7 side effects of high-fiber diet

Your body needs fiber, but you need to be careful if you are going on a high-fiber diet. Here are side effects of high-fiber diet.

Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, cannot be digested by our body. But it has a lot of health benefits, including providing support in weight loss-journey, reducing blood sugar levels and enhance gut health. If you have issues like constipation or diarrhea, you may be told to have more fiber in your diet to reduce the symptoms. Following a high-fiber diet may help you to manage these problems, but there may be health issues if you are not careful. We tell you the side effects of a high-fiber diet.

What is fiber?

The macronutrient carbohydrate is categorised as monosaccharide, disaccharide and polysaccharide. Fiber is one of the polysaccharides derived from plants, shares dietitian Leena Martin.

Broccoli is high in fiber
Fiber can help to prevent constipation. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

There are two types of fiber:

  • Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to the stool, which helps in preventing constipation. Its sources include the structural parts of plants such as vegetable and fruits’ skin.
  • Soluble fiber absorbs water, and thickens and forms a substance like a gel in our digestive system. It may help in lowering cholesterol levels. Sources of soluble fiber include beans, oatmeal, barley, broccoli, apple and citrus fruits.

Why is fiber needed by our body?

Fiber is eliminated from the body in the intestinal waste. It adds almost no fuel or energy value to the diet, but it does add volume, preventing constipation or colon cancer, says the expert.

  • It helps in maintaining blood sugar levels.
  • Insoluble fiber binds to bile acids, reducing fat and cholesterol absorption.
  • Bulk or volume from fiber in the diet fills the stomach contributing to a feeling of satisfaction, helping in weight control.
  • It balances intestinal pH and stimulates intestinal fermentation production of short chain fatty acids, which help in gut health.

What are the side effects of a high-fiber diet?

For adults, the Daily Value for fiber is 28 grams per day, as per the Food and Drug Administration. If you eat way more than what is recommended, it can lead to various health problems. Here are its side effects:

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1. Anemia

Anemia, which refers to low levels of healthy red blood cells, can make you feel weak and tired. Too much fiber can come in the way of iron absorption, leading to anemia.

2. Osteoporosis

High fiber will bind to calcium, making it unavailable to the body, says Martin. If you don’t get calcium, you may have osteoporosis, a condition in which a person’s bones become weak and brittle.

3. Abdominal bloating

If you suddenly eat too much fiber, it can cause gas and bloating. This happens because the gut bacteria ferments the undigested fiber in the colon.

Bloating due to high-fiber diet
High-fiber diet can lead to bloating. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

4. Mineral deficiency

Increase in fiber intake hinders the proper absorption of the minerals needed by our body. Minerals like iron, calcium and zinc get affected by the consumption of a lot of fiber.

5. Anal fissure

Harsh indigestible fiber and less water intake can cause hard stools, says the expert. It can lead to anal fissure, which is a small tear in the lining of the anus.

6. Constipation

If you have more fiber and less water, it can make the stool very hard. This can lead to constipation, a condition where a person has difficult bowel movements or passes less than three bowel movements in one week.

7. Diarrhea

Eating too much of fiber-rich foods can not only make you feel constipated, but also lead to indigestion and loose motion. You will experience an upset stomach upset if your body is unable to take the fiber load.

If you struggle with these problems, have more fluids, gradually decrease your fiber intake, and engage in physical activities.