By Holistic Nutritionist, Elissa Goodman.
We’ve all had those moments. You eat too much fiber and suddenly your stomach is tangled up in cramps and your whole body feels like an embarrassing moment waiting to happen. For years the food industry pushed fiber as a crucial part of a healthy diet. While you need to avoid those processed, sugar-laden fiber bars food companies want you to consume, fiber is still an incredible and important addition to your diet.
Kris Carr wrote a great article about living in harmony with high-fiber foods and I wanted to share some of her points, as well as my own, with you.
What is fiber? And why do you need it?
Fiber is the roughage part of veggies, fruits, beans, grains, nuts and seeds that your body can’t digest or absorb. While fiber is not digestible, it is a great way to help your body digest and pass the foods we eat. It clears out the digestive system and takes toxins, cholesterol, waste and extra hormones with it.
Fiber also supports a strong immune system, proper colon health, intestinal bacterial balance, a faster metabolism, weight control, diabetes prevention and cardiovascular disease prevention. It also feeds the good probiotic bacteria in your gut, and I strongly believe that a healthy gut is the start of all health.
How much fiber do you need?
Most Americans are not getting enough fiber. On average, women get 12-14 grams per day and men get 16-18 grams per day. For disease prevention, the rule of thumb is 14 grams of fiber per every 1000 calories consumed. For men, this means at least 35 grams per day and for women, at least 25 grams per day.
Look at your diet – you are probably not getting enough fiber. But if these numbers make you concerned about the gas and indigestion that can come with added fiber, don’t worry. I’ve shared here how to add fiber into your diet while calming your digestion and preventing the gas and indigestion that can come with it:
1. Ease into fiber. Adding too much fiber too fast is the fastest way to pain and bloating. It can take nearly a month to really accustom your body to a high-fiber diet. Start by adding 5 grams of fiber every 3 days. Add in a large serving of veggies or 1/3 cup of cooked beans or lentils. Once your body feels comfortable with that, add another 5 grams. If you feel discomfort, scale back and try again in a few days. Keep going in this pattern until your body feels like it can handle all the fiber you need!
2. Drink lots of water. You should be doing this anyway, but staying hydrated is crucial when adding in more fiber to your diet. When you’re dehydrated, the body pulls water from your food waste, and let’s just say that makes it not so comfortable when your body has to eliminate that solid waste. You should be drinking half your body weight in ounces daily.
3. Find the right balance. Your body digests soluble and insoluble fiber differently. Insoluble fiber has more of a laxative effect so if your body is feeling gassy and bloated, it’s likely from too much soluble fiber. Try replacing some of the soluble fiber (found in beans, lentils, split-peas, berries, chia seeds, oat and flax) with insoluble fiber (found in veggies, fruit and brown rice) to help get things moving quicker.
4. Add seaweed to beans. A great way to help beans become easier on the digestive system is to soak them overnight or for a few hours before cooking them. Another great trick is, after soaking them, drain the water and add fresh water and a strip of dried kombu seaweed to the beans. It contains enzymes that will help with the breakdown of the gas-causing elements in beans.
5. Cut out high-fat and fried foods. Fat slows stomach emptying and can increase gas and bloating. If you are suffering from gas and bloating, even reducing healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, nut and seeds can help you identify the culprit.
6. Chew slowly! The less gas you consume, the less gas that has to get out. It’s as simple as that. On that note, also avoid carbonated beverages and gum.
7. Add ginger. Ginger relieves gas, aids in digestion and helps with nausea. Add it wherever you can to help ease any symptoms you may be feeling.
8. Get probiotic heavy. Probiotics are crucial for restoring proper gut health and easing digestion. I recommend taking a daily probiotic as well as adding in probiotic foods such as miso, kefir, tempeh and kim chee. Have you tried my probiotic coconut kefir yet?
9. Get moving. Exercise is so important in the digestive process. Cardio strengthens your digestive muscles, raising your heart rate increases intestinal speed and yoga can increase blood flow to the digestive tract.
10. Add aloe vera. When my clients or cleansers are having trouble with digestion and bloating, I always recommend George’s Aloe Vera. It’s a great way to support your digestive and immune system and help alleviate those cramps and discomfort.
Adding any new food and playing with your diet is always a great way to take the opportunity to pay attention to what you system is telling you. Don’t push it to the point where you feel sick. Ease into it, listen to your gut and just know that sometimes even some healthy foods aren’t for you. Every body is different.