Not just because your grandma said so.

Sexy middle aged woman with cane and derby, standing by a giant apple.

Grandma or grandpa usually knows best when it comes to fiber, but you need lots of fiber at any age.
© Can Stock Photo

Fiber is good for both diarrhea AND constipation. How can that be so? Read on.

Fiber is in many foods we eat, but barely anyone gets the recommended daily amount. But why eat fiber? Why worry about it at all?

Well, insoluble fiber gives your bowels “structure”. In other words, it helps your stool (poop) stick together in a clump inside, and get moved along at a “regular” pace :). Sorry for being graphic.

It also gives your bowels something to grab on to.

Another kind of fiber, called soluble fiber, absorbs water and helps keep things from being too liquid, a blessing for IBS-D. Details below.

Soluble vs insoluble fiber, do I need both?

Soluble fiber is the kind that makes things slippery and absorbs water. That can be a big help for those with bouts of IBS-D or diarrhea.

Insoluble fiber helps keep things together and moving along. It provides some traction for the stool as your body moves it along with peristalsis. That’s great for those with IBS-C or constipation.

Fiber for constipation OR diarrhea???

Sign showing fiber information.

There’s a lot to know about fiber, but what you really need to know is if you’re getting enough!
© Can Stock Photo

Yes, fiber can help either condition. Our bodies are made in such a way that we need a lot of fiber. In the modern diet we just don’t get it.

I think that’s one of the reasons that IBS is often called a developed nation disease.

Can you eat too much fiber?

Changing the amount of fiber in your diet, too much, too fast, can cause gas. Trapped gas can cause bowel spasms and pain. Who needs that!

But if you increase your fiber amounts a little at a time you shouldn’t have much trouble with gas.  Most people get used to increases in fiber after a week or two, and the excess gas goes away.

How many grams of fiber a day?

For women the recommended amount is 25 grams. For men (who usually eat more) the number is 38 grams per day.

That’s a lot of fiber compared to what most people get.  I TRY to get more fiber, and I’m not near 38 grams.

Most people in developed nations are estimated to eat about 15 grams. That’s a lot less than we need to keep things “moving” the way we’d like.

How to increase fiber intake:

By eating things most of us don’t like to eat :(.

Sorry, but it’s true. Most vegetables are a great source of fiber.  But people in developed nations don’t usually eat as many veggies as they should.

I’m a confessed vegetable wimp.

Whole grains like wheat and wheat bran or oat bran have quite a bit of fiber as well. Some of us have trouble with gluten or have wheat allergies though.

I’d love to have a bran muffin right now, but no gluten for me.

Your grandparents called fiber roughage…

A heart shaped pile of bran fiber.

Fiber can be great for your health in other ways. It can help you have a healthy heart and cholesterol for instance.
© Can Stock Photo

And they got a lot more of it than we do.  Even so, most people will never eat the amount of fiber that “cavemen” (or “cavewomen”), ate about 100 grams of fiber a day!

Don’t try to get THERE all at once.

So why eat fiber? Because you’ll suffer if you don’t.

P.S. Grandma was right.

There are all kinds of other things to say about fiber, but I think I’ll write a series about it.

What about you? Any tips about fiber you want to share? Share in the comments section :).