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Still Constipated? Why Your High-Fiber Diet Isn’t Working

It may seem counter intuitive, but a high fiber diet can make you as constipated as a low-fiber diet. A low-fiber diet lacks roughage that the digestive system requires to push the waste along the alimentary canal. Having too much roughage can have the opposite effect with the same outcome. The digestive tract becomes blocked up with all the additional bulk and constipation occurs.

Be sure to drink ample amounts of water and get regular exercise to prevent blockage when large amounts of fiber are consumed.

Types of Fiber

Still Constipated? Why Your High-Fiber Diet Isn't WorkingThere are two different kinds of fiber in foods and they work in different ways.

Insoluble fiber is resistant to water and does not absorb moisture. It passes through the digestive tract relatively unchanged and adds bulk to the stool. Common sources of insoluble fiber include whole grain foods, vegetables, nuts, and seeds

Soluble fiber absorbs moisture to turn into a gelatinous substance in the gut. These fiber break down over time, but are important in digestive health. Sources of soluble fiber are fruits and beans.

Both fibers are beneficial in healthy digestion and bowel movement regularity when eaten in reasonable amounts.

Why Quantities Matter

Insoluble fibers add bulk to waste and promote regular bowel movements. MedlinePlus states that this fiber also helps prevent hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Eating large amounts of insoluble fiber can make stool sizes too large and can become blocked in the intestines.  Drinking large amounts of water can soften the waste which will help it pass.

People who are used to eating high-fat proteins or processed sugary foods may not have a digestive system prepared to handle large quantities of fibrous foods, like vegetables, fruits, and grains. Gradually increase intake of these healthy foods to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.

Still Constipated? Why Your High-Fiber Diet Isn't WorkingSolution and Future Prevention

Keep constipation and bloating away by gradually adding more fiber to a healthy diet. Start with a small increase in fiber and work up to 38g every day for men and 25g for women. Men over 50 years of age should aim for 30g for men and 21g for women.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) recommends drinking lots of water and other fluids to help soften stool and keep bowel movements regular.


The HSPH also suggests increasing fiber consumption by eating more whole vegetables and fruits and less juices; more whole grain goods and less baked goods or processed sugars. To increase soluble fiber, eat less meat and more legumes a few days each week.

Make sure to exercise at least three days a week. A great was to start is to take 10-minute walks two to three a week. Gradually increase the walk to 30-minutes, then increase the number of days. Working up to exercising for 30-minutes, five days a week is a good goal for most individuals.

Consider This

A doctor may recommend a specific fiber supplement in patients whose constipation persists after making lifestyle changes. Pain in the abdomen requires medical attention immediately. A doctor should be consulted for suggestions on relieving constipation.

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*The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the Editor. Results may vary from person to person and cannot be guaranteed.

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