How Can Fiber Help With Constipation?

I’m sure there are a lot of people who can relate to the feeling of constipation. Tummy distended and full; pain in the stomach; a sensation you cannot completely empty your rectum; back pain –– all are symptoms of constipation. We probably have been told to increase our fiber intake and doing so will help loosen our stools. While this is true, there are several things you should know about what type of fiber and how much you should be consuming if you’re trying to improve constipation.  

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that comes from plants and is an essential part of the diet.   There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, slows down digestion, and then forms into a gel-like substance which attaches to cholesterol and helps move it out of the body, helping to reduce risk of heart disease. Since soluble fiber is not well-absorbed, it also does not increase blood sugar hikes, keeping Type 1 & 2 Diabetes under control. Soluble fiber does soak up most water throughout the colon making your stools looser and preventing constipation. Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, peas, chia seeds, artichokes, broccoli, apples, and blueberries.

Insoluble fiber is what really helps with constipation. It does not dissolve in water, but increases the bulk of your stool and promotes the movement of stool through the digestive system.  Insoluble fiber can also help with weight management as it increases the volume in the stomach and therefore the feeling of fullness. Foods that are high in insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, and brown rice.

How much soluble and insoluble fiber should you consume? According to the FDA, 25% of your fiber intake should come from soluble fiber, while the other 75% should come from insoluble fiber.  The amount of fiber you should consume, according to the American Heart Association, is 30 grams a day for an adult. For children ages 1-3 years old, 19 grams; ages 4-8 years old, 25 grams; and for children age 9 and over, 30 grams.

If you are struggling with constipation and cannot control it with fiber, make sure you also look at the possible constipating foods you could be consuming such as apple sauce (different than apples), marshmallows, bananas, peanut butter, cheese, and tapioca, to name a few. If your diet does not help with your constipation, it might be beneficial to find a pelvic health physical therapist to make sure you have correct pelvic floor mechanics.  

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

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Dr. Ashlea Lytle

VP Colorado Region | Physical Therapist | Doctor of Physical Therapy
Ashlea Lytle is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who has been practicing for over a decade in the Denver area. She specializes in sports, general orthopedics, and pelvic health for adults and kids. She splits her time at Activcore in Castle Rock, CO (located inside Optimal Health Chiropractic) and at Activcore in Greenwood Village, CO (located inside Pilates Denver).
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