Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that your body needs to function properly. If it’s not getting the needed amount of fiber, your body will let you know.
Fiber requirements vary with age and gender. The following are the daily recommended amounts of fiber, according to the Institute of Medicine:
Including fiber in your diet is a not a big problem, as fiber is found in adequate amounts in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products and dried beans. But many people ignore the importance of fiber and end up eating much less than what their body needs.
Following a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet can lead to lower fiber intake. One may also lack fiber in their diet if they eat mostly processed and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, regular pasta and snack foods.
Low fiber intake can lead to different problems in the body, which can often be corrected simply by eating the right amount of fiber.
Here are some of the signs that your body wants you to eat more fiber.
Constipation is the classic sign that you are not eating enough fiber. You suffer from constipation if you have less than three bowel movements a week or your stools are hard, dry and difficult to pass.
Adding more fiber in your diet can help with constipation. Fiber helps form soft, bulky stools, relieving and preventing constipation. Larger, softer stools help keep you regular.
Moreover, fiber is good for your overall gut health.
A 2012 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology reports that dietary fiber intake can increase stool frequency in patients with constipation. However, it may not always improve stool consistency and painful defecation. The findings are from a meta-analysis of several studies on the topic.
2. Weight Gain
If you are not getting much fiber in your diet, it may contribute to weight gain. As fiber swells, it leads to the feeling of fullness when you eat. This in turn prevents overeating.
Moreover, as fiber-rich foods take longer to chew, you end up eating less food per meal. In addition, high-fiber foods tend to be high in water content and low in calories.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that an energy-dense, low-fiber, high-fat diet is associated with higher fat mass and greater odds of excess adiposity in childhood.
3. Elevated Cholesterol
If your cholesterol levels are high, one reason can be low fiber intake.
Fiber helps decrease triglycerides and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol) levels by flushing excess cholesterol your body doesn’t need out of your system.
High-fiber foods may also have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
Also, a 2008 study published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports suggests that increasing dietary fiber may help reduce one’s level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL or the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
4. High Blood Sugar Levels
If you are diabetic and find controlling your blood sugar levels difficult, you need to keep a close eye on your fiber intake.
Fiber, especially soluble fiber, delays the absorption of sugar from the small intestine into the bloodstream, which makes blood sugar levels raise more slowly. This in turn helps control blood sugar levels.
A 2004 study published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice reports that modest increases in soluble fiber intake in healthy subjects improved LDL cholesterol and glucose levels.
5. Feeling Sleepy After Meals
Eating a huge meal can make you sleepy, but if you need a post-meal nap, then chances are high that you are not eating enough fiber.
Fiber is essential for keeping your blood sugar levels stable. When you eat a low-fiber meal, your blood sugar will spike more quickly. This can make you feel sluggish or fatigued, and you will need a short nap to recharge your body.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar is associated with lighter, less restorative and more disrupted sleep.
6. Feeling Bloated
If you are not eating much fiber or you’re eating the wrong food combinations, chances are high that you may feel extremely unpleasant and bloated.
Inadequate fiber intake causes bloating, as fiber regulates your digestive system and ensures your food passes smoothly and steadily through the intestines. Low or inadequate fiber intake can affect the digestion process, and in turn cause severe bloating and gas. However, be aware that high or excess fiber intake can also cause you to feel bloated, especially if you are not drinking enough water to which the fiber binds.
Due to bloating and gas, you may also have pain in your stomach.
7. Feeling Hungry Soon After Eating
Fiber-rich foods help you stay satisfied and keep you from feeling hungry until your next meal. In particular, foods rich in soluble fiber absorb water in the digestive tract and create a feeling of fullness. This is one of the reasons why it helps you stay satiated longer.
Moreover, fiber slows down the absorption of the foods you eat from the stomach into the bloodstream.
On the other hand, eating low-fiber foods, such as highly processed snacks, will leave you feeling very unsatisfied. This will result in feeling hungry soon after you’re done eating.
Ways to Increase Your Fiber Intake:
If you aren’t eating enough fiber each day, it’s easy to boost your intake.
- Some of the good fiber-rich foods include whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Avoid refined or processed foods, as they are lower in fiber.
- Numerous fiber supplements are available in the market, but check with your doctor before taking any.
When giving your diet a fiber boost, take it slowly. Too much fiber too fast can cause cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. Add just a few grams of fiber at a time and allow your body to adjust.
Also, when eating more fiber, always be sure to drink an adequate amount of water to help avoid any problems.