You have heard that eating fibre can help to relieve or prevent constipation. However, according to experts, too much fibre can actually do the opposite. Currently, 1 in 4 people in Singapore suffer from constipation. With the aging population, this number is set to increase. Constipation can be caused by lifestyle habits, medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, side effects from medications that contain opiates, hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy and physiological impairments in the colon or pelvic floor muscles. Increasing dietary fibre intake is one of the first go-to remedies for constipation. However, new guidelines recommend that doctors ask about patients’ current fibre intake and prescribe bulk-forming laxatives or advise more fibre intake only if patients are deficient in fibre. According to the Health Promotion Board (HPB), the recommended daily fibre intake is 26g for men and 20g for women. Dietitians have stated that this translates to approximately two servings each of fruit and vegetables (these give a total of 10g to 12g of fibre) and five to seven servings of wholegrain products, such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, and alternatives like white bread and white rice (10g to 14g of fibre).
Why does eating too much fibre lead to constipation?
Experts explained that fibre is resistant to digestion. As fibre soaks up water and expands in the gut to make a person feel bloated, patients with slow intestinal transit may experience bloating as the fibre accumulates in the intestine.
How can constipation be treated?
Constipation can be treated through eating more fibre only if your current diet has a deficit of fibre. Another common treatment is to take laxatives for short periods of time, or simply to drink more water. Constipation can get worse if untreated. If you experience constipation, it is important to get it treated as soon as possible.
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