When Fiber is Unhealthy

We are often reminded how healthy fiber is.  It sweeps our intestines clean, keeps us “regular” and fills us up before we can get to dessert.  Or at least it is supposed to. We don’t question this just like we don’t question the notion that cholesterol causes heart attacks (or does it?).

Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are loaded with a variety of fiber types, which are not always a good thing, at least for some.  Are you often plagued by bloating, gas, cramping, constipation or diarrhea and perhaps acid reflux? Have you been diagnosed with IBS? IBD?  Certain types of fiber and starch can abnormally ferment in the intestine of some people, leading to such digestive turmoil.  This is not healthy.

Problem fibers and sugars are found in beans and peas; whole grains; apples, cherries and some other fruits; dairy and some veggies including onions,  garlic, artichokes, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

The theory is this:  bacteria from your colon have invaded your small intestine (the stop after your stomach).  These organisms ferment the fiber and starch left undigested from your stomach. This produces gas, fluids and thus pressure, which can cause cramping, plus push acids up into your esophagus and slow down, or speed up, elimination.

Low fiber foods such as meats and seafood, fats along with certain fruits (ripe bananas, citrus, berries) and most non-starchy veggies do not feed these gas-producing bacteria and thus do not cause trouble.

If you eat a diet rich in beans, fruits and whole grains and you do not suffer digestive problems, fiber is working for you.  Keep it up!  If you suffer bloating, gas, reflux and other digestive consequences after a bowl of chili and beans, an apple or whole grain bread. email me for a plan to correct the problem.