Fibre and FODMAP

Fibre – beneficial or problematic?


Alison Cullen
Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction)
@AVogelUK
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An introduction to fibre

Fibre is the part of plants which can’t be broken down and absorbed properly in your body.

Fibre can be soluble or insoluble; both types offer a host of health benefits.

Soluble fibre, as the name suggests, is soluble in and absorbs water which helps to soften stools in the gut. It helps to form more of a gel-like substance passing down the intestine, which is able to then bind and transport excess cholesterol, hormones and other unwanted substances for excretion from your body.

Soluble fibre also works to keep you feeling fuller for longer, allows for more subtle spikes in your blood sugar and can help in the case of irregular bowel movements. As a result of these actions, soluble fibre is thought to be protective against high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and weight management.

Insoluble fibre, as the name suggests, is insoluble in water. It adds physical roughage to stools, which helps to keep your toilet habits regular and to promote a generally healthy gut.

Fibre is currently recommended as part of a healthy, balanced diet. In 2015 the government increased the recommended daily amount from 18g to 30g per day.

However, are all sources of fibre beneficial for everyone? In light of the research developed by the Monash University in Australia supporting the low FODMAP diet for IBS, it can be confusing as to whether fibre should be included or not. For most people the answer is yes, but from what sources?

Are FODMAPs sources of fibre?

The four categories of FODMAP; oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols are often rich sources of fibre. This means if you are following the FODMAP elimination diet you might be leaving out these beneficial elements from your diet.

Many of the fruit, vegetables (in particular skin on), grains and legumes falling into the categories discussed in this section are abundant in fibre, which may make it harder to get the recommended daily amount. Read on in the next section to see how you can overcome this.

Is fibre always FODMAP?

Although many FODMAP foods contain fibre there are plenty of fibre rich foods that don’t fall into these categories.

A low FODMAP diet doesn’t necessarily mean low fibre and fibre is still regarded as an important component of your diet. You should aim to hit the recommended 30g per day.

What fibre can I include?

Fibre is recommended for most people. If it is likely you are FODMAP sensitive then trying to incorporate FODMAP-free sources of fibre is a good course of action.

However, in some cases, a fibre-free diet may be beneficial whilst the gut heals. A product called Silicol gel may be useful to take during this phase as it creates a protective barrier that coats the gut wall. Once the healing process has taken place, FODMAP-free fibres can be slowly reintroduced to see how you react. In rare cases your tolerance for fibre may just be very low and it might need to be avoided but fibre is generally recommended as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Refer to our FODMAP friendly foods section and try to incorporate some of the fibre-rich fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains listed there into your diet. In addition to the choices you make, try eating your fruit and vegetables with the skins left on where possible, as this can also help up your fibre intake.

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