Too Much Fiber? What to Do to Ease Fiber Overload Symptoms

Discover the symptoms of too much fiber, how to relieve them, and the optimal fiber intake. Learn about high-fiber foods and their effects on digestion.

almonds-prune-and-dry-fruit-on-bowl
Green checkmark surrounded by green circle.

Updated by

Green checkmark surrounded by green circle.

Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
August 1, 2023
— Updated:
August 2, 2023

Table of Contents

Fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet. It plays a significant role in digestion and overall health and well-being. If you are health-conscious and blood sugar management and longevity are your top priority, you should understand the importance of incorporating fiber-rich foods into your meals. 

Excessive fiber intake can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and disrupt the balance of the gut. In this article, we will explore the benefits of fiber, the differences between soluble and insoluble fiber, and what to do if you experience symptoms of fiber overload. We will also provide practical tips to help you balance your fiber consumption for improved well-being.

What Does Fiber Do for the Body?

Fiber is an essential nutrient that aids in digestion and promotes overall health. Fiber adds bulk to the diet, helping to regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation. It fuels the “good bacteria” in the gut, promoting a balanced gut microbiome.1

Fiber also provides many other benefits, including promoting satiety, supporting weight management, and regulating blood sugar levels. It also supports healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.2,3,4

While fiber-rich foods are highly beneficial, too much fiber can cause unpleasant side effects and negatively impact health. Consuming excessive fiber without adequate fluid intake can lead to bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort. 

Increasing fiber intake too quickly may cause temporary digestive disturbances, such as cramping or loose stools. It is important to gradually increase fiber intake and ensure a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods.5

{{mid-cta}}

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

There are two main types of dietary fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. 

  • Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This gel traps cholesterol and prevents its absorption into the bloodstream. This helps to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. It also helps prevent blood sugar spikes. 

Sources include:

  • oats
  • brussels sprouts
  • beans
  • peas
  • apples
  • oranges
  • nuts
  • flax and other seeds

*Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and instead adds bulk to the stool, encouraging regular bowel movements. 

Sources include: 

  • wheat bran
  • vegetables like green beans and dark leafy greens
  • root vegetables like carrots, beets, and radishes
  • fruit skins
  • intact whole grains

Can You Have Too Much Fiber?

While fiber is an important component of a healthy diet, consuming too much fiber can negatively affect digestion and overall well-being. However, fiber overload is a problem that occurs less frequently than inadequate fiber intake.

Fiber needs vary based on factors such as gender, age, and stage of development. The recommended daily fiber intake for adults is generally between 25 to 38 grams. However, this range can vary between different people.

Consuming too much fiber can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, and even diarrhea. These symptoms are more likely to occur when there is a sudden and significant increase in fiber intake rather than when fiber is consumed in moderation.

Most people struggle to meet their daily fiber needs, leading to constipation and other digestive problems. Not getting enough fiber is more common in today's diets, which are often high in processed foods that are low in fiber.

To determine the optimal amount of fiber for your specific needs, it is recommended to consider individual factors such as gender, age, and stage of development. Factors like pregnancy or certain health conditions may also require adjustments in fiber intake.

If you’re unsure how much fiber is right for you, a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance on the right fiber intake. Getting the right amount of fiber helps you support optimal digestion and overall well-being.

Fiber Overload: 6 Symptoms of Too Much Fiber

  • Bowel movement changes

You may have changes in your regular bowel movements, like loose stools or constipation. 

  • Belly bloating and gas

Bacteria in the intestines process certain foods not digested by your gastrointestinal system when they pass into the colon, causing excess gas production. 

  • Stomach pain

Increased bloating and gas often cause stomach pain and discomfort. 

  • Minerals deficit

Too much fiber can interfere with the body's ability to absorb essential nutrients. This can lead to mineral deficiencies because fiber binds with minerals, including calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron.

  • GERD/Acid reflux

Some studies show that too much fiber in individuals with acid reflux may increase symptoms.

  • Dehydration

If you drastically increase your fiber without increasing your water intake or consistently eat more than 50 grams of fiber a day, you are more likely to become dehydrated. Diarrhea is also associated with dehydration, so the two may occur together.

Tips on How to Relieve Symptoms of Too Much Fiber

Making adjustments to your diet and lifestyle can help relieve symptoms of fiber overload. The time it takes for your body to respond to these adjustments may vary. You might experience relief within a few days or take a week or more. Patience and consistency are key. Here are some tips to help alleviate your symptoms if you’ve had too much fiber:

  • Eat fermented foods and beverages

Fermented foods and beverages contain probiotics, aiding digestion and restoring a healthy balance of gut bacteria. This may help alleviate digestive symptoms.

  • Stay hydrated 

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help soften stools and reduce the bulk caused by too much fiber. Aim for at least eight glasses of water daily, or more if you are physically active or in a hot climate.

  • Try balancing both soluble and insoluble fiber

Your symptoms may be caused by eating too much soluble or insoluble fiber; try adjusting the amounts you consume. Increase or decrease your intake of foods rich in soluble or insoluble fiber to achieve a better balance and alleviate discomfort.

  • Practice an elimination diet

Consider following an elimination diet to identify specific high-fiber foods that may trigger your symptoms. Eliminate common culprits such as beans, cruciferous vegetables, or whole grains. Gradually reintroduce them one at a time to identify which foods are causing discomfort.

  • Stay away from carbonated drinks or chewing gum

Carbonated beverages and chewing gum can introduce additional air into your digestive system, increasing bloating and discomfort. Limit or avoid these products to help reduce symptoms of fiber overload.

  • Cut back on fiber supplements

If you are taking fiber supplements, such as psyllium husk or bran, you may consider reducing or stopping these altogether. At least temporarily. These concentrated sources of fiber can contribute to excess fiber intake and worsen symptoms.

Health Benefits of Including Fiber in Your Diet

Including fiber in your diet offers many health benefits, making it essential to your overall well-being. Eating a good balance of fiber can contribute to a healthier body and lower the risk of several health conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. 

Here are some key advantages of incorporating fiber into your diet:

  • Lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and colorectal cancer

Studies show that consuming a fiber-rich diet is crucial for metabolic health. It has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and colorectal cancer. Fiber helps lower LDL cholesterol levels, regulates blood glucose levels, promotes weight management, and supports a healthy digestive system, all of which significantly prevent these chronic diseases.1,3,4,6

  • Help to lower blood pressure

Research suggests that a high-fiber diet may help lower blood pressure levels. Soluble fiber can have a positive impact on blood pressure by improving the function of blood vessels and reducing inflammation7,8

  • Cholesterol reduction

Eating foods high in soluble fiber can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system, which binds to cholesterol and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

  • Better digestive health

A fiber-rich diet supports a healthy digestive system. Insoluble fiber plays a particular role in preventing and alleviating common digestive issues by speeding up the movement of food through the digestive tract.

  • Help with managing weight

Fiber-rich foods tend to be more filling. This increased satiety can help control appetite and reduce calorie intake. As part of a healthy lifestyle, fiber can help maintain a healthy weight or support weight loss goals.

  • Improved regular bowel functions

Adequate fiber intake promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Fiber bulks up the stool, making it easier to pass and reducing the likelihood of discomfort or straining during bowel movements.

Eating fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, can provide these benefits and support your overall well-being. Remember to increase fiber intake gradually and drink plenty of water to prevent the symptoms of fiber overload.

How Much Fiber to Eat Per Day?

The general recommendation for fiber intake for adults is about 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day. This range is based on the dietary reference intake (DRI) established by health organizations. However, fiber requirements can vary depending on individual factors such as age, gender, activity level, and specific health conditions.

The American Heart Association suggests aiming for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. But some people may require more fiber, for instance, athletes or those with certain health conditions like diabetes.9 

Eating excessing amounts of fiber is not recommended, as it may lead to digestive discomfort or interfere with nutrient absorption.

Focus on consuming a variety of fiber-rich foods. This includes whole grains (whole wheat, oats, and quinoa), fruits, vegetables, legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts, and seeds. These foods offer different types of fiber and provide additional nutrients, enhancing the overall nutritional value of your diet.

Remember, the recommended daily fiber intake is a general guideline. It's important to listen to your body and make adjustments as necessary.

Below are the general guidelines for fiber intake:

Adult Fiber Intake

adult-fiber.intake-table

Child and adolescent fiber intake

child-and-teens-fiber-intake-table

Learn More About Healthy Nutrition with Signos’ Expert Advice

Monitoring fiber intake and maintaining balanced nutrition are great ways to improve health and well-being. Tracking your fiber intake allows you to make sure you are meeting your daily requirements without eating too much or too little. Signos nutrition experts can provide personalized guidance to help you create a well-balanced nutrition plan and decide how much fiber is right for you.

Signos CGM empowers you to improve your health by keeping track of your diet, exercise, sleep habits, and blood sugar. Knowledge is power, and a CGM can give you specific information about how your habits affect your health. 

Find out if Signos is a good fit for you by taking a quick quiz.

Get more information about weight loss, glucose monitors, and living a healthier life
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
  • Item 1
  • Item 2
  • item 3
Get more information about weight loss, glucose monitors, and living a healthier life
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Topics discussed in this article:

References

  1. Parnell, J. A., & Reimer, R. A. (2012). Prebiotic fiber modulation of the gut microbiota improves risk factors for obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Gut microbes, 3(1), 29–34. https://doi.org/10.4161/gmic.19246
  2. Burton-Freeman B. (2000). Dietary fiber and energy regulation. The Journal of nutrition, 130(2S Suppl), 272S–275S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.2.272S
  3. Howarth, N. C., Saltzman, E., & Roberts, S. B. (2001). Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutrition reviews, 59(5), 129–139. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07001.x
  4. Brown, L., Rosner, B., Willett, W. W., & Sacks, F. M. (1999). Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 69(1), 30–42. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/69.1.30
  5. Ioniță-Mîndrican, C. B., Ziani, K., Mititelu, M., Oprea, E., Neacșu, S. M., Moroșan, E., Dumitrescu, D. E., Roșca, A. C., Drăgănescu, D., & Negrei, C. (2022). Therapeutic Benefits and Dietary Restrictions of Fiber Intake: A State of the Art Review. Nutrients, 14(13), 2641. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14132641
  6. Reynolds, A. N., Akerman, A. P., & Mann, J. (2020). Dietary fibre and whole grains in diabetes management: Systematic review and meta-analyses. PLoS medicine, 17(3), e1003053. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003053
  7. Whelton, S. P., Hyre, A. D., Pedersen, B., Yi, Y., Whelton, P. K., & He, J. (2005). Effect of dietary fiber intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Journal of hypertension, 23(3), 475–481. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.hjh.0000160199.51158.cf
  8. Aleixandre, A., & Miguel, M. (2016). Dietary fiber and blood pressure control. Food & function, 7(4), 1864–1871. https://doi.org/10.1039/c5fo00950b
  9. Increasing Fiber Intake | Patient Education. (n.d.). UCSF Health. Retrieved June 30, 2023, from https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake

About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

View Author Bio

Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

Interested in learning more about metabolic health and weight management?

Try Signos.