Including dietary fiber in your diet provides several health benefits, including reduction of high cholesterol, stabilizing blood glucose levels and decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. As with most things, however, too much of a good thing isn't necessarily ideal. Consuming too much fiber overall or in a single dose can lead to abdominal gas and bloating that can cause pain. In addition, too much fiber can impair your body's ability to absorb essential nutrients and can lead to a deficiency. Check with your doctor before making significant changes to the amount of dietary fiber you consume.
The Problem With Too Much Fiber
Fiber occurs in two forms: soluble and insoluble. For most people, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract without causing problems. Soluble fiber, however, combines with water in your digestive tract, forming a gel-like substance. A byproduct of the digestion of soluble fiber in the intestines is gas. Large quantities of soluble fiber can cause excess gas that can expand the limited space in the intestines to a point when it's painful. Consuming too much insoluble fiber can cause irritation and pain in the digestive tract in people who have pre-existing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
How Much is Too Much?
The recommended daily amount of fiber for adult males, according to the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, is 38 grams. For adult females, the recommended amount is 25 grams. Adults over the age of 50 years should consume slightly less fiber; however fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet for all ages. If you regularly consume more than the recommended amount of daily fiber, you may experience decreased absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, which are essential for the health of your bones, teeth, cardiovascular and neurological systems. Most overconsumption of fiber occurs with the use of over-the-counter fiber supplements, explains the University of Nebraska.
How to Reduce Pain From Too Much Fiber
If you are experiencing excess gas that is causing pain, over-the-counter preparations for treating excess gas may help. In addition, if you find yourself experiencing pain after consuming a certain fiber-rich food such as beans, consider adding an enzyme supplement to help improve your digestion and decrease discomfort. Decrease the amount of fiber-rich foods in your diet, but be sure you are still getting the recommended daily amount. Alternate sources of soluble fiber, found in nuts, beans and apples, with sources of insoluble fiber found in whole grain products, carrots and seeds. See your doctor if you are experiencing recurring or severe pain or discomfort.
The most common gastrointestinal problem in the United States is constipation, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. This condition is caused by a lack of adequate dietary fiber and can lead to conditions such as diverticulitis. Abdominal or intestinal pain from eating too much fiber will generally resolve on its own as the fiber makes its way through your digestive tract. Once the pain is relieved, it's important to gradually reintroduce more moderate amounts of fiber into your diet, to prevent additional discomfort. Avoid fiber supplements unless prescribed by your physician.