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What is dietary fiber?

Dietary fiber is defined as indigestible carbohydrate. It's classified into soluble (in water) and insoluble fiber – each with specific properties and possible health benefits. Soluble fiber dissolves in water; it forms a gel when water is added to it. Insoluble fiber absorbs liquid and in the intestine, it adds bulk to stool. Both types of fiber are important in the diet and have digestive system benefits.But fiber can be a double-edged sword for persons with intestinal disorders. Certain high fiber foods, such as bran, may increase discomfort

If you find that fiber seems to be a problem that causes you to feel bloating or pain, it is usually insoluble fiber (mainly found in cereals or whole grains) that is the problem. Soluble fiber, mainly found in vegetables and fruits, is less likely to be a problem. But the reaction is the opposite in some people, so trial and error may be the best option.

When adding fiber to the diet, it is best to do so slowly over a period of weeks. If gas or distention occur, try reducing the dose of fiber and reducing consumption of gas-producing foods, such as beans, cabbage, legumes (e.g., peas, peanuts, soybeans), apples, grapes, and raisins.

A physician or registered dietitian can provide individual advice on dietary fiber consumption. Experiment with fresh foods.

How much Fiber?

The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, gives the following daily recommendations for adults: 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women 50 and younger; 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women 51 and older.

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