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High Fiber Diet

Indications for High Fiber Diet

Constipation may be
defined as:
  • hard bowel movements
  • infrequent bowel movements
  • difficulty in having a bowel movement
  • sense of discomfort or fullness in the lower abdomen that feels like it would be relieved by a bowel movement
Causes of constipation
are numerous:

  • diminished propulsive movement through the bowel
  • spasm of the bowel which holds back the stool
  • spasm of the anus which prevents passage of stool
  • endocrine problems
  • constipating medications
  • obstruction of the bowel by tumor

Constipation, especially in older patients, obviously requires evaluation. Diet therapy is a useful adjunct in the spastic type of constipation but other modalities such as stress reduction and exercise are equally important.

Diverticulosis is a condition in which outpouchings protrude from the wall of the colon. If one of these outpouchings perforates, infection occurs, and the condition is called Diverticulitis. Lack of fiber may cause diverticulitis. Nuts and hard seeds (orange, apple, etc.) may increase the likelihood of problems with diverticulosis and should be avoided.

Background Information

Fiber, roughage, and bulk are synonyms for the plant fiber in food. This consists of insoluble (cellulose) and soluble (hemicellulose) plant fibers. Soluble fiber is found in oats and psyllium (Metamucil). It lowers cholesterol a bit but it also produces more gas in some people. Fiber works in several ways.

First, it expands the bowel, which stimulates the muscles in the bowel wall to contract. Second, the large volume of fiber keeps the bowel wall to contract. Second, the large volume of fiber string of beads pattern allows high pressure to build up in the bead like pockets and this can cause perforation of outpouchings. Thirdly, the fiber is broken down by bacteria which normally live in the bowel. The nutrients from the breakdown products are needed by the lining of the bowel to keep it healthy and they stimulate the bowel to contract.

Unfortunately, another product of bacterial breakdown of fiber is gas; increased gas production is a usual result of a high fiber diet. Some fiber, especially wheat bran, oat bran, and psyllium, seem to cause more gas. Some, such as rice bran, do not seem to cause as much gas. Everybody is different and you may have to experiment. You should try to consume 25 to 30 Grams of fiber a day. The average American diet consists of 10 – 15 Grams a day.

The constituents of a high fiber diet classically include either whole grain cereals or the husks of the grains as a supplement, fruit, and vegetables, and lots of water.

Whole grain cereals are, far and away, highest in fiber of any of the foods. Fruit has some fiber but many people get a laxative effect from fruit because they cannot digest fruit sugar. Some dried fruits like prunes contain natural laxatives. Root vegetable have a fair amount of fiber as do stringy vegetables like broccoli and celery. Green leafy vegetables are mostly water and have little fiber. Water, in sufficient quantities, will have a cathartic effect. We actually make use of this to clean out the bowel for examinations.

Behavior Modification

Remember the quiet relaxed mealtimes, especially breakfast, are as important as diet. Remember also that you must always allow yourself enough time to have a bowel movement and that you should arrange your time so that you do not have to stifle the urge to have a bowel movement.

Dietary Advice

Eat a whole grain cereal for breakfast. Use whole grain breads such as whole-wheat, rye, or pumpernickel bread. Use whole wheat pasta. Eat as much high fiber vegetables as possible, substituting them for fatty foods such as tuna or chicken salad made with mayonnaise, cheeses or meats. Use a fiber supplement such as Metamucil, Citrucel, Konsyl, FiberCon or any generic psyllium containing powder at bed time. If you are not getting results with one or two heaping teaspoons, you are unlikely to benefit from more and you may get more bloated and gassy. Occasionally, psyllium will cause an allergic reaction associated with wheezing.

Here are some of the examples of the fiber content found on individual servings of some common food items:
Breads and Grains Amount Fiber (Grams)
Graham Cracker 2 squares 1.4
Pumpernickel 3/4 slice 1.4
Rice, Brown 1/3 cup 1.6
Rye bread 1 slice 0.8
Whole-wheat bread 1 slice 1.3


Breakfast Cereals Amount Fiber (Grams)
All Bran 100% 1/3 cup 8.4
Bran Chex 1/2 cup 4.1
Corn Flakes 3/4 cup 2.6
Grapenut Flakes 2/3 cup 2.5
Grapenuts 3 tbs. 2.7
Oatmeal 3/4 packet 2.5
Shredded Wheat 1 biscuit 2.8
Wheaties 3/4 cup 2.6


Fruit Amount Fiber
Apple 1/2 large apple 2.0
Banana 1/2 medium 1.5
Blackberries 3/4 cup 6.7
Cantaloupes 1 cup 1.6
Cherries 10 large 1.1
Dates, dried 2 1.6
Figs, dried 1 medium 3.7
Grapes 10 0.5
Honeydew 1 cup 1.5
Orange 1 small 1.6
Peach 1.2 medium 2.0
Pear 1/2 cup 0.8
Pineapple 1.2 cup 0.8
Prunes 2 2.4
Raisins 1 1/2 tsp. 1.0
Strawberries 1 cup 1.4


Leafy Vegetables Amount Fiber (Grams)
Broccoli 1/2 cup 3.5
Cabbage 1/2 cup 2.1
Cauliflower 1/2 cup 1.1
Lettuce 1 cup .08
Spinach, raw 1 cup 0.2
Turnip greens 1/2 cup 3.5


Root Vegetables Amount Fiber (Grams)
Beets 1/2 cup 2.1
Carrots 1/2 cup 2.4
Potatoes, baked 1/2 medium 1.9
Radishes 1/2 cup 1.3
Sweet potato, baked 1/2 medium 2.1


Other Vegetables Amount Fiber (Grams)
Beans, green 1/2 cup 2.1
Cucumber 1/2 cup 1.1
Eggplant 1/2 cup 2.5
Lentils, cooked 1/2 cup 3.7
Mushrooms 1/2 cup 0.9
Onions 1/2 cup 1.2
Tomatoes 1 small 1.5
Winter Squash 1/2 cup 3.5
Zucchini Squash 1/2 cup 2.0


Snacks Amount Fiber (Grams)
Granola Bar 1 bar 0.5
FiberMed Cookie 2 cookies 10.0