Many people are frightened of high-fiber food out of fear of bloating or other embarrassing gastrointestinal worries. Fortunately, all the benefits of fiber diet can be enjoyed without any troubles if you follow these scientifically proven steps:
- Eat a healthy balance of soluble and insoluble fiber
- Increase fiber intake slowly
- Drink plenty of water.
Is dietary fiber and how can it cause bloating?
Dietary fiber is the indigestible carbohydrate (polymer) found in plants. To put it in simple terms, they are tiny filaments that cannot be digested by the enzymes produced in the human intestine. Cattle and other herbivores can digest them and get a much of their energy from them.
Although fiber is “indigestible”, some bacteria in our large intestine do digest them. This process of bacteria-induced digestion in intestines is called fermentation. One of the by-products of fermentation is gas which can build-up in the colon, causing it to inflate literally. This accumulation of gas can lead to well-known and unpleasant digestive problems such as bloating. (Slavin, 2013).
Many studies have confirmed the health benefits of fiber. Fiber should be part of every diet. According to researchers, “fiber is very efficient in the prevention of coronary heart disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and intestinal cancers. It can also help in reducing weight. There are some simple strategies to avoid bloating while switching to a fiber-rich diet.”
1) Eat a healthy balance of soluble and insoluble fiber
Dietary fiber is divided into two types soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water better and becomes a gel-like mass as it passes through the body. To see this for yourself; boil a cup of water, add a tablespoon of flaxseed, stir and wait for an hour until it cools down. The mixture will turn into gelatin, which happens because flax seeds are high in soluble fiber. Flax seeds are widely available and are one of the best food sources of soluble fiber. They also have other health benefits because they contain a high concentration of Omega-3 oil, protein, and iron.
On the other hand, insoluble fiber is not transformed with water. An example would be, adding a diced celery into a cup of water. Nothing happens; it just sits there. Celery is high in insoluble fiber.
The balance between these two types of fiber is needed to make a perfect environment in the intestines. We need both. Together they improve the movement of food as it passes through our bodies. Combined they improve providing all health benefits of fiber without the unpleasant side effects.
This means that both soluble and insoluble fiber are good (and needed!) for our health and each of them has a different processing mechanism which results in different health benefits.
2) Increase fiber intake slowly
Our bodies need time to adjust to changes. Every dramatic change in diet changes our intestinal bacteria and requires some time for the body to adapt to the new dietary regimen. The best way to introduce fiber-rich food in your diet is to do it slowly. Increasing the amounts of them over a few weeks will prevent bloating.
3) Drink plenty of water
Drinking a sufficient amount of water is a must! No matter what dietary regimen you choose to follow, you need a lot of water to stay hydrated and to maintain the healthy functioning of the intestines. In the case of a fiber-rich diet, the increased soluble fiber requires water to avoid constipation. Likewise, insoluble fiber needs to be “washed away”. Again, it’s all about balance. Finding the right proportion between soluble and insoluble fiber, and drinking enough water is the perfect way to enjoy the benefits of a fiber-rich diet while avoiding unpleasant side effects.
 Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417–1435. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu5041417
 Lattimer, J. M., & Haub, M. D. (2010). Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health. Nutrients, 2(12), 1266–1289. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu2121266
 McRorie, J. W. (2015). Evidence-Based Approach to Fiber Supplements and Clinically Meaningful Health Benefits, Part 2: What to Look for and How to Recommend an Effective Fiber Therapy. Nutrition Today, 50(2), 90–97. http://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000089