4 Signs You're Eating Too Much Fiber

Lots of packaged foods have added fiber these days, so keep an eye out for signs you're getting too much.
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There's a reason packaged foods love to advertise high fiber counts on the wrapper. After all, fiber's benefits include promoting good gut health, regular digestion and steady blood sugar levels.

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But as with exercise (or anything, really), you can have too much of a good thing. Most people don't get enough of this healthy nutrient in their daily diet, but it's possible to overdo it, especially if you're regularly snacking on high-fiber bars or taking a fiber supplement. And there are some side effects of too much fiber you'll want to avoid.

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Keep an eye out for these surefire symptoms of fiber overload.

1. You're Feeling Bloated or Gassy

A little bloating and gas is normal when you eat a fiber-heavy meal, especially if it involves cruciferous veggies like cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, says dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table. But if your symptoms cause discomfort or disrupt your day-to-day, you may be overdoing it.

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Fiber is a carbohydrate the body isn't made to digest, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Instead, it goes through your body unprocessed. As a result, you can feel overly full or gassy as the nutrient moves through your system.

You may also have gas and bloating if you're increasing your day-to-day fiber intake too quickly, Taub-Dix says. While you may only be eating the recommended daily amount (21 to 38 grams, depending on your age and sex), going from 10 grams one day to 30 grams the next is likely to cause digestive issues.

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2. You're Constipated

Technically, fiber is supposed to help you poop. But sometimes it can actually cause constipation, Taub-Dix says.

There are two types of fiber out there: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in oatmeal, nuts and beans, dissolves in water and helps control blood sugar levels, keeping you full throughout the day, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Insoluble fiber, found in wheat and legumes, helps move food through your digestive system, promoting regularity in the bathroom.

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But if you're not drinking enough water, these healthy fibers can produce rather than prevent constipation.

How to Relieve Constipation From Too Much Fiber

If you're constipated from too much fiber, you may need to up your H2O, Taub-Dix says. She suggests sipping at least one tall glass of fluid at each meal.

Exactly how much water you should drink each day varies based on your sex, age and activity levels, but most people should get between 11.5 and 15.5 cups daily, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Getting enough exercise is another method to help relieve constipation from eating too much fiber. Moving daily helps increase the muscle activity around your intestines, which can encourage normal bowel movements, according to the Mayo Clinic.

3. You're Feeling Abdominal Pain

Increasing your fiber too quickly can also cause your stomach to cramp and feel distended or even painful, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Usually stomach cramping or a bloated belly will go away once your body digests and passes the fibrous foods you ate, Taub-Dix says. Increase your overall fiber across the span of a week or two (instead of all at once) and these symptoms will most likely go away.

If you continue to feel pain digesting high-fiber foods, talk to your doctor or a dietitian. They can help you figure out which food your body isn't loving.

Also, you don't want to confuse a little extra bloating with weight gain, Taub-Dix says. High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and low in calories, so the last thing you want to do is cut them from your diet due to a little bloat.

"If you have a lot of fiber in your diet and your abdominal area feels distended, that doesn't mean you gained weight," Taub-Dix says. "This is not fat, it has nothing to do with fat. This is just bloat because of the processing of carbohydrates in your body, which could sometimes cause air bubbles."

Drinking plenty of water or sipping some tea is a great way to help soothe a cramped stomach, Taub-Dix says.

4. You Have Loose Stools

Although it's rare, eating too much fiber can sometimes cause diarrhea or loose stools, Taub-Dix says. This is more common if you take too many fiber supplements (like fiber gummies) or eat a lot of fiber-fortified foods (think: snack bars, breakfast cereals).

"When you try to increase your fiber intake too fast, and you're not used to it, it can cause this side effect," Taub-Dix says. "If that's the case, make sure you're drinking enough fluid to stay hydrated and ease up on the fiber for a day or two until your system calms down."

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So, How Much Fiber Should You Get Per Day?

Thanks to some of today's popular diet fads (looking at you, keto diet), most people aren't actually eating enough fiber. But as you may have experienced firsthand, it's totally possible to eat too much fiber each day as well.

Generally, Americans eat about 10 to 15 grams of fiber per day, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Here's a look at how much we should actually be getting, broken down by age and sex:

How Much Fiber to Eat Each Day

Age

People Assigned Male at Birth

People Assigned Female at Birth

50 and Younger

38 grams

25 grams

Older than 50

30 grams

21 grams

Source: Harvard Health Publishing

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Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.
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