Dietary fibre/ roughage is one of the functional components of healthy foods. This is because it is essential for a healthier gut and bowel movements. It also helps in providing long-lasting satiety to consumers after meals. In addition, dietary fibre is essential as a food source of gut microorganisms. Some of these microorganisms in our guts ferment dietary fibre to produce functional compounds. This includes short-chain fatty acids which also have beneficial effects on your health. Dietary fibre also speeds up the transit time of foods through the gut. This prevents the overstaying of poisonous compounds in the gut. In addition to all this, dietary roughage helps in regulating blood sugar. Therefore, due to these benefits dietary roughage should be part of a healthy diet.
However, eating too much fibre is not always beneficial! As you will see, there are several reasons why you shouldn’t eat too much fibre as part of your diet.
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What is dietary fibre?
Dietary fibre consists of the indigestible parts of plant-based foods. The fibre can either be highly soluble or insoluble.
Soluble dietary fibre attracts water and turns into a gel during digestion. Oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas and barley are good sources of soluble dietary fibre. Some types of soluble fibre can lower the risk of heart disease. Some fruits like apples and vegetables are also good sources of soluble fibre.
Insoluble dietary fibre adds bulk to the stool and helps the food pass more quickly through the digestive system. It is found in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Understanding these types of fibre makes it easy to understand how everything else works.
What quantity of dietary fibre is enough?
It is recommended that young female adults eat 25 g of fibre a day. On the other hand young male adults must consume about 38 g of fibre a day. Consuming any quantity of dietary fibre above 70 g a day can have negative effects. So, it is clear that too much of anything can be harmful even though smaller amounts are healthful.
So, how do you know that you are consuming too much dietary fibre?
There are several ways to show you that you have taken too much dietary roughage. These include:
- Feeling satiated early when eating.
- Decrease in appetite.
- Distress in the gastrointestinal tract (gut). This includes constipation, cramping, diarrhoea, bloating and gassing. Especially gassing and bloating.
- Inability to take in enough energy due to high volumes of high fibre foods. This results in muscle wasting and weight loss.
So, what goes wrong when you eat too much dietary fibre?
Dietary fibre can make minerals unavailable for absorption. This is because it binds to minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. As a result, the availability of these minerals for absorption is limited. In severe cases, it may also lead to mineral definitely.
If you eat too much fibre, you may suffer from bloating, gassing and stomach discomforts. Its possible to also suffer from constipation and diarrhoea.
Also read: Avocados cause bloating: Why
In serious cases, though rare, intestinal blockages may occur. This happens when someone eats too much dietary fibre and little fluids. This results in a mass of solid food with low lubrication in the gut. As a result, the intestines may be blocked.
Which foods are good sources of dietary roughage or fibre?
You can get roughage from fruits and vegetables. Fruits like apples are good sources of soluble fibres. Some like mangoes are good sources of insoluble fibre. Most foods that can be eaten with the skin can provide dietary fibre. And overeating such fruits may give you negative effects.
Vegetables may contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. This includes green leafy vegetables like covo, rape, spinach and traditional vegetables like pumpkin leaves. Cruciferous vegetable vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are also good sources.
Beans and legumes are also good sources of roughage. Legumes like peas, lentils and wild beans make healthy options you can choose from.
Nuts and seeds are also good sources of dietary fibre. Nuts like cashews, walnuts, pecans and macadamia nuts can provide dietary roughage. Wild nuts like marula and muhacha nuts make some of the healthier but scarce choices.
In essence, most whole foods can provide you with all the dietary fibre you need. The only problem is that eating too much of these foods can be bad. That’s why you need to be warier about balancing your diet.
Too many processed foods in your diet are also not so good. This is because they are lacking in terms of dietary fibre. Most processing methods remove the roughage first.
How to deal with the side effects eating too much fibre in your diet?
If you feel too full, bloated or constipated. You may have consumed too much dietary roughage. As a result, you must:
Remove processed foods with added dietary fibre from the diet. This type of added dietary fibre has a more negative effect on your gastrointestinal system (gut) than natural fibre. So, it may upset your gut more easily!
Reduce intake of raw fruits and vegetables. Roughage is utilised by gut microorganisms as a food source. So, whenever, there is a lot of fibre, these microbes go into a frenzy. And as a result, you will be bloated and gassed due to fermentation processes. This is worse if the fibre is raw. So as a solution you may opt for cooked vegetables that are cooked or half-cooked instead of raw. It’s easy to identify the vegetables that may cause you any discomforts.
Take an analysis of your meals and see if it is a high fibre meal. Check the fibre content of the foods you eat. It may be helpful to choose low fibre options for some of the foods. This ensures that you mix low fibre foods with high fibre options.
Highly processed sugar-rich foods can also cause bloating, gassing and constipation. You may need to cut some from your diet.
So, is too much fibre not so good?
Yes! Too much of anything is not good for anyone. A healthier diet balances between high fibre and low fibre foods. You also need to identify the foods that have too much roughage. The gut usually has problems dealing with these all the time. So, you are more likely to feel discomfort, bloated or gassed after such meals.
Another important point is that you must know yourself. Try to find out how you react to different foods. This makes it easy for you to know if your gut problems are related to dietary fibre.