- So, Does Fiber Really Make You Poop?
- The Bottom Line: "Will fiber make me poop?"
Dietary fiber is the portion of plants or carbohydrates that cannot be digested by your body. It’s found in things like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans and seeds. Since your body is unable to process this fiber, it becomes part of your stool. When everything in your gut is in balance, you’ll experience regular bowel movements. If you’re not consuming enough fiber, this can affect frequency, comfort level when you use the bathroom and so much more.
In this article I want to take a look at the importance of fiber. From the perspective of a dietitian, does fiber really make you poop? What kind of different fibers are there? How can you ensure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet? I’ll also address some of the most frequently asked questions about fiber and working it into your daily routine. Let’s get started so we can get underway with getting your gut health back on track.
So, Does Fiber Really Make You Poop?
This answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might think. For the most part, fiber acts as a method of regulating your bowels. You can use it to alleviate both diarrhea and constipation, believe it or not. There are two different types of fiber that exist in the world. One is soluble in water, while the other one is not. We’ll look at these two different forms in a minute.
If you’re experiencing constipation, this means that your stools are too dry. If they were to contain more water, they would pass through your colon easier. If you deal with ongoing constipation, this can lead to complications such as varicose veins, hemorrhoids and even a hernia. Increasing the amount of fiber that you eat can pull water into your stools, relieving your constipation. If you have diarrhea and you’re experiencing too many bowel movements, you can use fiber to regulate your bowels more. Excess water in your stools will be absorbed by the body.
Types of Fiber You Need to Know About
As I mentioned earlier, there are two main types of fiber that you need to know about. Let’s take a look at them in depth, as well as other forms of fiber that you can utilize to promote optimal gut health.
Soluble fiber includes all of the dietary fiber in your diet that can be dissolved in water. Once this fiber has been dissolved, a gel-like substance forms. This gel will assist with digestion while also aiding in nutrient absorption. One example of a soluble fiber is pectin, which is found in different fruits and vegetables. You’ve probably heard of pectin being used for canning homemade preserves. This is because of its ability to naturally form a gel-like substance.
Insoluble fiber is a type of fiber that does not dissolve when it is in water. Because of this, insoluble fiber can help move food through the digestive system at a more efficient rate. Insoluble fiber can be found in vegetables as well as whole grains. This compound adds bulk to your stools, which results in a laxative effect. If you have constipation, insoluble fiber is the direction that you want to go in.
Fermentable fiber is digestible by beneficial bacteria that is in your gut. When it is digested, it will ferment and be used by the body as fuel. As you consume more fermentable fiber, you’ll experience an increase in the amount of beneficial gut bacteria that you have as part of your microbiome. There are some pretty substantial health benefits that come from this process, such as an increased immune response. The majority of fermentable fibers are soluble, though there are a few insoluble as well. Examples include pectin, guar gum, legumes, inulin and beta-glucans.
Viscous fiber is soluble fiber that is composed of polysaccharide compounds that are found in the walls of plant cells. Some examples include beta-glucans, pectins, various gums and psyllium husk. When they are present in the digestive system, these various viscous fibers will absorb water and then swell up into a thick, jelly-like mass. Your food will be broken down slower in the digestive system. This process affects your blood glucose levels so that you don’t experience as big of a glycemic spike.
Do You Need Soluble or Insoluble Fiber to Poop?
If you’re trying to ensure that you’re experiencing regular bowel movements, you’ll want to stick with insoluble fiber. This type of fiber increases the bulk of your stools and promotes the movement of fecal material through your digestive system on a regular basis. If you’re prone to either constipation, diarrhea or both, insoluble fiber can help you become more regular and consistent.
The Relationship between Fiber and Digestive Health
We know how important vitamins and nutrients are when it comes to a healthy diet, but there are other components that are needed in order to maintain proper digestive health. When it comes to fiber, this is an important part of your daily nutritional intake. When you consume adequate amounts of fiber, this will keep you regular while also decreasing any bouts of bloating or gas that you experience.
However, it’s important that you’re not consuming too much fiber. This can have the opposite effect on your digestion, such as bloating, gas and constipation. If that's the case, a person can relieve this discomfort by increasing their fluid intake and making changes to their diet. You can also find psyllium husk supplements that can help alleviate those symptoms. Finding the right balance is ideal, which is why I’m going to be discussing how much fiber you should be eating each day in the next section of this article.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat in a Day?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, you should be consuming an average of 28 grams of fiber per day for a 2000 calorie diet. However, this amount can vary slightly based on your age and gender. The general recommendation for a woman under the age of 50 is somewhere between 25 and 28 grams of fiber daily. Men under the age of 50 should consume 31 to 34 grams per day. Women over the age of 51 should decrease their amount of 22 grams per day, while men in that age bracket should reduce their daily quota to 28 grams of fiber each day.
Children can also benefit from enough fiber in their diet. A child between the ages of one and 18 should consume anywhere from 14 to 31 grams of fiber per day. Higher amounts of fiber intake in children can decrease the risk of chronic disease.
How Much Fiber is Too Much?
There is no official limit as to how much fiber you can consume each day, but exceeding the daily requirements set by the FDA can result in some unwanted symptoms such as gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and cramping. If you have recently increased your fiber intake and notice any of these symptoms have presented themselves, you should make the necessary changes to your diet, drink more water. You can also seek professional medical advice to see if there are any supplements that can help For example, if you are experiencing diarrhea, you may want to look specifically at fiber supplements that help with diarrhea so that your symptoms can be dealt with properly.
It’s important to note, there is an adjustment period that can occur when you’re first increasing your fiber intake. If you have manageable gut symptoms for the first few days, this is perfectly normal and should subside pretty quickly.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Fiber?
If you’re consuming a diet that is low in fiber (as well as high in fat), this can put you at an increased risk of constipation and hemorrhoids among other digestive issues. Since there are two types of fiber that you can consume, it’s a good idea to balance their consumption. If you’re not getting enough of either fiber or one form of fiber, this can throw everything out of balance in a way that will produce gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, etc. You can source your fiber from your diet alone, but there are also supplements that you can turn to if you’re not able to incorporate enough fiber-rich foods into your diet.
Does Eating a Lot of Fiber Make You Poop More?
When you’re eating a lot of fiber each day, this can promote regular and soft stools that are comfortable to pass. Your insoluble fiber consumption will result in food moving through your intestines until it is expelled through waste material. Soluble fiber will absorb water from your body and promote soft stools. Just make sure that you’re not taking in too much fiber. Most people find it takes a little bit of time to figure out the amount of fiber that works best for their body and GI system.
The Bottom Line: “Will fiber make me poop?”
Fiber absolutely has the potential to promote regular and comfortable bowel movements. If you eat a very healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you might not have to worry about your fiber consumption. You’re probably getting plenty. However, certain people may still experience changes in their bowel movements despite a healthy diet. If you’re not experiencing comfortable stools, it may be time to look into the use of a fiber supplement. There are a number of great options on the market that utilize all natural ingredients to provide you with gentle GI support.
A Few Fiber Tips from the RD
If you are looking to increase your fiber intake without the use of supplements but aren’t quite sure how to go about this, here are some of my helpful fiber tips.
- Start your day with a healthy dose of fiber. You can do so by eating a bowl of oatmeal, some bran flakes or a nice fruit salad. You can see how many tasty breakfast combinations you can come up with using fiber-rich foods.
- Replace your grain-based products with items that are made from whole grains. This can include pasta, breads, cereals and rice.
- Increase your fiber intake by upping your consumption of fruits and vegetables at every meal. Try to work in as many varieties as you can.