Get your fiber without the flatulence

Follow these tips to consume the fiber you need without experiencing the flatulence you do not.

A person clutching their stomach in pain.
Photo: Kindel Media/

Fiber does great things for our bodies, such as lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and keep our digestive system regular. Why do most people have such a hard time eating enough of it? Maybe the thought of fiber makes us think of cardboard-tasting food and, you guessed it, flatulence or gas. Unfortunately, fiber has a dull reputation that it doesn’t deserve!

What exactly is fiber? Fiber is found in plant foods only. It is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. There are two types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber, which can dissolve in water. It can be found in foods like peas, beans and most fruits.
  • Insoluble fiber, which cannot break down in water and, as a result, passes through the body undigested. Think of it like a toothbrush for the intestines. Foods like green beans, potatoes and wheat bran are sources of insoluble fiber.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories (see table A1-2) eaten. Depending on age and sex, this can vary from 14 grams of fiber for two- to three-year-old children to 28 grams for females ages 19–30 years, and up to 34 grams of fiber for males ages 19–30 years. For children ages 12 through 23 months, the current daily recommendation is 19 grams of fiber. Most Americans consume about 16 grams a day. Foods that are a good source of fiber include legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eating a balanced diet that includes all these foods will help make sure you are consuming an adequate amount of fiber.

There may be other reasons that cause you to have extra gas, such as types of foods eaten, and pre-existing digestive issues. When you start including more fiber-rich foods in your diet, you may notice more bloating and gas, which can be very uncomfortable, to say the least.

If you’re looking to increase your fiber intake, here are a few steps you can take to limit how gassy you may be:

  • Add fiber-rich foods to your diet gradually. For example, if you eat white bread on a regular basis, try switching to at least one serving of whole grain bread a day for the first week, two servings a day the second week, etc., until all your bread is whole grain. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends not to increase total fiber intake by more than five grams each day until desired intake is reached.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water. Drinking plenty of water and other unsweetened beverages can help keep stool soft. This allows the fiber to bind and prevents it from hardening. It is also important to avoid carbonated drinks as they can create more gas.
  • Avoid certain behaviors that cause you to swallow extra air. When we eat, we naturally tend to swallow air as we’re chewing. Chewing slowly, limiting chewing gum and avoiding smoking can help with swallowing less air.
  • Prepare dried beans by soaking them overnight to make them more digestible. Discard the water the next day, rinse beans under running water, and cook the beans in fresh water. This will help get rid of some oligosaccharides (the sugars that exist in beans that cause flatulence). Rinsing canned beans can also help get rid of some of the oligosaccharides.

For more information on eating healthy, please contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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