The World Health Organization recently published the findings of a study that suggests increased fiber intake is linked to reduced risk for stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, and diabetes. Pretty major! According to the study, the target is about 25 to 29 grams of fiber a day. But there's a common roadblock that confronts people trying to include more fiber in their diets: bloating. Whether you up your fiber in the form of grain bowls or salads, bloat can be counted on to rear its ugly head.
It's a complaint fiber queen and The F-Factor Diet founder Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, is all too familiar with. Fortunately, she has plenty of tips. "If you're not used to eating a lot of fiber, add it in slowly," she says. "Think of fiber like a sponge in your gut. It swells up, and too much too fast can lead to distress and bloating. By adding a little bit each day, you can build up tolerance to more fiber. Any potential bloating or distress goes away once your digestive tract adapts to the recommended amount of fiber."
To combat bloat, you'll need to drink plenty of water, shooting for three liters each day. "Water plays a role in nearly every bodily function and fiber needs water to work its magic," says Zuckerbrot. "When fiber combines with water it forms a soft gel, which leads to firm stools and allows for easy bowel movements. If you don't drink enough water while eating a lot of high fiber foods, it can lead to constipation and bloating."
Wellness expert Lindsey Elmore, who regularly talks with people about how to minimize bloat, echoes Zuckerbrot's advice: "When the body is even minimally dehydrated, it pulls water from food waste," she says. "This contributes to constipation, which can cause bloating and discomfort." Elmore also recommends taking a probiotic, which can help to minimize digestive issues.
Zuckerbrot also recommends varying your source of fiber by consuming a balance of soluble (like beans and lentils) and insoluble (like wheat bran) varieties. "Too much of one type of fiber may lead to constipation or diarrhea, so a combination is recommended," she says. "Both can contribute to healthy weight loss by increasing feeling of fullness and satiety and promoting regularity."
If you increase your fiber slowly, drink plenty of water, and are mindful about your fiber sources, chances are those uncomfortable balloon-like feelings will, well, pop!
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