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Five Simple Rules for Adding Fiber to Your Diet

High Fiber Foods for IBS


Updated May 20, 2014

Food Salad
Brian Macdonald/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it is important to know how to add high fiber foods to your diet. The relationship between IBS and fiber is a little complicated, but increasing your daily fiber intake doesn't have to be.

Research on the relationship between fiber and IBS symptoms does not provide clear-cut guidelines. The benefits of increased fiber in reducing IBS symptoms are somewhat more likely for constipation predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C) than for diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D). But, the health benefits of a high fiber diet are numerous, regardless of your situation. Be a friend to your body and work toward choosing foods that provide it with this valuable resource. To maximize your success, make changes gradually and during times when you are experiencing less stress.

If you are like me, you see those lists of high fiber foods and think, “How am I supposed to remember what is high in fiber and what isn’t?” In the spirit of simplicity, I offer you five basic guidelines that you can use every day to begin to increase your intake of dietary fiber.

1. Read Labels

Take a moment to compare fiber counts whenever you are purchasing groceries. The fiber content in breads and cereals can vary widely, generally ranging from one gram (4% RDA) to 10 grams (40% RDA). Buy the product with the higher count. Next, read the ingredient list. Many products advertise that they are made of “whole grain,” but if the first word on the list is not “whole,” then the fiber count is likely to be low. Last, see if the product contains bran. Although bran is a good source of dietary fiber, many people find it to be a digestive system irritant. Carefully assess your reaction to bran before using it a source of fiber.

2. Go Green...

And orange, red and white for that matter. My physician is from Lebanon and she makes the point that although Americans eat a fair amount of vegetables, they tend to eat the same ones -- broccoli, carrots and cauliflower. Vegetables are a wonderful source of fiber. The more the variety, the better the mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which help to keep stool firm, yet soft. This encourages a better rhythm of elimination. Branch out and explore vegetables like artichokes, kale, chard, collards, and the many types of beans. Vegetable soups are an excellent way to experience new types of vegetables in a familiar way.

3. Switch to Spring Mix

The typical American salad of a hunk of iceberg lettuce with a few shavings of carrots and a couple of sliced tomatoes is a bit of a fiber wasteland. Changes in food packaging have made the luxury of a salad mix an affordable option. In addition to containing more fiber than iceberg lettuce, a spring mix of lettuces and other leafy greens again offers a more natural mix of soluble and insoluble fiber.

4. Have Fruit With Every Meal

Think beyond having half a grapefruit with breakfast. Like you will be doing with vegetables, go for variety in type and color when it comes to choosing fruit. Experiment with a tropical fruit salad of mango, papaya, kiwi, and pineapple. Mix frozen berries in with your cereal or smoothie. Dried fruit is an easy, delicious and portable snack. Cook up some pears or apples as a side dish with dinner, or as a delectable dessert.

5. Grind Some Flaxseed

Flaxseed are these beautiful little caramel-colored seeds from the flax plant. When ground, flaxseed provides a wonderful mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. It is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to be helpful in reducing inflammation. All you need is a small coffee grinder and a few seconds to grind up some flaxseed. Flaxseed has a pleasant, nutty flavor which tastes great when sprinkled over cereal. Ground flaxseed can also be added to baked goods and smoothies, adding fiber without affecting taste. It is important to drink a glass of water when eating flaxseed. Water swells and softens the ground seeds, a process that adds bulk and softness to the stool and therefore offers the potential to be helpful for both diarrhea and constipation problems.

More from Dr. Bolen, your IBS Guide:

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  4. Constipation Tips
  5. Five Simple Rules for Adding Fiber to Your Diet

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