Fiber for IBS Can Make Your Condition Worse!

Eating fiber for IBS treatment can be a myth. Doctors, nutritionists, health related television shows, commercials, EVERYONE, tells us we need more fiber, whether we have IBS or not. One of the first recommendations a doctor will make when you have a diagnosis of IBS is to eat more fiber for IBS. BUT TOO MUCH FIBER CAN AGGRAVATE IBS! That is why, despite getting your recommended 25 - 30 grams of fiber each day, and eating all those fruits, vegetables, salads, and whole grains, you are still having problems with IBS. I was constantly including fiber in my meals, eating all kinds of fruits, vegetables and cardboard foods. A co-worker even once commented that I seem to eat a lot of “sticks and branches”! She was teasing me, of course, about the healthy foods I was eating. So why, despite eating rather healthy, and getting plenty of fiber for IBS, did I still have terrible symptoms? Because you do need these high fiber foods, but no one ever tells you NOT TOO MUCH!

The most important fact to remember about eating fiber for IBS is that there are two types of fiber.

Insoluble Fiber – Insoluble fiber is the fiber found in most of the healthy foods we know and love. Fruits, vegetables, most grains like wheat and corn, nuts and seeds. Insoluble fiber acts like a scrub brush in the colon. It speeds up the passage of food in your digestive system. However, these foods that are high in insoluble fiber can be very irritating to IBS sufferers because they are stimulating to the colon. More stimulation leads to more cramping and unregulated movement through the digestive system. Yes, we do need to eat these types of healthy foods that contain insoluble fiber. But NOT TOO MUCH!

Soluble Fiber – This is the type you want when eating fiber for IBS.

Soluble fiber acts like a sponge, attracting water, and forms a gel during digestion. This action regulates bowel function, and decreases the chance of having a violent (diarrhea) or slow (constipation) bowel movement. Soluble fiber for IBS is a must! Some great foods that have a high soluble fiber content are oats, white and brown rice, peas, beans, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, french bread and sourdough bread.

Fiber Supplements—Not Always the Answer

Many doctors will recommend a fiber supplement for your irritable bowel. The supplements that are beneficial for IBS, are those that are, you guessed it, high in soluble fiber. Metamucil, which contains psyllium, and Citrucel, which contains methylcellulose, are both supplements high in soluble fiber that you can buy over the counter. There is also a more expensive, but maybe more soothing to the digestive tract, supplement called acacia fiber. It is a available at health food stores.

Be careful of products that contain cascara sagrada. Even though it is an all natural herb, it is considered a laxative and can cause diarrhea, cramping and abdominal pain. Continuous use of laxatives can also cause you to become dependent on them.

Another caution: many food manufacturers are adding a fiber to their products called inulin. This additive can really aggravate your IBS symptoms!

I have tried all of these supplements, and they were not helpful for my IBS symptoms. You can try to see what works for you, but I have had to take too many trips to the bathroom when I use these. Psyllium forms a very gooey drink, which was difficult for me to swallow, but acacia fiber goes down much smoother.

These supplements do relieve constipation and help bulk up and solidify diarrhea, but I don't think a fiber supplement alone will relieve your abdominal pain and cramps. If you are getting enough soluble fiber through the foods you are eating, then you may not need these supplements.

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