Too Much Fiber in Your Low Cholesterol Diet

Soluble fiber can be an important ingredient in your cholesterol-friendly diet. In fact, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that you should consume anywhere between 10 and 25 grams of soluble fiber a day, obtaining this healthy nutrient from foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Because most people do not meet this recommendation through their typical daily consumption, food manufacturers have taken a cue from this and are now making healthier snacks — with some of them supplemented with additional fiber. The use of fiber supplements has also increased over the years due to their popularity in aiding in digestive health and modestly lowering LDL cholesterol.

Lentil soup being stirred with a wooden spoon
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Although these supplements and foods may provide extra fiber in your diet, they may not necessarily provide added health benefits. In some cases, too much fiber can actually cause undesirable side effects. With all of these fiber-rich foods and supplements increasingly available to include in our heart-healthy diets, is there such a thing as having too much fiber in your diet?

Amount of Fiber That Constitutes as “Too Much” Is Unclear

Although you can experience certain side effects as a consequence of having too much fiber in your diet, the amount of daily fiber that constitutes as “too much” is not known, nor has it been extensively studied. Consuming high amounts of fiber each day can cause undesirable side effects; however, some of the same side effects can also occur because of an abrupt change in your diet — usually resulting from going from a cholesterol-lowering diet that is low in fiber to a fiber-rich one.

Side effects that could indicate that you are consuming too much soluble fiber in your diet, or introducing it too rapidly into your diet, include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Flatulence

In rare instances, an intestinal blockage may occur as a consequence of consuming an excessive amount of fiber in your diet. In some cases, especially if you do not consume a lot of food at meals in the first place, fiber can cause increased satiety to the point of feeling very full after eating, which may result in you not obtaining all of the nutrients you need each day.

Overcoming the Side Effects of Fiber

Including fiber-rich foods in your heart-healthy diet can help keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the side effects listed above so that you get the full benefits of including fiber in your diet without some of the undesirable side effects:

  • Slowly increase your consumption of fiber over a period of a few weeks. This can be especially important in preventing certain side effects, such as flatulence, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea.
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids if you are consuming a lot of high-fiber foods. This will help to prevent constipation you may experience when first starting a high-fiber diet.
  • Obtain fiber from a variety of sources. Because some of us do not obtain the soluble fiber we need from fiber-rich foods, we may tend to rely on fiber supplements and powders in order to obtain our daily fiber. This may not only contribute to some of the side effects mentioned above, but it can also cause more serious side effects, such as intestinal blockage or preventing the absorption of certain nutrients in your diet. By adding a variety of high-fiber foods in your diet, such as produce, grains, and legumes, you are also adding additional nutrients that you would not obtain from taking a fiber supplement.
  • If you take medications, you should check to see if fiber could interact with them. In some cases, a fiber-rich meal could interact with certain medications, decreasing their effectiveness.
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