Dietary fiber is a component of a healthy lifestyle that is too often neglected, even by many individuals who are otherwise conscious of their diet choices. For this reason, the digestive systems of many people are unprepared to handle significant fiber consumption, even though fiber consumption should not cause any harm to a healthy digestive system.
Excess dietary fiber intake can lead to stomach-related problems such as cramping, bloating, diarrhea and flatulence. However, in most cases, this is due more to a sudden increase in fiber consumption than to a specific intake amount. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a sudden and dramatic fiber intake increase may be more than your body's digestive bacteria is prepared to handle. A more-gradual increase, however, allows your digestive bacteria to adapt to the new fiber intake.
Very high intake of dietary fiber can also partially limit your body's ability to absorb and process the minerals contained in your diet. These minerals that your body needs for good health include calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. The limiting impact of a high fiber diet on mineral absorption, however, is usually not a factor of significant concern, since high fiber foods tend to also be quite high in these minerals.
According to the Colorado State University Extension, children up to age 3 need about 19 g of fiber per day, while those up to 8 years old need 25 g per day. Until age 13, males need 31 g daily, and 38 g until age 50. After that, men need 30 g. Females need 26 g daily until age 18, and 25 g until age 50; after that they need 21 g. If these amounts are significantly higher than your current intake, you may wish to increase your fiber consumption gradually to reduce the possibility of any harmful side effects.
If you find yourself dealing with excess fiber intake, one cause may simply be that you do not realize the fiber that is contained in many of the foods included in your diet. According to MedlinePlus, fiber is found primarily in foods such as fruits and vegetables, in grains and whole grain foods like breads and cereals, and in beans and nuts.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Fiber - All Information; Linda Vorvick, MD; August 2008
- Colorado State University Extension; Dietary Fiber; J. Anderson, et al.; December 2010
- MedlinePlus: Dietary Fiber
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber: Start Roughing It!
- MayoClinic.com; Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 2009