Many people, particularly those with gut problems, complain about bloating when they eat fiber. It may seem trivial, but in some people, it’s really intense.
This presents a problem because fiber has many benefits. Fiber intake:
- Decreases inflammation in the gut
- Seals up the gut
- Helps control blood sugar and appetite
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and Cancer
- Likely helps promote a healthy circadian rhythm
These things are great if you tolerate fiber well. But if fiber leads to intense gas, and pain within a few hours, it’s hard to justify eating it.
A new study provides hope for people who want the benefits of fiber but want to avoid painful gas and bloating. The problem may not be the fiber, per se. It may be what you eat with it that’s the real culprit.
High fiber diets and bloating
The Omniheart study is a 3-diet study performed between 2003-2005 with the diet conditions. Each participant consumed 3 separate high-fiber diets for 6-weeks. One diet was high carbohydrate, one was high protein, and the other was high fat.
All 3 diets contained the same number of calories and all participants performed each diet separated by a 2-4 week washout period. Most importantly, they recorded gas and bloating at baseline and throughout each dietary period.
Accordingly, the researchers found that those eating a high fiber diet also high in protein had 40% more gas and bloating than those eating a high carbohydrate diet. But it’s important to point out that these diets were very low in saturated fat.
Regardless of that fact, I don’t think it would impact the results. There ‘s a simple mechanism that’s likely at play here. But we have to go back to the 4th grade science fair to jog our memory.
Proteins and fiber in the colon
Do you remember making fake volcanoes in elementary school? Forget about the paper mache construction of the volcano, let’s focus on the actual gusher.
You’d take baking soda and vinegar and combine the 2 in a container and FOOOM! Instant volcano. What you didn’t know, at the time, is this is rudimentary chemistry and create problems for you down the road.
When you mix an acid with a base, you get a reaction. In the case of vinegar and baking soda, you get a mini explosion. But what happens if the same thing occurs in the colon? You’d bloat.
But it’s not baking soda and vinegar in your colon. Instead, it’s short chain fatty acids created via the fermentation of fiber combining with ammonia created from excess proteins that enter the colon.
Proteins are the only macronutrient that contains nitrogen, and ammonia is nitrogen with 4 hydrogen. Coincidentally, there’s a ton of hydrogen in the colon.
So what you’d effectively get is a 4th grade science experiment happening in your colon. The result: painful gas and bloating.
If you’re someone who doesn’t do well with fiber, it’s a good idea to take a look at your protein intake. While there are benefits to both higher protein and fiber intake, they may not go well together. Fiber seems to provide a strong benefit to resilience in the gut while protein seems to help maintain muscle mass.
We’re all different genetically and other lifestyle factors play a role in the diet that works best for us. An individual approach to diet is best.
But finding a balance is key, and factors such as exercise, profession, and alcohol intake also are important. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which best fits your genetics and lifestyle.