Myths and Facts: Why Fiber Isn’t Always the Answer for Constipation

By Hannah de Gruchy / Lifestyle / May 9th, 2023

Rethinking fibre: could it actually be causing your constipation?

Rethinking fibre: could it actually be causing your constipation?

So, you’ve been diligently eating skin-on potatoes, wholegrain cereals, brown bread and beans, but you’re still ‘blocked up’. What’s going on?

It could be that all this extra fibre might actually be slowing things down within your digestive system.

A study published back in 2012 found that in those with idiopathic constipation (more on that shortly), consuming a diet that’s very low in fibre (or even a diet that includes no fibre at all) actually “drastically improved their symptoms”. In other words, actively removing fibre from their diet, treated their constipation.

But why? Why such an about turn in what’s a widely held belief that fibre prevents becoming constipated?

The authors of the study explain, “It is well known that increasing dietary fibre increases faecal bulk and volume. Therefore, in patients where there is already difficulty in expelling large faecal matter through the anus, it is illogical to expect that bigger or more faeces will ameliorate this problem. More and bulkier faecal matter can only aggravate the difficulty by making the stools even bigger and bulkier”.

So, if we have idiopathic constipation and we have a lot of waste material in our large bowel waiting to leave the body, reducing our fibre intake will reduce the amount of faeces being added to this large volume of waste. This will have the effect of reducing the bulk and volume of the stools, making going to the toilet much easier.

Other studies back this up, with one concluding that reducing fibre intake is best for improving constipation.

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