Getting enough fibre

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Dr Jane Varney - Research Dietitian, 14 January 2021

While too much fibre may increase symptoms for people with IBS, for most people, the problem is eating too little fibre. In the US for example, despite recommendations that adult women consume 25g fibre per day and men consume 38g fibre per day1, 95% of Americans eat less than this2 and the average fibre intake is just 16g fibre per day2. There are a number of reasons for this poor fibre intake, including the uptake of gluten-free, wheat-free, and grain-free diets which limit or eliminate fibre-rich grains from the diet; and beliefs that high fibre foods are expensive, unpalatable, and complicated to prepare3. In people with IBS, inadequate fibre intake may exacerbate symptoms such as constipation and abdominal pain, whereas eating enough fibre can help to relieve symptoms. 

If you are following a low FODMAP diet, consuming enough fibre may be particularly challenging, as many of the restricted, high FODMAP foods are also high in fibre. But eating enough fibre is easier than you think with a few small changes to your diet. 

Adding high fibre, low FODMAP foods

The charts below provides examples of foods you can include in a low FODMAP serve to increase your fibre intake. 

Add 1 gram of fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Bulgar, uncooked 1/4 cup (44g)
Lentil, Green, Boiled 1/4 cup (23g)
Almond with skin 10 nuts (12g)
Sunflower seed 2 teaspoons (6g)
Sun-dried Tomato 3 pieces (8g)

Add 2 grams of Fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Banana, common, unripe 1 medium (100g)
Green bean 15 beans (75g)
Red Capsicum 1/4 of 1 medium (75g)
Canned chickpea, drained 1/4 cup (42g)
Corn, fresh on cob 1/2 cob (38g)
Eggplant, unpeeled 1 cup (75g)
Goji berry, dried 3 teaspoons (10g)
Kale 1/2 cup chopped (75g)
Mandarin, peeled 2 small, peeled (125g)
Almond meal 1/4 cup (24g)
Hazelnut 10 nuts (15g)
Peanut 32 nuts (28g)
Walnut 10 nut halves (30g)
Potato, unpeeled 1/2 medium (75g)
Silverbeet 1 ½ cups chopped (75g)

Add 3 grams of Fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Broccoli, fresh, raw, whole 3/4 cup (75g)
Carrot, mature, peeled, fresh, raw 1 medium (75g)
Kiwifruit, gold, peeled, raw 2 small, peeled (150g)
Nut, brazil, raw or blanched 10 nuts (40g)
Nut, macadamia, raw 20 nuts (40g)
Orange, peeled, raw 1 medium (130g)
Parsnip, peeled, fresh, raw 1 medium (75g)
Pineapple (cayenne), peeled, raw 1 cup chopped (140g)
Pomegranate, peeled, raw 1/4 cup seeds (45g)
Quinoa, cooked in water 1 cup cooked (155g)
Raspberry, raw 30 berries (60g)
Rhubarb, stalk, raw 1 cup chopped (150g)
Rice, brown, boiled 1 cup cooked (180g)
Spinach, baby, fresh, raw 1.5 cup chopped (75g)

Add 4 grams of Fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Seed, linseed or flaxseed 1 tablespoon (15g)
Strawberry 10 medium chopped (150g)
Tahini, sesame seed pulp, unhulled 2 tablespoons (30g)

Add 5 grams of Fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Coconut, fresh, mature fruit, flesh 2/3 cup (64g)
Grape, red globe, raw 1 cup (150g)
Noodle, soba, dry 1/3 cup (90g)
Oats, rolled, uncooked 1/2 cup (52g)

Add 6 grams of Fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Kiwifruit, green, peeled, raw 2 small, peeled (150g)
Passionfruit, raw 2 fruits (46g)
Tofu, firm 2/3 cup cubed (160g)

Add 7 grams of Fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Buckwheat groats, cooked 3/4 cup cooked (135g)

Add 8 grams of Fibre

Food Low FODMAP Serving Size
Seed, chia, dried 2 tablespoons (24g)
Popcorn, commercial ½ packet – 3.5 cups (60g)

Other tips for healthy bowel habits

  • Eat a varied, high fibre diet that includes fibrous foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses

  • Drink lots of water – aim for around 2L per day and more in hot conditions. 

  • Keep active. Physical activity helps to move food through our digestive system

  • Allow enough time to use the toilet so you don't need to rush or strain

  • Consider your body position on the toilet: lean forward with your back straight, place your forearms on your thighs and raise your feet slightly with a footstool.

  • Avoid straining if possible 

  • Talk to your doctor if you notice sudden changes in bowel habits or the ‘alarm signals’ / ‘red flags’ such as blood in the stool, bowel motions at night, severe/ongoing diarrhea. 

  • Pay attention to your bowel habits so you notice when something changes

  • If you are over 50 years of age, keep up to date with routine bowel cancer screening tests

References

1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2005. .

2. US Department of Agriculture; Agricultural Research Service. What We Eat in America: Nutrient intakes from food by gender and age. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-10. http://www.ars.usda.gov/Sp2userfiles/Place/12355000/Pdf/0910/Table_1_Nin_Gen_09.Pdf. Accessed December 4, 2014.

3. Quagliani D, Felt-Gunderson P. Closing America's Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit. American journal of lifestyle medicine 2016;11:80-85.
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