5 Signs Your Body Is Telling You That You’ve Had Too Much Fiber, According to an RD

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By now you may have heard that 30 grams of fiber per day is the golden number when it comes to adequate fiber intake for overall well-being. But although reaching these goals is more than doable, what you may not know is going too fast, too furious on your fiber intake can cause quite a bit of drama in your intestinal tract. Read abdominal pain, gas, nausea, and a host of other GI-related woes.

The thing is, fiber isn't supposed to do us so dirty, says Melanie Murphy Richter, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and neuronutritionist. “Our bodies are capable of handling quite a bit of fiber, but because our Western diets are notoriously low in fiber, we need to be careful to increase our fiber slowly and incrementally to avoid adverse side effects,” Richter says. In fact, data suggests that only 5 percent of Americans are eating the recommended amount of fiber daily.

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So, what are signs your body is telling you that you’ve had too much fiber—and how do you get enough without dealing with the unpleasant side effects? Ahead, Richter breaks down what can happen to your body if you’ve too much of this nutrient at once, ways to find relief when bogged down by too much fiber, and how to appropriately ramp up your intake to avoid these uncomfortable side effects and reap all the benefits of fiber once and for all.

5 signs you’ve had too much fiber

1. You have a lot of bloating and gas

Richter says too much fiber and gas go hand in hand, especially when your body hasn’t been conditioned to processing large quantities of this nutrient. “If we don’t have the proper gut composition to break down fiber properly, it can pass into the large intestine and ferment there, causing bloating and gas,” Richter says. The good news? Your gut should eventually learn to love it. “Over time, your gut will adjust and respond to the foods you are eating most often. Fiber included,” she says.

2. You experience bowel irregularities

Having too much fiber can typically go one of two ways: diarrhea or constipation. On the one hand, Richter explains that large quantities of fiber can push your bowels more quickly than it’s used to. On the flip side, she says it can also cause constipation. “Sometimes, if someone is more dehydrated or not drinking enough fluids, too much fiber can also lead to constipation,” she says. If the latter is the case, adequate hydration is imperative for gut health. “Certain fibers bulk up the stool, but we need to be hydrated in order to pass it properly,” Richter says.

3. You feel abdominal pain or cramps

Lots of fiber can be a literal pain when your body isn’t accustomed to it, Richter explains. “Large quantities of fiber can cause your intestines to contract quickly and lead to sharp, intermittent cramping," she says. "Fiber is also known to bulk up the stool and can stretch the stomach in ways that can be painful."

4. You get nauseous after eating

According to Richter, more fiber equals slower digestion, which means food stays in your body for longer. “Excessive fiber intake will slow your body’s ability to empty itself quickly. This can back up the process and force food to stay in the stomach longer than normal, which can make you feel full and sometimes nauseous,” she explains.

5. You find that you get dehydrated more easily

There are two types of fiber—insoluble and soluble—and the latter has a greater tendency to make you feel dehydrated. “Soluble fiber, specifically, is very porous, like a sponge. It’s intended to soak up fluids to help bowels move properly through the colon,” she says. However, the issue arises if you aren’t well-hydrated to begin with. “If you aren’t drinking ample fluids, extra fiber can lead to dehydration and the associated symptoms of dehydration like fatigue,” Richter says.

How much fiber is too much in a day?

“The amount of fiber tolerated will vary based on person, nutritional status, health condition, and activity level,” Richter says. “For one person, ‘too much’ might be 25 grams, if they’ve been used to only consuming 10 or 15 grams in a day,” she says.

So, how much is waaay too much fiber? The dietitian says anything over 70 grams is not recommended. “To give you some context, men are recommended to consume about 35 grams a day, and women and children should eat about 20 to 25 grams a day,” she says. Increasing fiber intake slowly is the way to go and the best way to prevent those fiber-rich salads from causing digestive distress.

How can I increase my fiber intake safely?

Slow and steady wins the fiber race, folks. “The microbes in our gut need time to adjust to our increases in fiber," says Richter. "Our body responds to the foods we eat most often, and in order to properly prepare your body for more fiber, we must slowly increase our dose by about two to five grams a week until we meet our desired range."

Ramp up intake too quickly and you may experience one (or several) signs of too much fiber as stated above. In more severe cases, Richter says too much fiber can result in an intestinal blockage that would require immediate medical attention. “When in doubt, go slowly! Fiber is an incredibly digestive ally, but, as with many health-related alterations, it’s critical to be mindful of going slowly to allow your body to adapt properly,” she says.

How to relieve the symptoms of too much fiber?

Life happens, we get it. Here are five ways to find relief if you’ve overdone it with the fiber:

1. Hydrate properly

Adequate hydration can help fiber move along more easily through the bowels, Richter says.

2. Move your body

Richter recommends incorporating exercises that can help with constipation, such as walking, jogging, or even incorporating light stretching and abdominal twisting to help move the bowels properly. “Not to mention, exercise can support the development of a healthy microbiome,” she says.

3. Try a bowel massage

When consuming too much fiber leads to pain, Richter says performing a bowel massage may help assist the bowels in moving properly. “My favorite is the ileocecal valve massage," she says. "The ileocecal valve is the valve that connects the small and large intestines. Gently massaging this area can help move food properly and relieve gas,” she says. This area is located in between your bellybutton and right hip bone; here's a step-by-step guide on how to do the massage at home.

4. Apply dry heat

“Using a warm hot water bottle or heating pad can relax the muscles of the abdomen and relieve cramping,” Richter says. Use a barrier between your skin and the heating pad (like a blanket or shirt) and don't use it for super long periods of time to avoid toasted skin syndrome.

5. Consume digestive herbs

Richter recommends herbs like ginger, fennel, peppermint, chamomile, or dandelion root that can help alleviate bowel pressure, cramping, or pain. “These are typically consumed in tea form, as it’s an easily digestible format that also provides a bit of extra warmth and heat to move things along more easily,” she says.

An RD-approved guide to fiber-rich foods that help you poop:

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