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How Does Soluble Fiber Help IBS and IBD?

Updated on July 18, 2016

Is Soluble Fiber a Valid Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

When life revolves around your bathroom habits, it can seem pretty dismal and complex at times. Many experts claim that soluble fiber relieves both diarrhea and constipation. Do these claims have any validity?

(c) Copyright Kathy Steinemann

According to WebMD, soluble fiber relieves abdominal pain and discomfort in some people suffering from IBS.

"But how?" you may ask. "How does soluble fiber improve bowel symptoms?"

Soluble fiber is not digested by the body. It attracts water and forms a gel-like substance that helps to bulk up and soften stool while it slows down digestion. This gel slides easily through an irritated intestinal tract, allowing everything (including hemorrhoids) to settle and heal.

East Tennessee Children's Hospital reports that soluble fiber is beneficial for IBD because it does not produce the type of particles that adhere to the bowel wall and cause inflammation.

This is great news for anyone with intestinal irritation!

Added benefits include lowering of cholesterol and regulation of blood glucose levels.

Conversely, insoluble fiber speeds up the passage of stool through the body. It may actually make IBS and IBD symptoms worse for many people. The Mayo Clinic states that it may be beneficial to limit insoluble fiber when you are experiencing an IBS episode. Inflammatory bowel disease sufferers are advised to limit their intake of insoluble fiber and switch to a low-residue diet, especially during a flare-up or following surgery.

According to IBS for Dummies, anyone with IBS should eat lots of soluble fiber and avoid insoluble fiber, which is much tougher on the digestive system due to rough edges that may irritate sensitive intestines. The book states further, that soluble fiber helps to trap water, (which helps with diarrhea) and softens hardening stool (which helps with constipation).

However, you need both types of fiber.

The National Institute of Health recommends that you increase dietary fiber gradually to avoid flatulence, bloating, and abdominal cramps - while consuming plenty of fluids. Once your body becomes accustomed to the increased fiber intake, you will be able to process it without uncomfortable side effects.

Some studies indicate that the prebiotics in soluble fiber help your body to digest probiotic supplements and foods like yogurt. Prebiotics feed the friendly probiotic bacteria, allowing it to grow and flourish. This process suppresses bad bacteria and yeast that may be causing some of your symptoms.

Everyone is different. However, soluble fiber works like a miracle for me. For now, I have had to give up some of my favorite foods like 12-grain bread, salads, cherries, and baked potatoes with crusty skins. Every time I ignore common sense and try something I shouldn't, I pay the price.

Suggested Reading:

If you wish to delve into this topic for more detailed and specific information, here are some helpful resources.
IBS for Dummies - available in eBook and print formats

Kathy's books can help you in your battle against irritable bowel syndrome:

The IBS Compass: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Tips, Information, Fiber Charts, and Recipes. Here is a guide that will steer you through the complex information about this confusing condition.

IBS-IBD Fiber Charts: Soluble & Insoluble Fibre Data for over 450 Items, Including Links to Internet Resources. Whether you are shopping, dining out, or planning a menu at home, this book will help you calculate the fiber in your diet.



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    • Sweetsimple16 profile image

      Sweetsimple16 5 years ago from United kingdom, London

      that is so true but thankfully i dont have much ibs symptoms as before ashealthy eating and exercise has helped alot so there are solutions but not cure.

    • Kathy Steinemann profile image

      Kathy Steinemann 5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Unfortunately, irritable bowel syndrome is the "crappy" disease nobody wants to talk about.

    • Sweetsimple16 profile image

      Sweetsimple16 5 years ago from United kingdom, London

      so funny you write this great hub as i am currently taking soluble fibre it helps me in both ways when i have constipation or diarrhea but it does make my cramps worse at times as you said i had to cut down on some food too.great hub about IBS .p.s people should not be ashamed of IBS it is a illness which is on the rise due to stress and etc