a day that the Institute of Medicine recommends can mean a radical change in diet.
But what happens when you eat too much fiber?
If the experts designate one food as “good,” then it can be tempting to assume that a lot of it would be better, especially if you have concerns about your health. And with a variety of fiber supplements out on the market, it’s easy to down a whole lot of it at one time.
Ultimately, no food is absolutely “good” or “bad” – it’s all a matter of proportion.
Taking huge doses of vitamins and minerals, for instance, can generate unpleasant side effects; or just weird ones. A few years back, my mom consumed so much vitamin A that – no joke – her skin turned a tangerine shade of orange.
Can the same be said of fiber? Check out five effects of eating too much fiber:
Flatulence is certainly the most infamous side effect of fibrous foods.
Beans get most of the blame, but plants of the cabbage family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, are also frequent contributors.
Normal digestion produces gas as a by-product, but the extra churning involved in digesting high-fiber foods produces a lot more of it.
It’s embarrassing if it escapes your body, to put it delicately, but if it stays in your body it can cause unpleasant bloating.
Your intestines are made of muscle, and just like other muscles they can get sore if you put them under sudden strain. So abdominal cramps are, most often, a result of upping your fiber intake too suddenly.
Your body is not able to adjust to the increased fiber intake and can therefore cause muscle cramps that may be painful. Pay close attention to your symptoms and decide if you’re eating too much fiber in your diet.
If cramps are becoming a consistent problem, try working your way up gradually so your muscles can adjust. This also lets the intestinal bacteria that help digestion adjust, which in turn can reduce flatulence.
Chewing your food thoroughly also helps, since that pre-digests it to some extent.
Fiber generally fights constipation by speeding the passage of food through your body, so it’s not surprising that too much fiber could speed it along too quickly and can result in diarrhea.
This is especially likely if you added a lot of fiber to your diet too quickly, for the reasons described above.
Just like too much fiber can cause cramps, the same is true of diarrhea. Because your body is not used to an increase in fiber, it may expel waste quickly in an attempt to balance digestion.
It might sound perverse that too much fiber could produce either of these contradictory problems, but it depends on the circumstances.
Fiber also needs water to properly expel waste. If you don’t drink enough water with your food it can turn into an obstructive mass in your gut, leading to constipation.
This can be a painful symptom of too much fiber, and can cause extreme discomfort in the gut. If you’re increasing the amount of fiber in your diet, you should increase your fluid intake along with it.
This is a worst-case scenario when it comes to eating too much fiber.
A bowel obstruction is like constipation taken to the extreme: your digestive system stops up entirely – and you can guess how unpleasant that is.
Generally, bowel obstruction through fiber-eating won’t happen unless there’s some underlying problem with your insides. Some part of them is likely narrowed, whether by being swollen with inflammation or clogged with scar tissue or other damage from some previous illness or surgery.
Bowel obstructions are a particular danger for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
In fact, if you find yourself getting any of these symptoms often, even if you eat a normal amount of fiber, it could mean that you have IBD without realizing it.
IBD is a chronic, mysterious condition.
It seems to stem from a malfunctioning immune system, leading your body to react to a small or nonexistent threat with a big flare-up, much like an allergy.
IBD sufferers need to avoid fiber during flares, though there’s some reason to believe that eating a little more fiber in between flares might help prevent them.
If you suspect that you have IBD, consult your doctor.
According to the industry experts, fiber intake will vary for each individual. However, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that adult men consume about 34 grams of fiber per day, while women require about 28 grams of daily fiber. These numbers can vary based on age.
Some individuals may require more fiber, while others will need less. It is best to judge your fiber intake based upon how you feel. If symptoms of too much fiber continue to plague your overall health, consult a trusted physician about how much fiber is too much.
Some folks have turned to CBD as an alternative for dealing with pain since it has not been shown to have any ill effects on your innards.
In fact, some people take CBD oil products to help ease nausea.
The right amount of fiber to eat, like so much else about our bodies, varies from person to person. If you’re a typical American, you should probably be eating more than you are.
But if you do, don’t ignore the warning signals that your body might not be happy with too much fiber.
Disclaimer: The cbdMD blog contains general information about health, diet, lifestyle, and nutrition. Any information provided should not be considered or treated as medical advice and always consult a medical professional before making any lifestyle changes. Products and information mentioned on the cbdMD blog are not intended to be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice or treatment. Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and cbdMD is not responsible for their content.