Too much of anything is never a good thing. Even though protein is an essential element in the human diet, eating too much of it might cause brain fog, bloating, and weight gain. Vitamins such as vitamin D can also make you irritable, drained, or sick.
Fiber is not an exception to this general principle. Fiber is necessary for a healthy digestive tract, as well as a healthy heart and gut microbiota, weight management, blood pressure control, and cholesterol management. But what happens if you eat too much fiber? We spoke with several expert dietitians about the potential side effects of ingesting excessive fiber on a regular basis.
How much fiber is too much?
Fiber is an important nutrient in any diet and can aid in overall health. People around the world who consume the most fiber on a daily basis live longer, but many Americans do not get enough.
While adequate fiber intake has been linked to gut health and shown to play a part in lowering disease risks, less than 5% of Americans achieve their daily fiber intake, according to Kristi Ruth RD.
How much fiber should you eat every day? “Women are advised to consume 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, whereas men are advised to consume 30 to 38 grams of fiber each day,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD from Balance One Supplements.
1 — You may actually become more constipated.
Although fiber is good for you, too much can actually cause constipation. This runs counter to popular belief because constipation can also occur when you don’t consume enough fiber!
Many people concentrate on increasing their soluble fiber intake to help reduce cholesterol and/or blood sugar control, according to Ruth. “Little do they realize that boosting the amount of soluble fiber in their diet may actually be constipating, especially when combined with insufficient water intake,” she said. This will undoubtedly come as a surprise to those who begin using fiber supplements to ease constipation. Fiber and water work together to bulk up stool and help it to move through the digestive system. Stools will form, but they will be difficult to pass. If you consume more fiber, you’ll need to drink more water as well. Alternatively, make sure you’re drinking enough liquid every day if you increase your fiber intake.
2 — But it can also cause diarrhea.
Fiber is supposed to assist you in going to the bathroom, but too much fiber might actually obstruct your bowels or cause diarrhea. According to dietitians, a lot of this has to do with not only how much food you consume, but also what sort of food it is.
“Interestingly, if you overdo it with your fiber intake, you may get abdominal cramps,” says Ruth. “This is due to the fact that fiber (particularly insoluble fiber) softens feces and has a laxative effect. As a result, know the various types of fiber and why you’re adding them. Also, think about how slowly you might increase your fiber intake in order to allow your digestive system time to adjust. Finally, try to obtain an appropriate ratio of both soluble and insoluble fibers.”
3 — You may experience uncomfortable gas or bloating.
Overindulging in fiber is another common reason that people get off track. You may suffer from some severe stomach ache as a result of overeating fiber.
Taking in too much fiber might cause bloating or gas, especially if you eat a lot of it at once. “It’s typical for our gut bacteria to generate some gas as it digests the meals and fibers we consume, but when the bloating and gas become unbearable, it’s time to reconsider your fiber intake,” says Paulina Lee, MSHS.