How to Increase Fiber Intake Without Side Effects

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Fiber is found in virtually all plant foods, from whole grains to fruits, vegetables, and beans.  

Adequate fiber intake helps with bowel regularity and has been linked to a number of health benefits, such as lowered cholesterol, decreased risk of some types of cancer, weight loss, and improved gut health. 

Most Americans eat very little fiber and do not even come close to getting the daily recommended amounts of 21 to 25 grams for women and 31 to 38 grams for men.    

Increasing your fiber intake is a great way to stay healthy but doing this too quickly can lead to unwanted side effects. If you are not used to eating fiber, you may experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation while you increase your intake.  

The good news is that you can avoid these unpleasant side effects by following these simple tips.  

1 – Increase Fiber Intake Gradually  

Start by figuring out the approximate amount of fiber you eat per day. You can use online resources or a food tracker to assess your usual intake.  

Next, aim to increase fiber intake by two to three grams a day. Stay aware of how you feel. If you experience bloating and gas or other side effects, slow down the rate at which you increase your intake.  

2 – Spread Fiber Intake Throughout the Day  

Instead of loading up on green smoothie with veggies and fruits and a side of whole grain toast for breakfast, spread fiber-rich foods throughout the day.  

You can start by adding a piece of fruit to your usual breakfast of scrambled eggs, followed by a salad for lunch and a small side of brown rice for dinner. This will help you avoid overdoing your fiber intake at any one meal or snack.  

3 – Drink More Water 

Increasing fiber in your diet calls for upping your water intake too! Water keeps things moving and helps fiber pass through your intestines.  

While water needs vary by person, you should aim to drink at least enough water to maintain light yellow urine. This is especially true as you are increasing fiber intake to prevent bloating and constipation.  

Check out these tips to increase your fluid intake.  

4 – Get Moving 

Your stomach and intestines benefit from exercise too! Incorporating some type of movement as you are increasing your fiber intake may help you avoid uncomfortable side effects.  

You can start or end your day with a brisk walk, take up jogging, or develop a yoga or stretching routine. Not only will this be beneficial as you start to eat more fiber, but it will also help you reap the health benefits of physical activity 

Now that you know how to increase fiber intake without side effects, read about easy ways to incorporate more fiber here.  

Note from Healthy For Life Meals: Want to increase your fiber intake but don’t have the time to plan or prepare meals? We’re here to help! Our meals are designed to provide you with your daily fiber needs, so you can feel great and stay healthy without worrying about food prep. Get started with one of our plans today! 

Stef Keegan