According to the Mayo Clinic, women under the age of 50 should be getting 25 grams of fibre per day. When you don’t get enough fibre, it can affect your body in a variety of ways. Are you low on fibre?
We share some of the most common signs you aren’t getting enough — and what to do about it. We turned to Dr. Shilpi Agarwal, M.D., family medicine and integrative medicine physician, for her insight into signs you might need to boost your fibre intake.
You’re often bloated
Being bloated is never fun, especially when you have somewhere to be. The cause of bloating can be from gas or even specific foods, says Agarwal, including things like carbonated beverages, alcohol or even dairy products. One fix to try? Fibre. “Fibre is helpful in binding some of these things that might cause bloating and helping them to be eliminated from the body.”
Food fix: Toss some peas into your pasta or rice to get a quick serving of fibre, or add natural wheat bran to your diet. We like All-Bran cereals and bars.
Fibre helps to eliminate both stool and toxins from the body, and it keeps the colon working efficiently, explains Agarwal. Without fibre in your diet, you might find that you’re often constipated. Get your body back on track with more fibre. But, Agarwal warns, simply adding fibre without adequate water can make constipation worse, so be sure to boost your water intake as well.
Food fix: Great sources of fibre include beans, whole-grain cereals, apples, bananas and spinach. Another great option for constipation, notes Agarwal, is drinking peppermint tea twice daily.
The signs of a healthy colon are regular, soft and frequent bowel movements, says Agarwal. If you are eating foods low in fibre, they can take time to digest, and you have irregular bowel movement, sometimes loose stools or even stomach pain, she explains. “Fibre can help to make your bowel movements more regular and frequent.”
Food fix: One great food that can help with this is chia seeds, Agarwal notes. These are packed with fibre and are super easy to add to yogurt, cereal or oatmeal. You can even add it to cooked kale. Fibre from wheat bran also promotes regularity.
This is often overlooked, but Agarwal explains that fibre has the ability to regulate blood sugar and bind starches in the body. “This helps to maintain a healthy weight, because carbohydrates are more easily processed with fibre present, which can help us to reduce weight and maintain healthy blood sugars, avoiding things like diabetes,” she says.
Food fix: One of Agarwal’s favourite snack recommendations is three to four high-fibre crackers in the afternoon with peanut butter or jam and peppermint tea.
Lack of energy
A diet that consists mainly of protein and fat can often cause fatigue or weakness because the body needs carbohydrates to keep it running, says Agarwal. Feeling fatigued? Add fibre. “Fibre is a great option to add as a carbohydrate because it gives you the energy you need throughout the day but helps eliminate waste and doesn’t accumulate in your body the way foods high in fat can.”
Food fix: Skip the afternoon candy bar, and add fibre with an apple or pear or a small bowl of wheat bran cereal with raspberries.
When your diet lacks fibre, you might find yourself craving sweet things to keep feeling full. Unfortunately, Agarwal explains, these sweet foods cause instability in blood sugar and can make it difficult to concentrate and cloud our thinking.
Food fix: If you’re craving something sweet, Agarwal suggests having a brown rice cake topped with almond butter and some sliced bananas.
Feeling hungry soon after a meal
If you find you feel hungry soon after eating, your diet could be lacking fibre. “Fibre allows us to feel a sense of satiety or fullness. Without this, we continue to eat, often filling the diet with less nutrient-rich foods,” explains Agarwal. She recommends that each meal contain fibre and that at least one snack should aim to include fibre to make sure you never go hungry throughout the day. “This will help you eat less and stay full.”
Food fix: Swap white pasta for whole-grain pasta, and make sure whatever you’re making is packed with vegetables, many of which contain a good amount of fibre.
Take a look in the mirror. What you see might indicate a deficiency in your diet. “This one may surprise people, but the health of our skin tells us how our body is doing inside, especially the colon,” notes Agarwal. She says diets that lack fibre make toxin elimination more difficult and can be associated with dull and acne prone skin.
Food fix: Adding fruits and probiotics will keep the gut and skin healthy and encourage you to drink more water.
Blood pressure changes
Agarwal tells us that newer studies and research show that eating a diet higher in fibre can reduce your blood pressure. Signs of high blood pressure include headache, tiredness and chest pain, she notes. “If you have a family history of high blood pressure, adding fibre can help avoid future problems.”
Food fix: Adding beans to anything from salads to pasta is an easy way to increase your fibre intake.
Heartburn is frustrating and often painful. The common condition is caused by acid produced in the stomach that moves back up into the lower esophagus, Agarwal explains, but she notes that fibre can help alleviate the issue. “Studies show that individuals who eat a high-fibre diet have a lower risk of developing acid reflux. This also occurs because the food can more easily and quickly be transported and eliminated through the GI system, avoiding heartburn.”
Food fix: Top morning yogurt or oatmeal with fresh or frozen raspberries, which have 8 grams of fibre per cup.