Question: How do I increase my fiber without flatulence?

Question and AnswerQuestion and Answer

You can add fiber to your diet without making your friends and family miserable.

Fiber is essential for good digestive health and the key to preventing constipation. Fiber is the material found in plants that cannot or is not digested within the human gastrointestinal tract. This material, unfortunately, can be digested by the bacteria in your colon. The digestion by bacterial produces the gas that escapes when you have flatulence. As excess gas increases, it must escape. The escaping gas is released as this noxious odor that we all know well.

You Stink!

Not all foods contribute equally to flatulence. Some, such as milk, can increase flatulence in people who have lactase deficiencies. Others, such as beans and broccoli, tend to cause flatulence in everyone. Excess flatulence is not only odorous, but it is also painful and can cause gastrointestinal distress.

Many medical and nutrition experts recommend anywhere from 25 to 40 grams of fiber per day. Most Americans get far less than 25 g per day. Getting more fiber in your diet will not only increase the regularity of your bowel movements, but it has also been tied to a lower risk of morbidity and mortality from all causes. Fiber has also been shown to help with weight loss.

The good news is that you can increase the fiber in your diet and prevent the noxious odors from emanating by following some simple steps. Instead of going hog-wild and adding massive amounts of fiber at one time, I suggest that you add small amounts at a time to prevent overwhelming your gastrointestinal tract with a large change all at once.

Certain foods can also increase your flatulence and bloating. Foods such as beans, certain grains, certain vegetables such as broccoli and fruits, dairy, and seeds have been shown to increase flatulence. Also, fiber supplements such as Metamucil or psyllium have been shown to increase gas. Adding such foods slowly while increasing hydration has been shown to decrease flatulence and bloating.

If you have an enzyme deficiency such as lactase deficiency, I recommend you avoid the sugars and foods that cause your symptoms. The only other option is to supplement lactase in pill form. You could reduce your intake to a level below where you have symptoms but titrating sugars can make you miserable.

Personally, I have found that I cannot eat corn in the form of corn tortillas or corn chips. If I consume them in any measurable amount, I will make people within a 5-mile radius scatter looking for a disaster shelter. Instead of making my friends, family, and coworkers miserable, I either avoid them altogether or limit them as much as possible.

Another tip to help with flatulence is to improve your bacterial flora. I have found that adding some probiotics in the form of kefir or yogurt can help balance my bacterial flora. Probiotics have been reported to reduce the harmful bacteria that cause bloating and increase the bacteria that reduce bloating.

The bottom line: Knowing which fibers and foods cause your flatulence is the key to controlling the symptom. I recommend you eat at least 25 grams per day. Adding fiber slowly with ample hydration and probiotics can help you increase your fiber without making everyone at home or work miserable.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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