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5 health risks of having too much fibre

Constipation, flatulence, bloating and other problems you experience when you have too much fibre.

Written by Debjani Arora |Published : August 10, 2016 6:18 PM IST

Fibre should be an important part of your diet. Foods rich in fibre essentially help to beat constipation, lower cholesterol, help with weight management and provide many more benefits. However, going overboard with fibre can make you sick in your gut!

There are two types of fibre soluble and insoluble fibre. An excess of insoluble fibre could be bad for your stomach. The problem with most fibre-rich foods is that they have a mix of soluble and insoluble fibre--cereals contain more insoluble fibre than soluble and fruits and dried fruits have more soluble fibre. It is important to strike the right balance while choosing fibre rich foods, says Niti Desai consultant dietician Cumbala Hills Hospital, Mumbai.

If you think just picking fibre-rich foods is enough for you to be healthy, you are wrong. Too much insoluble fibre can do you more harm than good. Here Niti Desai speaks on the dangers of going overboard with fibre-rich diets.

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1. Constipation: Yes fibre in your diet helps you to get relief from constipation but an overdose of the same could lead to just the opposite, more so if your water intake is less. While fibre can add bulk to your stools and help it move in your intestines, without adequate water, stools gets stuck and this leads to severe constipation. So fibre alone cannot help you have a smooth start in the morning unless your water intake is up to the mark. Here is why you should have eight glasses of water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated.

2. Prevents absorption of vital minerals: Too much fibre in your intestine can prevent the intestinal cells to absorb vital minerals and nutrients. The excess fibre in the system usually leads to malabsorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. While the signs and symptoms of malabsorption of these nutrients are very minimal but over a period this can cost you dearly.

3. Flatulence and bloating: If you have fibre in the right amount it would lead to less flatulence and bloating. However, if your diet is more on insoluble fibre, this could lead to gas and bloating as insoluble fibre don t break down easily while the short-chain soluble fibre is easily digestible and also has probiotic properties. So if you aren t picking the right foods or are not able to maintain the correct balance in your diet, don t blame the fibre alone for a bloated stomach.

4. Dehydration: The same reason why fibre-rich diet can lead to constipation, bloating and gas drinking less water. If you fail to increase your water intake while trying to include fibre-rich foods in your diet, this could lead to dehydration. Remember fibre needs adequate water to help your body function better. If your water intake is limited, this could lead to dehydration as the water would be absorbed by the fibre in your system too soon.

5. Diarrhoea: Wondering how an overdose of fibre can lead to constipation and diarrhoea both? Let us explain, too much soluble fibre in the diet could hamper the process of digestion and push it out of your system even before it is digested and your body is able to benefit from the nutrients of the foods. If you are having the right amount of fibre, your stools will have bulk and would be easy to pass, but it won t be loose.

Here is what you should do if you plan to increase fibre in your diet

  • Drink lots of water or at least stick to the usual eight to 10 glasses to help the fibre in your system do its work effectively.
  • Increase fibre intake gradually so you don t have to worry about constipation, diarrhoea or bloating. The ideal fibre requirement for an average Indian adult is 25 to 30 gm per day. If you wish to increase it do it by an addition of 10 gm which could be adding few dried fruits to your diet.
  • Choose the right mix of soluble and insoluble fibre. Like cruciferous vegetables have more insoluble fibre than soluble one and fruits have more soluble fibres. If you aren t sure how to choose the right foods, talk to a nutritionist or a dietician.
  • Make sure that you aren t missing out on the other foods which would ensure that you get all the vital minerals and nutrients from your diet, like dairy for calcium, leafy greens for iron, as your body needs all of them.

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