Increasing the fibre in our diets is the mainstay of the prevention and management of many of the leading gastrointestinal symptoms and conditions we see every single day. Fibre adds substance to the stool, which helps the colon transport the stool and absorb the necessary fluid. Fibre helps to prevent colorectal problems such as diverticulosis and hemorrhoids, and is the mainstay of treatment of constipation, diarrhea and hemorrhoids. It may be helpful in IBS and can help relieve abdominal pain, bloating and help regulate other functional bowel problems. We'll try to answer some common questions about getting fibre into your diet here, but remember, you can always speak to a dietician by simply dialling 8-1-1 (in British Columbia).
How much fibre is enough
The recommended intake of fibre varies from source to source, but in general you need between 20 and 35 grams per day.
Do I need to take a supplement?
No! In fact, the added fibre found in supplements can easily be found in nutritious high fibre foods. Many people, however, find it difficult to consistently get enough fibre in their diets, and supplemental fibre such as Metamucil, Benefibre, or Bran Cereals can be an easy way to get that extra bit of fibre, every day. Bran cereals such as All Bran, Oatmeal and ground flax seeds are all easy ways to get a high fibre start to the day without using a supplement.
I tried a supplement but...
... I didn't like the texture. This is a common complaint of some psyillium fibre formulations, such as Metamucil. Look for alternative products such as fibre bars, cookies, capsules etc... Some other types of supplements such as Benefibre do not thicken the fluid they are mixed in and are better tolerated by some people.
... It made be bloated or gassy. Think of a high fibre diet like a workout for your colon. It`s healthy to get exercise but just like exercise, too much, too quickly is going to hurt! Try starting with a very small amount of added fibre and gradually increase the amount over a period of weeks to months. If you are using a psyillium product such as Metamucil you can often start with just one teaspoon in the morning with lots of liquid, and gradually increase up to a couple of table spoons twice a day over a few months. If you have symptoms of IBS you may find some fibres make your symptoms worse. Studies have shown Psyillium fibre to the be most consistently beneficial in IBS, whereas Bran products will almost certainly cause you grief. Alternatively, many people that do not have IBS symptoms find Bran products an easy and natural to introduce healthy fibre into their diets.
... It made me constipated. Remember: Fibre adds bulk to your stool, which your colon needs to properly process your stool. If you increase the material in your colon without increasing the amount of fluid to go with it, you will get constipated (think of adding an extra cup of flour to some dough). When you are moving to a high fibre diet it is important to stay hydrated. Drink several glasses of water throughout the day, and if you do use a supplement, be sure you take it with fluids.