High/Increased Fiber Diet

High/Increased Fiber Diet: Overview

Diet is a major factor in 5 of the 10 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and atherosclerosis.  These diseases account for 70% of all deaths in the United States.  Over half the calories consumed in this country are from refined foods, from which the bran, germ, and oil have been removed.  The average intake of fiber is only 11gm per day, compared to the daily recommended intake of 20 to 30gm.  Fiber is important in the prevention of constipation, diverticulosis, colon polyps, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, hiatal hernia, peptic ulcer disease and probably colon cancer.

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Soluble fiber consists of the plant's sticky components, including pectins, gum, and mucilage.  Soluble fiber comes from the plant's skeleton, which consists of lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose.  Foods containing water soluble fiber include fruit, vegetables, oats, barley, wheat, whole grains, cereals, legumes, and psyllium.

The following chart lists good sources of fiber (food type, serving size, amount of fiber):

  • Oatmeal (34 cup) – 2.7gm
  • All Bran or Bran Buds cereals (13 cup) – 9.0gm
  • Bran flakes (34 cup) – 4.5gm
  • Whole wheat pasta (1 cup) – 5.0gm
  • Brown rice (1 cup) – 3.0gm
  • Whole wheat bread (1 slice) – 2.0 to 3.0gm
  • Rye crackers (40gm; 3 crackers) – 5.0gm
  • Flax seed, wheat bran (1 tbsp) – 1.5gm
  • Garbanzo beans or Chickpeas (12 cup) – 3.5gm
  • Kidney beans (12 cup) – 9.0gm
  • Lentils (12 cup) – 3.0gm
  • Baked beans (12 cup) – 7.0gm
  • Peanut butter (2 tbsp) – 2.0gm
  • Almonds (10 nuts; 14 cup) – 4.0gm
  • Sunflower seeds (2 tbsp) – 2.0gm
  • Corn (12 cup) – 2.0gm
  • Peas (12 cup) – 3.5gm
  • Spinach (12 cup) – 3.0gm
  • Broccoli (12 cup) – 2.5gm
  • Cauliflower (12 cup) – 1.7gm
  • Carrots (12 cup) – 2.0gm
  • Beans, green and waxed (12 cup) – 2.0gm
  • Sweet potato (1 small) – 3.5gm
  • Potato with skin (1 small) – 3.0gm
  • Banana (1 medium) – 2.0gm
  • Pear (12 cup; half pear) – 2.5gm
  • Apple (1 medium) – 3.0gm
  • Orange (1 small) – 2.5gm
  • Blueberries (12 cup) – 2.5gm
  • Berries (12 cup) – 4.0gm

Why it is Recommended

Most plant foods provide insoluble fiber also.  Water insoluble fiber assists in maintaining regular bowel movements, but may have an adverse or detrimental effect on irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's diseaseSoluble fiber may be beneficial in atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, dumping syndrome, and gallstones.

Soluble fiber is fermented by colonic microflora resulting in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyric acid.  In addition to promoting beneficial SCFA production and intestinal motility, dietary fiber can help to bind endotoxins and facilitate their elimination via the bowel.

Different types of fiber may have protective benefit in various bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, colorectal cancer and other conditions such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and obesity.  The fiber of choice for irritable bowel syndrome is methylcellulose or polycarbophil; for diverticulosis is psyllium, methylcellulose or polycarbophil; for colorectal cancer is psyllium, pectin or guar gum; for diabetes any supplement; for hypercholesterolemia psyllium, pectin or guar gum; and for obesity any supplement as tolerated.

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High/Increased Fiber Diet:

High/Increased Fiber Diet can help with the following:


Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

A study suggests that oatmeal can improve blood pressure and reduce drug costs for 60 million hypertensive Americans.  The study found that 73% of participants, each of whom who ate oat cereal daily for 12 weeks, were able to reduce or eliminate their need for blood pressure medication.  Consumption of high-fiber cereals is an easy and simple way for a person to increase total and soluble fiber intakes, thus helping to reach the dietary fiber goal of 25-30gm per day. [Preventive Medicine in Managed Care; March 1, 2002]


Fat/Oil Craving

Foods high in dietary fiber such as bran cereals and wholemeal breads are suggested as ideal tools for dampening a fat craving.



Both soluble and insoluble fibers are important in helping to maintain regular bowel movements.  Insoluble fiber prevents and manages problems like constipation and hemorrhoids by producing a larger softer stool that passes through the digestive system faster and more easily.


A diet with enough fiber (20 to 35gm each day either from food or supplements) helps form a soft, bulky stool.  High-fiber foods include beans, whole grains and bran cereals, fresh fruits, and vegetables such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and carrots.  For people prone to constipation, limiting foods that have little or no fiber such as ice cream, cheese, meat, and processed foods is also important.

Diverticular Disease

A high fiber diet can help relieve symptoms for most people with diverticulosis.  The suggested daily total should be 20-35gm.  Both soluble and insoluble fibers are important in helping to maintain regular bowel movements.  Complications from intestinal diseases such as diverticulosis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are prevented by a diet rich in high fiber foods.

The fiber supplements of choice for diverticulosis are psyllium, methylcellulose or polycarbophil.  These are available over-the-counter in commercial products such as Metamucil (psyllium), Citrucel (methylcellulose) and Fibercon (polycarbophil), among others.

If you suspect that your diverticulosis has turned into diverticulitis, call your doctor and restrict fiber until instructed otherwise.

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Dietary fiber may lessen IBS symptoms in many cases.  High-fiber diets may cause gas and bloating, but within a few weeks these symptoms often go away as the body adjusts to the diet: IBS can be treated in most cases simply by increasing the intake of dietary fiber and eliminating food allergies.

The synthetic polymers methylcellulose and polycarbophil have been found to be the most effective fibers or bulk-forming laxatives for use in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Neither are found naturally in food sources.  Methylcellulose is used as a food additive/thickener.  Both are available over the counter in commercial products such as Citrucel (methylcellulose) and Fibercon (polycarbophil), among others.

Ulcerative Colitis

Approach a high fiber diet cautiously during periods of inflammation, as it may aggravate the condition.  As you stabilize, fiber and unrefined foods are important to continue the health of the colon.

A study found Plantago ovata seed (the whole psyllium seed, not just the husk) at 10gm bid to be as effective as the drug mesalamine for maintaining remission in patients with ulcerative colitis.  In addition, the Plantago ovata seed may help prevent colon cancer, a common complication of ulcerative colitis, because it increases colonic butyrate levels.

Environment / Toxicity

Heavy Metal Toxicity

Sodium alginate as well as other gel-forming fibers have been shown to inhibit heavy metal uptake in the gut.

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)

Sodium alginate as well as other gel-forming fibers have been shown to inhibit heavy metal uptake in the gut.


Lab Values

High Total Cholesterol

The fiber supplements of choice for hypercholesterolemia are psyllium, pectin or guar gum.  The amount of pectin in approximately two servings of fruit rich in pectin such as pears, apples, grapefruit, and oranges is 15gm.  Psyllium or guar gum are obtained by supplement.  The RDA for total fiber is 20-30gm.  The fiber from whole grains – especially oats – does have a cholesterol-lowering effect, especially in someone on a previously low fiber diet.

Three months of supplementation with ground flax seed at 40gm per day reduced serum total cholesterol in a study of postmenopausal women. [J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2002;87(4): pp.1527-32]



Soluble fiber delays gastric emptying, slows glucose absorption, and minimizes blood glucose swings.

Problems Caused By Being Overweight

An increasing number of studies suggest that any water-soluble fiber may help people lose weight.  High fiber foods are bulky, low in calories, and take longer to chew contributing to weight loss and maintenance.  Both types of fiber also help to create a feeling of fullness from meals (resulting in fewer calories being consumed from calorie-dense fats and sweets), stabilize blood sugar and maintain energy levels.

Good results in weight loss studies have been achieved with guar gum, a water-soluble fiber obtained from the Indian cluster bean (cyamopsis tetragonoloba).  In one study, nine women weighing between 160 and 242 pounds (73 to 110kg) were given 10gm of guar gum immediately before lunch and dinner.  They were told not to consciously alter their eating habits.  After two months, the women reported an average weight loss of 9.4 pounds (4.3kg) – over 1 pound per week.

Syndrome X / Metabolic Syndrome

Any fiber choice is useful for Syndrome X sufferers, but psyllium, pectin or guar gum would offer the additional benefit of lowering cholesterol.  The amount of pectin in approximately two servings of pectin rich fruit such as pears, apples, grapefruit, and oranges is 15 grams.  Psyllium or guar gum are obtained by supplement.  The RDA of total fiber is 20-30 grams.

Organ Health

Consequences of Gallbladder Surgery

Dietary fiber (which is only present in plant foods) will combine and deactivate bile acids, thus protecting the bowel.

Diabetes Type II

Research has shown that fiber helps to stabilize and lower blood sugar levels.  Both soluble and insoluble fibers delay the emptying of food from the stomach, slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, and thus moderate insulin levels.  A diet high in complex carbohydrates and fiber helps increase tissue sensitivity to insulin, and a diet high in fiber-rich foods should also help those with diabetes to lose and maintain a healthy body weight.

Any form of fiber will be beneficial, so choose those that you most easily tolerate.  When soluble fiber ferments during digestion it produces 'short chain fatty acids' that increase the metabolism of glucose and thus may add to the beneficial effects of dietary fiber on diabetes.


Giardiasis Infection

Nutritional intervention aims to reduce the acute symptoms of giardia and help clear the infection.  This can best be achieved by consuming a whole-food based, high-fiber diet that is low in fat, lactose, and refined sugars.

Dietary fiber probably plays an important role in the clearance of giardia infection.  One study found that animals consuming a low-fiber diet were found to be significantly more likely to contract giardiasis than were animals on a high-fiber diet.  When infected animals on the low-fiber diet were put on the high-fiber diet, trophozoites were cleared from the small bowel.  The number of trophozoites attached to the jejunal epithelium decreased, while the number associated with the mucous layer increased.  The authors of the study concluded that the fiber induced an increase in mucous secretion and, in combination with the bulk movement of insoluble fiber, reduced trophozoite attachment to the intestinal mucosa and decreased the probability of trophozoites establishing and maintaining mucosal colonization.


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High/Increased Fiber Diet can help prevent the following:


Coronary Disease / Heart Attack

A high-fiber diet, particularly one that is high in water-soluble fiber (such as fruit), is associated with decreased risk of both fatal and nonfatal heart attacks, probably because presence of such fiber is known to lower cholesterol.  Numerous studies have linked diets rich in fiber with low levels of cholesterol.  In particular, soluble fiber alters and lowers fat and cholesterol absorption in the large bowel, helping to reduce LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol.

Fiber-rich foods are also good sources of phytochemicals and anti-oxidants that help to lower the risk for heart disease.  Blood pressure, a major heart disease risk factor, may also be reduced by eating diet rich in fiber, further helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Making positive dietary changes immediately following a heart attack is likely to decrease one's chance of having a second heart attack.  In one study, individuals began eating more vegetables and fruits, and substituted fish, nuts, and legumes for meat and eggs 24 to 48 hours after a heart attack.  Six weeks later, the diet group had significantly fewer fatal and nonfatal heart attacks than a similar group that did not make these dietary changes.  This trend continued for an additional six weeks.

Organ Health

Gallbladder Disease

Dietary fiber from cellulose (soluble fiber) clearly reduces the risk of gallstone formation.

Tumors, Malignant

Colon Cancer

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends a higher fiber and lower fat diet to help lower the risk of cancer, especially colon and rectal cancers.

Rectal Cancer

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends a higher fiber and lower fat diet to help lower the risk of cancer, especially colon and rectal cancers.

Cancer, General

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends a higher fiber and lower fat diet to help lower the risk of cancer, especially colon and rectal cancers.  Diets high in fiber are also rich in anti-cancer compounds such as anti-oxidants and phytochemicals found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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May be useful: may help with; may help prevent
May be useful:
may help with; may help prevent
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Moderately useful:
often helps with; often prevents
Very useful: is highly recommended for; usually prevents
Very useful:
is highly recommended for; usually prevents
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