Fiber helps regulate your blood sugar, keeps you satiated longer and helps you stay regular—but when you’ve eaten too much, you might start feeling like an overinflated pool toy. How can you maintain a high-fiber diet without uncomfortable stomach gas and bloating?
It’s important to maintain a balance between getting sufficient fiber for your health goals and worrying that you may float away. Here’s how to handle the high fiber bloat.
How do I know I’ve had too much fiber?
Once you realize what you’re dealing with, the symptoms of too much fiber are unmistakable. Until you connect that feeling to your fiber intake, however, you can easily mistake some of them for much more serious, unrelated issues.
When you eat a lot of fiber, you may experience excessive gas, abdominal pain, temporary weight gain, constipation or diarrhea, reduced blood sugar levels and even intestinal blockage, if you suffer from Crohn’s disease. Keep in mind that bloating can also cause muscle pain in your chest and back, which might feel like you’ve pulled a muscle.
Adjusting your fiber intake
When you start to feel more and more like Violet Beauregarde in her blueberry phase, it’s time to adjust your fiber intake. The first thing to do is lay off the high fiber foods or supplements for a few days, while your body returns to normal. Once the most painful symptoms have passed, you can start reintroducing high fiber foods into your diet.
It’s helpful if you know how much fiber you were consuming on a daily basis. When you start reintroducing fiber, you’ll know to keep it well below that level, at least at first. Another thing to remember is that too much fiber all at once can cause the symptoms above, but slowly increasing your fiber intake is less likely to cause you to feel bloated. Moderation is the key to maintaining a healthy level of fiber, without the pain.
How to relieve painful bloating
Now that you know the symptoms of too much fiber, and how to adjust your intake, it’s time to turn to immediate relief. Here’s how to banish the bloat:
- Drink more water: Drinking more water can help balance your GI tract. Fiber is most effective when you drink plenty of water, so go ahead and chug the good stuff with every meal, and throughout the day.
- Go for a walk: Light activity can get your intestinal tract moving and relieve bloating. Go for a walk around the block and see if that relieves some of the painful pressure.
- Eat smaller meals: Smaller meals are a good solution, especially because fiber expands in the stomach and intestines. Suddenly, you’ll feel a lot fuller than you wanted. Eating smaller meals gives your brain and stomach enough time to process the “I’m full” sensation—before you start swelling up.
- Switch to a carb-heavy diet: Instead of protein-heavy, fiber-rich diets, now scientists think that eating a carb-heavy, fiber-rich diet is the key to eliminating bloat. That is, “substituting high-quality carbs—such as whole grains—for proteins might reduce bloating and make high-fiber diets more tolerable.”
- Try some strategic yoga poses: There are several yoga poses that can help you relieve bloating. They often involve inversions, or putting pressure on your abdomen. This helps relieve the gas…sometimes a little too effectively. (In other words, save these poses for home, not on your lunch break at the office.)
- Take a digestive enzyme: Digestive enzymes like Beano can help break down gas in your stomach and intestines. These will help reduce immediate bloat, while reducing your fiber intake is a long-term solution.
- Take a probiotic supplement: Probiotics are also a good way to get rid of the gas. They may be able to help relieve gas and bloating through regulating your intestinal tract. More research is needed before we can definitively say it’s true—but it’s never a bad idea to take a probiotic, regardless.
- Try a peppermint oil capsule: Finally, peppermint oil may help you get rid of bloat. If the muscles in your gut are spasming and contributing to bloat, peppermint has antispasmodic properties. It might be enough to calm things down until your body can adjust to the fiber onslaught.
Fiber is an important part of our diets, but it can also make for some mighty uncomfortable times. Try the solutions above to get rid of your bloating, then find a long-term solution that won’t make you feel like a hot air balloon.