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Symptoms of Overdose of Fiber Supplements

Dietary fiber or supplemental fiber has many benefits, including reducing your cholesterol, maintaining blood glucose levels, and keeping your digestive system in shape. While fiber is an integral part of your diet, it is sometimes possible that you are consuming too much fiber. Too much fiber in your diet can cause various signs and symptoms. Read on to learn about the symptoms of overdose of fiber supplements.

Symptoms of Overdose of Fiber Supplements

The recommended daily intake of fiber is 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. However, most experts believe that the majority of the population does not consume the required amount of fiber. It is estimated that most people in the United States only consume about 16 grams of fiber per day, which is nearly ten grams less than what most should ideally be having.(1) Since most people do not consume enough fiber as part of their daily diet, many resort to taking fiber supplements to meet their daily requirement of fiber.(2, 3)

While it is really not very common, but it is possible to consume too much fiber, especially if you overdose on fiber supplements or if you eat only plant-based diets such as vegan, vegetarian, or raw foods diets. It is not too difficult to tell that you are having too much of fiber as you will start to experience various symptoms and discomfort when you consume too much fiber. This is especially likely if you increase your daily intake of fiber too quickly. Too much of fiber can cause gas, bloating and constipation. It is possible to relieve the discomfort by exercising, making dietary changes, and increasing your fluid intake.

Here are the symptoms of an overdose of fiber supplements:

Bloating

Fiber supplements are very similar to sponges since they are able to absorb huge amounts of water. When you take too many fiber supplements, it causes an increase in the stool volume. This causes abdominal discomfort and bloating. Certain types of fiber supplements can also increase the production of intestinal gas, which ends up worsening abdominal bloating. In extreme cases, the abdomen may become visibly enlarged.(4)

Dry Mouth and Dizziness

An overdose of fiber supplements starts to attract a huge volume of water from the normal circulation in the body and into the intestines. This may cause dehydration and also a fall in your blood pressure. Some of the symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and dizziness, especially if you stand up suddenly from a sitting position.(5, 6)

Nausea and Vomiting

If you are consuming more fiber than what is needed by the body, it can lead to nausea and vomiting. Symptoms like nausea and vomiting may also be a sign that there is a fiber blockage in the intestines. On the other hand, in some cases, a ball of the supplement, known as a bezoar, may end up forming in the stomach, causing nausea and vomiting.(7, 8, 9)

The risk of a fiber bezoar forming is even higher if you do not drink adequate water while you are taking fiber supplements. The slow gastric emptying also increases the risk of the formation of a fiber bezoar. If you have been taking too many fiber supplements and have started experiencing persistent nausea and vomiting, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

Difficulty Swallowing

If you take too much powdered fiber supplements without drinking sufficient water, it may cause blockage in your esophagus, which is the tube that connects your throat to the stomach. In such cases, you may experience a sudden and intense chest pain as well as difficulty swallowing. These are the most common symptoms of an esophageal obstruction. If you experience any such symptom, you should seek immediate medical care or call your local emergency number, like 911.

Some of the other signs and symptoms of fiber supplement overdose include:

Fiber causes you to have bigger and bulkier bowel movements, and at the same time, it also promotes fermentation and gas formation. This is why taking excessive fiber supplements has an impact on your digestive system.

While fiber is important for having healthy and solid bowel movements, having too much of fiber can cause constipation or even diarrhea in some cases. A study carried out in 2012 looked at the effects of changing the fiber intake of 63 adult participants who were experiencing bloating, constipation, and stomach cramps.(10) In the study, the participants who decreased their intake of fiber experienced more frequent bowel movements, less abdominal pain, and less bloating as compared to those who did not change the amount of their fiber intake.

However, you must keep in mind that for people who are under treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), increasing their daily consumption of dietary fiber can actually help with constipation.(11)

Too much of fiber intake can also lead to nutrient deficiencies because excess fiber disrupts the body’s ability to absorb many essential nutrients. This is often an unwanted reaction from taking too many fiber supplements as the fiber attaches to the minerals in the body, including magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron.

Treatment of Fiber Overdose

The symptoms of consuming too much fiber can be reduced by:

  • Getting more exercise or physical activity
  • Lowering your fiber consumption
  • Increasing your fluid intake
  • Avoiding foods that increase bloating
  • Stopping the fiber supplements
  • Avoiding the intake of high-fiber foods
  • Removing fiber-fortified foods from your diet
  • Eating a bland diet till the symptoms settle
  • Eating foods that contain substances like chicory root extract and inulin
  • Maintaining a diary of your food intake to note how much fiber you are eating every day
  • Following a low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to improve symptoms as it removes fermentable and fibrous foods from your diet.(12, 13)

Once you start to feel better and your symptoms subside, you can slowly re-introduce fiber-containing foods into your diet. However, avoid eating fiber-rich foods all at one go in one meal. Instead, spread them out throughout the day to avoid having a surge of fiber in the body suddenly. It is also recommended to get your fiber from a variety of fiber-rich foods instead of relying on just one fiber source. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains will also give you more nutrition.

After consulting your doctor, you may choose to follow a diet low in fiber if you have severe symptoms. This means only eating around ten grams of fiber each day until the symptoms subside or can be better managed. This low-fiber diet is usually prescribed for people who have serious digestive conditions or have undergone some digestive procedures.

If you are worried about consuming a low-fiber diet every day, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, a low-fiber diet can also meet a person’s daily nutritional requirements as it emphasizes on the intake of the following:(14)

  • Cooked or canned fruits and vegetables
  • Well-cooked meats
  • Bread and grain products that contain less than 2 grams of fiber per serving

If your doctor has put you on a fiber supplement, start by taking a low dose and gradually increase it, but over a period of several days to weeks until you arrive at your total recommended dose. This will provide your intestines and body the time to adjust to the increased fiber intake.

Outlook for Overdose of Fiber Supplements

If you have consumed too much fiber, the discomfort will eventually pass with time as the body gets rid of the excess fibrous food. You can also relieve your symptoms by reducing your fiber consumption, and increasing your fluid intake, while also exercising more.

While fiber is an essential part of a nutritious and healthy diet, excess intake of fiber also is not good, and the body will simply eliminate the extra fiber. However, in the meantime, you will experience discomfort. This is why it is best to follow the recommended daily fiber targets.

References:

  1. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1559827615588079> [Accessed 19 June 2022].
  2. Schneeman, B.O. and Tinker, L.F., 1995. Dietary fiber. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 42(4), pp.825-838.
  3. Bourmaud, A., Morvan, C. and Baley, C., 2010. Importance of fiber preparation to optimize the surface and mechanical properties of unitary flax fiber. Industrial Crops and Products, 32(3), pp.662-667.
  4. Malagelada, C. and Malagelada, J.R., 2019. Gas-Bloat Syndrome. In Essential Medical Disorders of the Stomach and Small Intestine (pp. 187-206). Springer, Cham.
  5. Marais, A., 2018. The many possible causes of dizziness. Plus 50, 13(4), pp.40-41.
  6. Patel, A.V., Mihalik, J.P., Notebaert, A.J., Guskiewicz, K.M. and Prentice, W.E., 2007. Neuropsychological performance, postural stability, and symptoms after dehydration. Journal of athletic training, 42(1), p.66.
  7. Escamilla, C., Robles-Campos, R., Parrilla-Paricio, P., Lujan-Mompean, J., Liron-Ruiz, R. and Torralba-Martinez, J.A., 1994. Intestinal obstruction and bezoars. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 179(3), pp.285-288.
  8. Robles, R., Parrilla, P., Escamilla, C., Lujan, J.A., Torralba, J.A., Liron, R. and Moreno, A., 1994. Gastrointestinal bezoars. British journal of surgery, 81(7), pp.1000-1001.
  9. McIvor, A.C., Meguid, M.M., Curtas, S., Warren, J. and Kaplan, D.S., 1990. Intestinal obstruction from cecal bezoar; a complication of fiber-containing tube feedings. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 6(1), pp.115-117.
  10. Ho, K.S., Tan, C.Y.M., Daud, M.A.M. and Seow-Choen, F., 2012. Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG, 18(33), p.4593.
  11. About IBS. 2022. Dietary Fiber – About IBS. [online] Available at: <https://www.aboutibs.org/ibs-diet/dietary-fiber.html> [Accessed 19 June 2022].
  12. Altobelli, E., Del Negro, V., Angeletti, P.M. and Latella, G., 2017. Low-FODMAP diet improves irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a meta-analysis. Nutrients, 9(9), p.940.
  13. Krogsgaard, L.R., Lyngesen, M. and Bytzer, P., 2017. Systematic review: quality of trials on the symptomatic effects of the low FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 45(12), pp.1506-1513.
  14. Bscn2k15.weebly.com. 2022. [online] Available at: <http://bscn2k15.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/9/2/12924787/manual_of_clinical_nutrition2013.pdf> [Accessed 19 June 2022].

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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 22, 2022

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