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Is Fiber Bad For You? The Top 12 Myths And The Real Truth About Whether Fiber Is Killing Your Insides.

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“The recent popularity of fiber in medicine and nutrition is based on old wives’ tales and intentional lies that have little to do with either science or medicine. These lies and tales are retold ad nauseam in medical offices, web sites, diet books, college courses, government pamphlets, and on and on. Tell a lie one time too many, and it soon turns into a pervasive and believable myth. I don’t have to tell you, just how dangerous medical doctrines are, when they are built on mythology.”

Holy cow!

That’s how today’s guest post on the top 12 myths about fiber begins.

Prepare to have your mind blown as we jump right in…and if you have questions, then leave them in the comments section below this post, because I’m getting today’s guest author on a podcast very soon and I’ll ask him your questions!

The following guest post is written by Konstantin Monastyrsky, a certified nutritional consultant and an expert in forensic nutrition, a field of science that investigates the connection between supposedly “healthy” foods and nutrition-related disorders, such as diabetes and obesity.

In 1996, Mr. Monastyrsky began to suffer from diabetes and a host of related ailments, including debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome. Unable to use his keyboard, he turned his attention back to medicine to find solutions for his rapidly deteriorating health.

However, within several years, he had completely recovered from diabetes, and in 1998, free from the ravages of carpal tunnel syndrome, he left the technology field to pursue a career in nutritional research, medical writing, performance, longevity and weight loss counseling, and health advocacy – and eventually wrote the book: Fiber Menace: The Truth About the Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and Colon Cancer”.

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Top 12 Myths About Fiber

The recent popularity of fiber in medicine and nutrition is based on old wives’ tales and intentional lies that have little to do with either science or medicine. These lies and tales are retold ad nauseam in medical offices, web sites, diet books, college courses, government pamphlets, and on and on. Tell a lie one time too many, and it soon turns into a pervasive and believable myth. I don’t have to tell you, just how dangerous medical doctrines are, when they are built on mythology.

What I’ve learned the hard way over the last ten years about digestive disorders, you can now learn in just a few pleasant evenings of reading. And you’ll have a huge advantage: you will avoid the side effects I had to suffer from and overcome.

Fiber is bad? Have you gone postal?

Well, judge for yourself!

Find a flaw, or prove otherwise. If you don’t find any, you’ll go postal too. If you continue to have doubts after reviewing the presented facts, just follow the links to the primary sources, and keep researching these facts until you are fully convinced that there is no quoting out of context going on here.

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Myth #1: For maximum health, obtain 30 to 40 g of fiber daily from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Reality: Here is how many fresh fruits you’ll need to eat throughout the day in order to obtain those 30 to 40 grams (1-1.4 oz) of daily fiber:

ten_friutsThat comes to five apples, three pears, and two oranges. A small apple contains 3.6 g of fiber and 15.5 g of sugars. A small pear—4.6 g and 14.5 g; and a small orange—2.3 g and 11.3 g respectively (USDA National Nutrient Database; NDB #s: 09003; 09200; 09252).

These ten small (not medium or large) fruits will provide you with 36.4 g of indigestible fiber and a whopping 143.6 g of digestible sugars, or an equivalent of that many (ten) tablespoons of plain table sugar!

ten_spoonsAnd that‘s before accounting for all the other carbs consumed throughout the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and from snacks and beverages.

So ask yourself this question: even if you are a 100% healthy 25-year-old muscle-bound athlete, would you ever ingest that much sugar willingly? The answer is obvious—no way! Well, maybe under the influence of a controlled substance or torture. But certainly not while of sound mind!

But that’s exactly what’s being recommended for “health purposes” to American children and adults. It‘s not surprising that so many are suffering from the ravages of diabetes and obesity—the total daily carbohydrate requirement for an average adult is under 200 grams, even less for children.

The ratio of digestible carbohydrates (sugars) to fiber in vegetables, cereals, breads, beans, and legumes is, on average, similar to fruits. Thus, no matter how hard you try to mix’n'match, you’ll be getting screwed all the same. Incidentally, that’s the meaning of those brass screws in the cereal bowl on the front cover of my Fiber Menace book.

This myth—that fruits and vegetables are the best source of fiber—is probably the most pervasive and damaging of all. If fiber is what you‘re really after, you‘re better off getting it from fiber supplements. These, after all, have almost no digestible carbs. But, then, of course, you run into those other persistent falsehoods…

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Myth #2: Fiber reduces blood sugar levels and prevents diabetes, metabolic disorders, and weight gain.

Reality: That’s a blatant deception. If you consume 100 g of plain table sugar at once, the blood absorbs all 100 g of sugar almost as soon as it reaches the small intestine, where the assimilation takes place. If you add 30 g of fiber into the mix, the fiber will first clog the stomach for a while. Second, it will partially block intestinal absorption, which, in turn, will extend the rate of sugar assimilation into the blood, from, let‘s say, one hour to three.

But at the end of those extra three hours the blood will still absorb exactly the same 100 g of sugar—not an iota more, not an iota less. If you are a diabetic, the only difference will be that you‘ll require more extended (long-acting) insulin (for type 1 diabetes) or larger doses of medicine (for type 2 diabetes) to deal with slow-digesting sugars, and your blood glucose test will not spike as high after the meal.

But you‘re fooling no one but a glucose meter. In all other respects, the damage will be all the same, or even worse. That’s because the carbohydrate load on the cells, liver, pancreas, and kidneys from extended sugar digestion, elevated insulin, and high triglycerides (assimilated fatty acids) is much higher. And that‘s even before taking into account the negative impact of fiber on the digestive organs, or hyperinsulinemia and triglycerides on the heart, blood vessels, and blood pressure.

Once inside the large intestine, most of that fiber will get fermented into volatile gases (cause bloating, cramping, and flatulence); short-chain fatty acids (at 2.5 to 4 calories per g, in excess cause anal itching, diarrhea, and hemorrhoidal inflammation); and alcohols (at 7 calories per g). Most of those substances get assimilated into your blood as fast as bacteria can make it happen.

Now, on top of nauseating gases and extra calories from fatty acids, you are also getting hit with alcohols, including methanol, which is quite toxic even in trace amounts. So if you still can’t pin down the causes of that nagging migraine, or lousy sleep pattern, or anxiety, or depression, or fatigue, then just shut down that little distillery inside your gut. ‘Sober up,’ and enjoy some peace and quiet.

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Myth #3: Fiber-rich foods improve digestion by slowing down the digestive process.

Reality: Fiber indeed slows down the “digestive process,” because it interferes with digestion in the stomach and, later, clogs the intestines the “whole nine yards.” The myth is that it can be good for health and the digestive process.

Here is what you get from delayed digestion: indigestion (dyspepsia), heartburn (GERD), gastritis (the inflammation of the stomach‘s mucosal membrane), peptic ulcers, enteritis (the inflammation of the intestinal mucosal membrane), and further down the chain, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn‘s disease.

All this, in fact, is the core message of Fiber Menace: fiber slows down the digestive process! And slow digestion is ruinous for your health. Don‘t mess with fiber unless your gut is made of steel!

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Myth #4: Fiber speeds food through the digestive tract, helping to protect it against cancer.

Reality: Not true. In fact, this claim directly contradicts the claim that fiber-rich foods slow down the digestive process. For a reality check, here‘s an excerpt from a college-level physiology textbook that reveals the truth:

Colonic Motility: Energy-rich meals with a high fat content increase motility [the rate of intestinal propulsion]; carbohydrates and proteins have no effect.

R.F. Schmidt, G. Thews; Human Physiology, 2nd edition. 29.7:730

This, incidentally, is why low-fat diets and constipation commonly accompany each other. And don’t count on getting any cancer protection from fiber, either. That‘s yet another oft-repeated deception.

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Myth #5: Fiber promotes a healthy digestive tract and reduces cancer risk.

Reality: Not true. Here’s what doctors-in-the-know have to say on the subject of the colon cancer/fiber connection:

Lack of Effect of a Low-Fat, High-Fiber Diet on the Recurrence of Colorectal Adenomas

“Adopting a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables does not influence the risk of recurrence of colorectal adenomas.”

Arthur Schatzkin, M.D et al. The New England Journal of Medicine; April 20, 2000; 342:1149-1155. PMID: 10770979

The excerpt below comes, of all places, from the Harvard School of Public Health:

Fiber and colon cancer

“For years, Americans have been told to consume a high-fiber diet to lower the risk of colon cancer—mainly on the basis of results from relatively small studies. Larger and better-designed studies have failed to show a link between fiber and colon cancer.”

Fiber: Start Roughing It, Harvard School of Public Health

Not convinced yet? Well, here is even more damning evidence from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

Letter Regarding Dietary Supplement Health Claim for Fiber With Respect to Colorectal Cancer

“Based on its review of the scientific evidence, FDA finds that (1) the most directly relevant, scientifically probative, and therefore most persuasive evidence (i.e., randomized, controlled clinical trials with fiber as a test substance) consistently finds that dietary fiber has no [preventive] effect on incidence of adenomatous polyps, a precursor of and surrogate marker for colorectal cancer; and (2) other available human evidence does not adequately differentiate dietary fiber from other components of diets rich in foods of plant origin, and thus is inconclusive as to whether diet-disease associations can be directly attributed to dietary fiber. FDA has concluded from this review that the totality of the publicly available scientific evidence not only demonstrates lack of significant scientific agreement as to the validity of a [preventive] relationship between dietary fiber and colorectal cancer, but also provides strong evidence that such a relationship does not exist.”

U. S. Food and Drug Administration – Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements; October 10, 2000 [link]

Alas, the story doesn’t end there. Adding insult to injury, Chapter 10 of my Fiber Menace book, “Colon Cancer” cites studies that demonstrate the connection between increased fiber consumption and colon cancer. Also, countries with the highest and lowest consumption of meat are compared. Not surprisingly, the countries with the lowest consumption of meat and, correspondingly, the highest consumption of carbohydrates, including fiber, have the highest rate of digestive cancers, particularly of the stomach.

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Myth #6: Fiber offers protection from breast cancer.

Reality: A blatant, preposterous lie. According to the recent massive study jointly conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ministry of Health of Mexico, and the American Institute for Cancer Research, it‘s the opposite: women with the highest consumption of carbohydrates, and, correspondingly, of fiber, had the highest rates of breast cancer:

Carbohydrates and the Risk of Breast Cancer among Mexican Women

“In this population, a high percentage of calories from carbohydrate, but not from fat, was associated with increased breast cancer risk.”

Isabelle Romieu, et al; Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; 2004 13: 1283–1289. PMID: 15298947

A similar relationship had been established between the risk of colorectal cancers and the consumption of carbohydrates:

Digestible‘ Carbohydrate May Boost Colorectal Cancer Risk

“…people consuming the highest amounts of digestible carbohydrates had a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer compared with those eating the lowest amounts.”

Joene Hendry; Reuters Health; June 27, 2002.

Although these studies single out carbohydrates as the culprit behind various cancers, where there’s smoke, there’s also fire: carbs and fiber are as inseparable as Siamese twins, as I have already explained in Myth #1.

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Myth #7: Fiber lowers blood cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and prevents heart disease.

The myths about fiber‘s role in coronary heart disease (CHD) and the management of elevated cholesterol have their roots in some dubious research, which culminated in “reduced mineral absorption and myriad of gastrointestinal disturbances” after the study participants were given supplements containing a mixture of guar gum, pectin, soy fiber, pea fiber, and corn bran along with a low-fat and reduced cholesterol diet.

The total reduction of LDL cholesterol after 15 weeks was from “7% to 8%”. As any cardiologist will tell you, the reduction of “bad” cholesterol from, let’s say, 180 to 166 mg/dL (-8%) is completely meaningless. Besides, if you cause someone to have a “myriad of gastrointestinal disturbances” in the process, that person is more likely to die prematurely from malnutrition and cancer than of stroke or heart attack.

Even then, this marginal reduction of cholesterol had little to do with fiber, and everything to do with the reduction of dietary fats. LDL cholesterol happens to be a major precursor to bile. The moment a person is placed on a low-fat diet, their cholesterol level drops because their liver no longer needs to produce as much bile.

In addition, intestinal inflammation caused by soluble fiber blocks the ability of bile components to get absorbed back into the bloodstream, further lowering the cholesterol level. This is as basic as the physiology of nutrition gets, and it makes the whole claim of a fiber-cholesterol connection a deliberate con.

There is another dimension to the con used to ‘prove‘ fiber‘s role in reducing cholesterol. Most of the studies of fiber’s cholesterol-lowering effect — particularly psyllium — used The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Step I diet.

The Step I diet is high in carbohydrates and low in fat by design, with less than 10% of total energy derived from saturated fat. During clinical studies among people using the Step I diet without added fiber, their total cholesterol fell by 8%, LDL cholesterol fell by 6%, and HDL cholesterol fell by 16%.

In other words, the Step I diet on its own, without any extra fiber and/or digestive side effects, demonstrates an almost identical drop in cholesterol as with added fiber. In legalese, this particular ‘coincidence’ is called fraud, plain and simple.

So one fraud more, one fraud less…what‘s the worry, if my cholesterol goes down?

Well, there is a legitimate worry, at least, according to this respected source:

Problem with American Heart Association “Step 1″ diet

“Although the AHA Step I diet decreased total and LDL cholesterol levels in this group of women, it decreased HDL cholesterol by an even greater proportion. In women, a low HDL cholesterol concentration is a stronger independent predictor of cardiovascular disease risk than is elevated total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol. Therefore, women who follow AHA guidelines for lowering their serum cholesterol may actually be increasing their risk of heart disease”

Alan R. Gaby, M.D.
Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients

Amazingly, back in 2001, the AHA replaced the Step I diet with the Step II, TLC, and ATP III diets [link], which are even more restrictive in terms of fat, and even more permissive in terms of carbohydrates.

And don’t get me started on triglycerides… First, nothing raises triglycerides as profoundly as a high-fiber diet does, because, paraphrasing the smoke-fire cliché, where there’s fiber, there’re carbohydrates, usually eight to ten times as much.

This fact — the more fiber you consume, particularly from natural sources, the higher your level of triglycerides from carbohydrates intake — has been dodging Dr. Dean Ornish, one of the most prominent proponents of a high-carb/high-fiber diet.

Second, once inside the colon, fiber itself gets fermented by intestinal bacteria. Among the the byproducts of bacterial fermentation are short-chain fatty acids — butyrate, acetate, and propionate. Most of these fatty acids get assimilated directly into the bloodstream to provide energy.

According to the Dietary Reference Intakes manual “current data indicate that the [energy] yield is in the range of 1.5 to 2.5” calories per each gram of consumed fiber [link]. If you aren’t starving, the absorbed fatty acids unused for energy get metabolized by the liver into triglycerides for further storage as body fat.

Granted, a few calories here, a few calories there, may not seem like a lot. Still, if you are consuming 30 to 40 grams of fiber daily plus whatever hidden fiber fillers you are ingesting unknowingly along with processed food, it all adds up to epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

That‘s why I called the Fiber Menace book section that discusses these myths Fiber‘s affect on heart disease: a bargain with the devil. Indeed!

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Myth #8: Fiber satisfies hunger and reduces appetite.

Reality: That‘s yet another dubious benefit of fiber. Because fiber rapidly absorbs water and expands in the stomach up to five times its original size and weight, it indeed pacifies the appetite for a short while.

Unfortunately, while faking satiety, expanded fiber also stretches out the stomach‘s chamber, and each new fill-up requires progressively more and more fiber to accomplish the same trick.

When a person becomes overweight beyond the point of no return, surgeons suture the stretched-out stomach or squeeze it with a bridle (LAP-BAND©) in order to reduce its capacity and “speed up” satiety. This particular aspect of fiber‘s impact on appetite, satiety, and obesity is explained in Chapter 3, Atkins Goes To South Beach.

As with other “true myths,” it‘s not so much that “it ain‘t so,” but that filling up the stomach with fiber is actually not good for health and weight loss.

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Myth #9: Fiber prevents gallstones and kidney stones.

Reality: I‘ve seen several observational studies that claim fiber can prevent gallstones. It isn‘t true. It‘s common knowledge that diabetes and obesity are consistently associated with higher risk for gallstones, and both of these conditions are the direct outcome of excessive consumption of carbohydrates, and correspondingly, of fiber. Beyond these few studies, there isn‘t a shred of physiological, anatomical, clinical, or nutritional evidence that connects gallstone formation with fiber consumption.

Here‘s an excerpt from Fiber Menace that sheds further light on the gallstone-fiber connection:

Fiber‘s affect on the small intestine: Not welcome at any price

Gallstones are formed from concentrated bile salts when the outflow of bile from the gallbladder is blocked. […] before they can form, something else must first obstruct the biliary ducts. Just like with pancreatitis, that “something” is either inflammatory disease or obstruction caused by fiber.

Women [in the West] are affected by gallstones far more than men, because they are more likely to maintain a “healthy” diet, which nowadays means a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber. Since the gallbladder concentrates bile pending a fatty meal, no fat in the meal means no release of bile. The longer the concentrated bile remains in the gallbladder, the higher the chance for gallstones to form [from bile salts -ed.].

Konstantin Monastyrsky; Fiber Menace book, pg 25

Just as with gallstones, kidney stones are also common among people who suffer from diabetes and obesity, because excessive consumption of carbohydrates increases the excretion of urine, changes its chemistry, and predisposes to kidney stones.

To investigate this myth further, I consulted PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine, which is the most thorough compendium of medical research. I reviewed eighty-one articles published between 1972 and 2005 that mention the words “fiber” and “kidney stones” in the same breath. Not a single one of them connected kidney stones to fiber consumption, while several specifically pointed out that an increased consumption of carbohydrates is one of the major contributing factors.

One article suggested that a diet free of digestible carbs, but containing fiber, makes urine composition less stones-prone. You don‘t have to be Dr. Watson to deduce that fiber—an indigestible substance—can‘t materially affect urine chemistry, because what can‘t get digested also can‘t reach the kidneys. Besides, it wasn’t the presence of fiber that did the “trick,” for those investigators, but the reduction in carbs. Using this kind of methodology, one can also conclude that the wearing of black underpants along with a carb-free diet may prevent kidney stones, too. Some “science!…”

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Myth #10: Fiber prevents diverticular disease.

The therapeutic and preventative role of fiber in diverticular disease is steeped in its own mythology. Let‘s review those myths, as detailed in the article entitled Diverticular Disease by the National Institutes of Health.

For starters, even the opening statement reveals that the beneficial role of fiber in the prevention and treatment of diverticular disease is just conjecture (a theory) without any proof:

Although not proven, the dominant theory is that a low-fiber diet is the main cause of diverticular disease.” [link]

Here are the other “dominant” falsehoods from the same source:

The [diverticular] disease was first noticed in the United States in the early 1900s. At about the same time, processed foods were introduced into the American diet. Many processed foods contain refined, low-fiber flour. Unlike whole-wheat flour, refined flour has no wheat bran.

Not true. The “disease was first noticed” in the early 1900s not because of dietary changes in the American diet, but because in 1895 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen accidentally discovered X-rays. Before X-rays became commonplace, people were dying from undiagnosed and unknown internal diseases because there were no non-invasive diagnostic tools, no exploratory surgeries, and autopsies were extremely rare. Secondly, since diverticular disease affects primarily people over 50, dietary changes in the early 1900s wouldn‘t even show up in people until the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Diverticular disease is common in developed or industrialized countries—particularly the United States, England, and Australia—where low-fiber diets are common.

Not true. Also common in these countries is watching television, drinking beer, and driving a car. But just like any other conjecture, it doesn‘t mean these activities cause diverticular disease. Diverticular disease is more common in developed Western countries not because the traditional Western diet is low in fiber, but because of excessive consumption of fiber and fiber laxatives. If Westerners consumed even more fiber, the incidence of diverticular disease would be even higher, as described in the next myth.

The [diverticular] disease is rare in countries such as Asia and Africa, where people eat high-fiber vegetable diets.

Not true. (a) High-fiber diets are prevalent only among the poor and very poor, usually in rural areas; (b) poor people in these regions die well before the age commonly associated with diverticular disease in the West; (c) no reliable healthcare system exists in rural Africa and Asia to provide reliable and relevant health statistics regarding diverticular disease; (d) when Africans do have access to hospitals, doctors have concluded: “The study shows that the African colon has a number of pathological lesions contrary to previous reported literature.” (Ogutu EO, at al; Colonoscopic findings in Kenyan African patients; East Afr Med J. 1998 Sep;75(9):540-3); and (e) affluent Africans and Asians consume very little fiber—as is apparent to anyone who‘s ever visited an authentic Asian (Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian) or African (Moroccan, Ethiopian, Kenyan, South African) restaurant, where the dominant dishes are meat, fish, and sea food, and the side dishes are primarily white rice, whose fiber content is just 0.4%.

Both kinds of fiber help make stools soft and easy to pass,” which is good for diverticular disease.

Not true. Insoluble fiber is a bulking laxative. It makes stools large and hard to pass. That‘s why fiber is called “roughage.” Soluble fiber is a hyperosmolar laxative and diarrhea-causing agent. It does make stools watery, but it also causes bowel inflammation, bloating, and flatulence, and isn‘t suitable for extended use.

“Fiber also prevents constipation,” which is essential for diverticular disease.

Not true. Fiber DOES NOT prevent constipation. Just like aspirin can relieve pain, natural and medicinal fiber can ‘relieve’ constipation in people because it is a potent laxative. But fiber can‘t prevent constipation, just like aspirin can‘t prevent migraines or arthritis. In fact, if any aspirin manufacturer made such an outlandish claim, the FDA would shut it down.

Also, note that fiber DOES NOT relieve chronic constipation, only sporadic constipation in healthy people. When a few legitimate attempts were made to prove fiber‘s effectiveness for “chronic constipation,” according to the American College of Gastroenterology Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Task Force (2005), they really didn‘t pan out as explained in the Fiber Menace book introduction:

Guidelines for the Treatment of Chronic Constipation:

What is the Evidence?Specifically, there are 3 RCTs [randomized controlled trials] of wheat bran in patients with chronic constipation, but only 1 is placebo-controlled. This trial did not demonstrate a significant improvement in stool frequency or consistency when compared with placebo—neither did 2 trials that compared wheat bran with corn biscuit or corn bran.

Philip S. Schoenfeld, MD, MSEd, MSc; Medscape Today from WebMD

Why?

Because people who are affected by chronic constipation are also likely to be affected by hemorrhoidal disease and anorectal nerve damage. In this case, large, rough stools are not only undesirable, but are outright damaging. if you already have diverticular disease, your goal is not “large stools more often,” but small stools without straining, and fiber is never going to help you accomplish this reasonable and easily attainable goal.

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Myth #11: Fiber is safe and effective for the treatment and prevention of diarrhea.

Reality: Actually, it‘s the complete opposite—fiber, particularly soluble, is the most common cause of diarrhea in children and adults. That‘s why it‘s recommended as a laxative to begin with. The idea of fiber as a preventive treatment for diarrhea is one of the most preposterous and harmful fiber-related frauds.

Soluble fiber is widely present in fruits, vegetables, laxatives, and processed foods, such as yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese, soy milk, non-dairy creamers, preserves, jellies, candies, cakes, snack bars, canned soups, frozen dinners, sauces, dressings, and endless others.

It‘s always expertly concealed from scrutiny behind obscure names such as agar-agar, algae, alginate, β-glucan, cellulose gum, carrageen, fructooligosaccharides, guaran, guar gum, hemicellulose, inulin, Irish moss, kelp, lignin, mucilage, pectin, oligofructose, polydextrose, polylos, resistant dextrin, resistant starch, red algae, and others.

These inexpensive industrial fillers are added as stabilizers and volumizers to practically all processed foods, because they hold water, maintain shape, and fake “fattiness.” Besides, they are cheaply bought by the ton, and are resold retail by the gram for immense profit.

Once inside the body, these fiber fillers remain indigestible, hold onto water just as tight, and prevent absorption. This property—the malabsorption of fluids—lies behind soluble fiber‘s laxative effect: under normal circumstances a very limited amount of fluids enter the large intestine. When their amount exceeds the colon‘s holding capacity, you get hit with diarrhea.

In other words, the term “laxative” is just a euphemism for a “diarrheal” agent. If you overdose on a fiber laxative, you‘ll end up with diarrhea. If you “overdose” on fiber from food, you‘ll end up with exactly the same diarrhea. But since fiber in food can‘t be measured up as reliably as fiber in capsules, wafers, or powders, it‘s much easier to “overdose” the latter fiber and cause severe diarrhea.

Besides, fiber is even more offensive than synthetic laxatives, because the byproducts of its fermentation cause intestinal inflammation, flatulence, bloating, and cramping — just as described in medical references:

Malabsorption Syndromes

Colonic bacteria ferment unabsorbed carbohydrates into CO2, methane, H2, and short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate, acetate, and lactate). These fatty acids cause diarrhea. The gases cause abdominal distention and bloating.

Gastrointestinal Disorders – The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy

The diarrheal effect of soluble fiber is particularly harmful for children, because their smaller intestines need lesser amounts to provoke diarrhea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The Management of Acute Diarrhea in Children

…diarrhea remains one of the most common pediatric illnesses. Each year, children less than 5 years of age experience 20-35 million episodes of diarrhea, which result in 2-3.5 million doctor visits, greater than 200,000 hospitalizations, and 325-425 deaths.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – MMWR 1992;41(No. RR-16)

That’s from 1992, the latest statistic I could find. It must be much worse today because fiber is so much more prevalent. And if you analyze the most basic facts, you’ll understand immediately why this travesty is taking place. Consider this:

A single adult dose of Metamucil® —a popular fiber laxatives made from psyllium seed husks—contains 2 g of soluble fiber in 6 capsules. One apple, one orange, and one banana—not an unusual number of fruits a child may eat throughout the day—contain a total 4 g of soluble fiber, or an equivalent of 12 capsules of Metamucil for a much larger adult.

And that‘s on top of juices, cereals, yogurts, ice creams, candies, cakes, and all other processed food consumed on the same day, all loaded with fiber. No wonder that “diarrhea remains one of the most common pediatric illnesses” in the United States, and there is an acute shortage of pediatricians nationwide.

God bless our kids. With nutrition like this, they need a lot of blessings.

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Myth #12: Fiber has been consumed for generations.

Though it may seem as if fibermania has been around since the Earth was born, its mainstream acceptance as a health food is actually quite recent. According to Dr. James Whorton‘s book, Inner Hygiene: Constipation and the Pursuit of Health in Modern Society:

…the ‘dietary fiber hypothesis,‘ as it was initially known, was put forward in the 1970s, and much of it was accepted as a major addition to medicine and nutrition by the 1980s.

As the introduction to the Fiber Menace book explains, the original intent for adding fiber wasn‘t for anyone‘s good health, good stools, or longevity, but rather to curb sexuality and build ‘character.’ Then, in the early 20th century, fiber‘s supposed ‘health benefits’ were hijacked by the purveyors of grain cereals, such as Kellogg.

All other ‘cure-all’ benefits of fiber—cholesterol reducer, heart disease curative, diabetes antidote, cancer preventive—are recent ‘innovations’ ruthlessly promoted by the likes of Kellogg Company (All-Bran®, Raisin Bran®), General Mills (FiberOne®), and Procter & Gamble, the makers of Metamucil®.

Kellogg Company alone spends over $3.5 billion annually to promote its immensely profitable products, including high-fiber ones. Yet not long ago, fiber in cereals — a.k.a. miller‘s or wheat bran — was sold to feedlots as cattle feed for pennies in a pound. Now, in the best tradition of P.T. Barnum, this byproduct of industrial milling has become a curative ‘health food.’ Paraphrasing Scott Adams — never underestimate the power of greed.

With so much profit riding on cereals, laxatives, and fiber-enriched foods, they could declare fiber the President of the United States if they so desired. Procter & Gamble, for example, markets Metamucil® Fiber Capsules Plus Calcium to, among other things, “build strong bones.”

Here is an example of these properties promoted on Proctor & Gamble’s Metamucil® web site (screen capture modified to fit this page, highlights are mine; click the picture to open actual web page):

Metamucil-capsules

What is the grossest irony here (besides other blatant deceptions already deciphered above)?

The soluble fiber in Metamucil blocks the absorption of fats and fat-soluble minerals, required for assimilation of fat-soluble vitamin D and essential minerals, including calcium. So if you take this ‘snake oil’ to protect your bones, not only will you not get much calcium from it, you’ll also be suffering a precipitous loss of calcium from your bones by interfering with vitamin D absorption.

Ironic.

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Let’s Finish With This Video: What Is So Menacing About Fiber?

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Alright, it’s me, Ben Greenfield again.

Wow. So those are the top 12 myths about fiber.

If you find this information interesting or helpful, I’d highly recommend you read Mr. Monastyrsky’s book: “Fiber Menace: The Truth About the Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and Colon Cancer”.

Another very good resource for you if you feel as though you actually do have colorectal or bowel issues due to too much fiber consumption or other dietary mistakes over the past months or years of your life would be Mr. Monastyrsky’s Colorectal Recovery Program.

Do you have questions about any of these fiber myths? Leave them below, because I’m getting Mr. Monastyrsky on the podcast and I’ll ask him your questions.

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103 Responses to “Is Fiber Bad For You? The Top 12 Myths And The Real Truth About Whether Fiber Is Killing Your Insides.”

  1. Ruth Tummey says:

    Well,
    Not to sound silly, but now what do I eat? We live on fruits and veg around here. What about all of the good antioxidants?

    • There's actually not an ENORMOUS amount of fiber in fruits and vegetables vs. the people who are popping metamucil and psyllium seed thinking it will cause fat loss or fix constipation. I'm fine with equivalent of up to 2 pieces of fresh raw fruit per day along with 3-5 servings of veggies…

  2. J hurt says:

    Exactly – what diet is recommended tomfollow per the guidelines above?

    • Ruth, J,

      This work isn't about diet. You can anything you like for as long as your food choices omit added fiber. Fruits and vegetables (with few exceptions) are very low in fiber. The harm doesn't come from fiber in natural foods, but from fiber laxatives and fiber-fortified foods.

  3. Hi Ben,

    I think there are some images in this article, but I can't see any of them.

    I tried in both Chrome and Firefox, so I think it's not just me?

    Thanks,

    TLM

  4. Norman Rosenberg says:

    Hi Ben,not to be a stickler but I have just a couple of problems with the article and no I did not read it all the way through. It seemed a bit biased but I wanted to just mention a couple of points. The first being that eating the amount of fruits to get the suggested amount of fiber would be the equivalent of table sugar, is in my estimation of falsehood. Table sugar is refined sugar while fruits have an fructose & sucrose amongst other natural sugars. The second thing I would point out is that I am a G.I. nurse practitioner who deals daily with people who have Crohn's disease, Ulcerative Colitis. IBS & constipation and diarrhea. Scientific studies do back up the theory that bulking agents such as fiber can help with at the very least constipation. With adequate hydration this can soften and bulk up the stool and soften. I do not think it is the evil of all evils & it is a safe and effective way of providing healthy nutrients that aids the large intestine in moving stool throughout the colon. I can go into a great deal more detail on this subject, but for posting purposes, I wanted to be brief.

    • Norman, these are the type of questions I'm going to ask Konstantin when he comes on the podcast (very soon), so I will definitely be asking him this for you!

      • Norman says:

        Thanx, perhaps I'll come up with some other counterpoints as well, when is he coming on?

        Norm"all things in moderation"Rosenberg, lol…

        • February 7 – so you have plenty of time to formulate your question! Just leave it here in comments section and I'll ask to him.

          • ray says:

            Hi Ben, I just finished a college level bio class and as far as sugars, glucose blah blah, there is a difference in the molecular chains. Take high fructose corn syrup and regular table sugar, they are essentially the same on the surface, however, the molecular structures are different and cause the body to process them differently. The same relates to all the "sugars", they are processed differently by the body.

      • alan says:

        that should be an interesting interview. please be sure to push him on these points. any plans to interview dr lustig about his new book. he seems pretty interesting and is promoting high fiber- perhaps the real take away here is about fiber supplements?

        interesting stuff, as always.

    • Norman, it isn't a fiber that is an equivalent of table sugar, but digestible carbohydrates in foods that contain added fiber. Here is what the article says:

      "These ten small (not medium or large) fruits will provide you with 36.4 g of indigestible fiber and a whopping 143.6 g of digestible sugars, or an equivalent of that many (ten) tablespoons of plain table sugar!"

      From your body's point of view, all foods are "isocaloric," meaning once they get digested and assimilated, your body will see blood sugars (glucose, fructose, and galactose), not "table sugar," or "corn syrup," or "cereals."

      Fiber itself doesn't digest, and isn't a source of "blood sugars."

      As far as your inference to "scientific studies," please read the book, and review the site. You'll soon find out that real scientific studies (not the ones funded by grants from Big Pharma and peddlers of bran), recommend a complete opposite for inflammatory bowel diseases.

  5. William Andrus says:

    I eat a lot of seeds and nuts which have fiber, so it doesn't have to be all from fruit, veggies and pills. Wonder if this changes things a little?

  6. How popular are these myths? Maybe I'm a little ignorant but, until I read this article I had never heard most (10) of them.
    I'm a little puzzled by this article, especially after following some of the links and reading the primary sources but,
    I look forward to hearing what he to say on your podcast.

  7. Daniela says:

    Wow, Ben, once again your finger is on the pulse – and you’re ahead of everyone!

    Just today I was wondering how much truth there was to the whole thing about fiber, after having a (170g) jar of almond butter for lunch for the second day in a row – normally it would be something like green beans and meat/fish but I’m all out of those. Granted there is fiber in almonds but nowhere near as much as there is in my daily fruit and veg.

    I started to wonder because actually, by making this switch I less bloated and more energetic. Going to the bathroom is still not an issue!
    Plus lunchtime is more satisfying (well, it would be, with a jar of nut butter and a spoon!)
    Thanks for confirming my suspicions!

  8. @zaidmo says:

    Hi. Is their a limit to fibre intake (fruits and veggies)? … My dietician said I can have max 4 fruits per day (because of the sugar).

    • @mattfeato says:

      I'll ask the same. Since the USDA puts it that we "need" some 25-30g a day (which no one ever gets…lol), what would be considered in an "adequate" or reasonable range to take throughout the day (or for that matter, say at once?

      For example, Chia seed in just over a tablespoon has 10g of fiber.

      • This will be another question I will address to Konstantin in podcast so he can expound!

      • Matt,

        You don't need any fiber for a normal functioning of the body. The moment you need some (i.e. you no longer cam move bowels without fiber), it means you've developed "fiber addiction." Think about infants on formula or breast milk — no fiber there. Think about people who fast for 10-20 days, and enjoy daily bowel movement — no fiber there. Think about healthy people on Paleo diet — no fiber there. But once you start having one, that's when you run into problems, eventually…

    • I replied to a similar question above – because of the sugar issue, I'm personally not a fan of exceeding equivalent of 2 pieces of fresh raw fruit on a daily basis…

  9. OK what about soaked whole grains? Does he have a position there? There is lots of fiber there. It is however more absorbable. What about B vitamins sources? I understand moderation is important. How much moderation before fiber becomes unhealthy in your opinion. I would love your take on these questions too Ben?

    • There are a ton of details in this in the book Fiber Menace, and moderation is important. I personally NEVER count how many grams of fiber I get. But if I eat a bunch of vegetables, salad, KimChi, etc. in any given day and get gas, bloating, or a weird bowel the next day, then that's my lesson. But I don't count calories, I don't count fiber, and I don't count macronutrients like carbs, protein and fat. My approach is very qualitative. In other words, to a certain extent you "know" when you've had enough fiber. But I'll address your soaked whole grains question to him in the podcast.

    • M-C,

      Whole grains, soaked are not, are pretty bad for human digestion. That's why milling (removing bran from grains) revolutionized human nutrition. Soaking doesn't remove fiber. It is intended to remove phytic acid, an allergen and neurotoxin. B-group vitamins in bran are long gone (consumed by germ or oxidized) by the time you get to eat whole grains.

  10. Bill says:

    The same things that keep you alive will be the same things that kill you. Moderation seems to be the trick,…I guess?

  11. Tim says:

    Hey Ben, great article. I feel that if I was not steeped in nutrition, I might construe this as advice to avoid fruit and veges at all times. This may not be Konstantin's intent. Perhaps it would be helpful to provide a recap or preface that outlines some principles to stick to.

    On a another note, years ago when I thought my university nutrition and exercise science education provided me with the right tools, I took the high fibre approach to a tee. I ended up with diverticulitis. Lots of blood, swelling and pain that I can only imagine is what a bad period feels like. It left me with little ability to cope with even modest amounts of fibre. My guts are coming around now thanks to you, Jack Kruse, and Natasha Campbell. Personally I don't have huge amounts of fruit and if I have a piece, it is always in season!

    • This is one article. He's written an entire book where he actually provides solutions too! Very interesting on what happened to YOU with the high fiber intake. Scary actually…

    • Tim,

      That's unfortunate (about getting divericular disease), but so true. My book and site contain a pretty detailed section on diverticular disease, and it's fiber-related origins. A lots of recent research is unequivocal — fiber to diverticular disease is just like gas to bonfire. More on this here: http://goo.gl/aJcbX

    • Paula Venise says:

      I also was on a high fiber diet, I have IBS but was always able to manage it until now. I have had major bloating, pain, gas, diahrea and cannot tolerate even the smallest amounts of fiber soluble or insoluble. No coffee, no chocolate, the list goes on… Any suggestions on the kind of diet I should be maintaining would be helpful. How long did it take you to correct your problem. My dr. just told me take ammodium and wrote me a prescription for an anti-acid but I do not take medications and want to control this through my diet.

  12. ChadR says:

    Well, if I'm trying to adhere to as natural a diet as possible (devoid of man-made processed foods), what in the hell am I supposed to eat?

  13. Jason says:

    I have been using a tablespoon of Psyllium husk every night to help maintain regularity. It seems to be working great but a lot of the “myths” above have got me worried. Is there an easier (and from what I read above safer) way to help maintain regularity without eating all of the fruit and associated sugar?

  14. Chad,

    Natural diet is naturally low in fiber. Just keep eating what you've been eating. Here is what the opening paragraph of my book says:

    "If you consume minor quantities of fiber from natural, unprocessed food, there isn‘t anything wrong with it, because (a) small amounts of natural fiber (which is mostly soluble) will not obstruct your intestines or cause diarrhea, (b) most of it will get fermented in the large intestine, and (c) the remainder will not bulk up the volume of stool high enough to cause any damage from “roughage.”

  15. Mike S. says:

    Anytime I see someone railing against mainstream medical consensus it sends up red flags. Blogger Jon Blumenfeld took a close look at Monastyrsky's claims and found significant problems with his use of research study references. In fact, Monastyrsky himself commented in the blog but did not address Blumenfeld's examples of taking study quotes out of context. The blog can be found here:
    http://theness.com/roguesgallery/index.php/scienc

    Give it a read and decide for yourself.

    • I did not take a single quote out of the context. That single quote in question was written in legalese with intent to hedge a potential legal problem. I said that much in my comments, and stand behind my interpretation.

      Fiber Menace is based on mainstream academic research in its entirety. All of the statements and claims are footnoted and referenced. Indeed, "give it a read and decide for yourself."

      • Mike S. says:

        He cited several examples where you made it seem the studies were making a completely negative conclusion on the use of fiber when it wasn't the case. For example, you quoted the Harvard study as saying “Fiber intake has also been linked with the metabolic syndrome, a constellation of factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes.”

        Here is the full quote: "Fiber intake has also been linked with the metabolic syndrome, a constellation of factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes. These factors include high blood pressure, high insulin levels, excess weight (especially around the abdomen), high levels of triglycerides, the body’s main fat-carrying particle, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Several studies suggest that higher intake of cereal fiber and whole grains may somehow ward off this increasingly common syndrome."

        Someone reading your quote from the study and another person reading the whole paragraph would come away with very different conclusions.

  16. CT mom says:

    So, if there are already constipation issues in my family, (myself in part due to a prescription drug, but its always been a minor concern, and my 11 year old daughter – for some reason the men in my home have no issues) what can we change in our diet to help instead of fiber? More olive oil? More veggies? Fasting / liquid diet? If I'm going to toss my fiber one products and supplements I need to be sure something else is working instead – not that fiber has worked great anyhow, so I am open to new ideas. Thank you for this informative article I hope you can answer my question.

    • Ragsie says:

      Hi CT mom, you can try probiotic, fermented foods. They offer a lot of good beneficial bacterial and help with constipation.

      Water kefir, milk kefir, kombucha, home made sauerkraut, sourdough bread (eg made with whole rye flour). These foods are offer releave constipation. Search online to find more information on these foods.

  17. CT, diet per se has little or no affect on constipation, except when it contains a lot fiber — then, it gradually makes constipation worse. This page explains this paradox in greater details: http://goo.gl/LYSC7. It's kind of counter-intuitive, but once you study and analyze the facts presented there, you'll understand why, and what to do about it.

  18. Justin says:

    Last april I started experiencing excess gas, bloating, and pain. I started to find undigested food particles in my stools. About a year before this started happening I made drastic lifestyle changes. I minimized processed foods, and maximized whole grains, veggies and fruits. I kept track of my nutrition and noticed on any given day I was consuming well over 60 grams of fiber a day, all without fiber supplements. I tried adding digestive enzymes, probiotics, and even Betaine HCL to see if it would help any. Some days were good, and others REALLY bad. I got tired of feeling the way I did so I tried a whole foods plant based diet for a month. Cut out caffeine, sugar, gum anything that wasn't whole foods. I felt better during that month, but not at my maximum. I began to noticed certain foods would upset my symptoms further. Mainly higher fiber foods. Now, present day I still suffer from the same symptoms. I'm seeing a Gastrologist who has already run several test and procedures including Colonoscopy, fecal test, celiac, and several parasite/blood test. I'm thinking their going to come to the conclusion that I suffer from IBS. I refuse to be diagnosed with something like a IBS, which is just them saying they don't know whats wrong. I'm at my wits end, and I'm open for ideas. I'm not on board with the paleo thing, mainly because I don't think anyone should consume so many animal products. I'd like to find a steady "medium" with the right amount of everything. Thanks for posting this article. I will follow your work, and see where it takes me..

  19. Justin, thank you for sharing your personal experience about what fiber can do to otherwise perfectly healthy person. It confirms what my book and my site are saying — dietary fiber is a harmful substance. And if you'll start reading my book, you'll find a well-referenced explanation for every single symptom you've described in your comment. Start reading from here: http://goo.gl/uTQSb. Fortunately, it is all reversible. You may still have some residual autoimmune complications, but they will eventually abate as well.

  20. Keerthi says:

    Is there really any use of fibre at all? I mean to ask is really okay to just eat a healthy high fat diet with little to no fibre ? I’m no brain washed with ‘eat more fibre ‘ propaganda right from childhood that I find this article really very shocking and a bit hard to digest ;) – pun intended

    • Dietary fiber is indigestible substance. Dietary fiber contains no vitamins, minerals, or microelements. How can anything that doesn't digest and doesn't provide any nutrients can be healthy or essential for human consumption?

  21. Kem Johnson says:

    This is certainly a different opinion of fibre than that of Dr Robert Lustig's. Soluable fibre is how one feeds one's intestinal flora.

    The Myth #1 image was entirely fruit; a bit ingenuous, I thought.

  22. Kem,

    The ratio of carbohydrates to fiber in vegetable, seeds, and grains is pretty similar to fruits. But unlike fruits, many seeds and vegetables contain loads and loads of fat, and that "overload" creates a ton of problems for people who are concerned about their weight, carcinogenicity of trans (the byproduct of rancidation during storage and cooking) fats, and elevated triglycerides. Besides, it was an illustration to make a point (and pretty picture), not an academic review.

  23. Karen A. says:

    First of all, the USDA recommendation for fiber is 20-35 grams a day. Next fiber is much more complex than your author has spelled out. There are two basic types, soluble and insoluble, which do different things in the GI track and in the body. Soluble and insoluble fiber are further broken down into distinct types of fibers; gums, mucilage's,
    pectins, psyllium,hemicelluloses, cellulose, lignins, and resistant starch. The type in some fruit is insoluble but apples, pears and citrus have soluble fiber which becomes sticky and viscous when eaten. This type of fiber has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease by either decreasing the amount of fat that enters the blood stream and by regulating (slowing it down) the metabolism of carbohydrates. The other type of fiber insoluble acts as a bulking agent to make stool bulky and soft which aids in removing toxins from the GI track and preventing constipation along with adequate water intake. Isn't there a rule that personal trainers only give basic nutritional advice because it is not their expertise to give nutritional advice unless they are Registered dieticians or master degreed nutritionist. Just wondering??

    • Mike S. says:

      Karen, notice Ben isn't the one giving the advice. He's reporting the advice as given by Monastyrysky, who is not a Registered dietician or Master degreed nutritionist. His conclusions are as questionable as his field of expertise to make such conclusions. Check out this blog by Jon Blumenfeld for an interesting look at Monstyrsky's claims and the methods he uses to support them. http://theness.com/roguesgallery/index.php/scienc

      • Mike,

        Here is what that quote that somehow offended Mr. Blumenfeld says:

        "Fiber intake has also been linked with the metabolic syndrome, a constellation of factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes. These factors include high blood pressure, high insulin levels, excess weight (especially around the abdomen), high levels of triglycerides, the body’s main fat-carrying particle, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Several studies suggest that higher intake of cereal fiber and whole grains may somehow ward off this increasingly common syndrome." (http://goo.gl/D2voy)

        In what ways am I misinterpreting what it says?

    • Karen, have you heard of the First Amendment?

  24. Mike S. says:

    An author who defends his work by claiming First Amendment protection instead of providing a rigorous evidential basis is hard to take seriously. I am somewhat surprised that Ben would give a platform to claims that have such little support in the medical community. In fact, his Quick and Dirty Tips colleague Monica Reinagel (the Nutrition Diva) says the FDA recommendation for fiber is too low. Ms. Reinagel is a licensed, board certified nutritionist. I highly doubt she will ever have to claim First Amendment protection for her nutrition advice.

  25. Erik says:

    I am interested in Konstantin Monastyrsky's opinion on prebiotic fiber. My understanding is that beneficial bacteria in the digestive system thrive on substances such as inulin and trans-galactoogliosaccharide. Is this correct? If so, what is his recommended intake of prebiotic substances for a healthy individual with normal digestive function?

  26. Erik says:

    Hi! I would like to know Konstantin Monastyrsky's opinion on the tolerable upper limit for dietary fiber from natural food sources, for a healthy individual with normal digestive function. Thanks!

  27. Erik, it depends on individual. Some people can consume the gobs of fiber with impunity, others can't. This kind of diversity is predetermined by people's autoimmune reaction to certain foods that contain fiber and the composition of their intestinal flora. If you wish to establish your own upper tolerable limit, observe your gut reaction for the signs of bloating, flatulence, and pain. The moment you reach these symptoms, your limit has been reached. From that point on, plan your diet accordingly.

  28. Candice says:

    Hi Ben, This is really amazing info! Thank you! Could you ask Konstantin Monastyrsky for a recommended diet regime? I feel a little confused after reading all this because he mentions so many foods as "bad" and containing too much fiber, but does not list what is GOOD. So what should we eat? And in what proportions?
    thanks ! Candice (South Africa)

    • Candice,

      Thank you for thanking Ben, and I join you in this. My work steers a lot of controversy, and I am grateful to Ben for his openness to new ideas, and his unwavering commitment to the well-being of his readers and followers. What is a scandal today, will become mainstream in a few years, and this acceptance begins with thought-leaders and influencers of Ben's stature.

      In regard to being confused. Don’t be! Common foods are neither bad nor good. My wife drinks a cup of coffee and eats a small banana every morning for as long as we are married, and she is perfectly well with both. I, on the other hand, can't drink coffee because it kills my sleep and performance, while bananas disturb my gut. So to each its own — this is the core of Fiber Menace and its companion web site (http://goo.gl/dasjA)

      Both will teach you the key principal of human digestion from physiology point of view, and will allow you to match your preferred diet to your health, age, occupation, gender, genetics, and avocations ranging from being a lazy bum (me) to a superhuman (Ben). These principles are derived from my research into forensic nutrition that are explained on this page: http://goo.gl/JfjUr

      Unlike traditional nutrition, which investigates and promotes connections between food and health, forensic nutrition investigates connections between food and diseases. From that point on, you just remove foods that may cause disease, and enjoy YOUR diet, not some menu list concocted by a 58-year old Russian of Jewish origin living in Northern New Jersey with aversion to coffee, bananas, and God knows what else.

      One exception from the above is processed foods fortified with fiber – don’t eat them, period. These are your usual carbs-laden baked goods, pasta, morning cereals, fake ice creams, energy bars, and all other crap that is sold in supermarkets as “health foods.”

      That is pretty much it… You eat what you like to eat for as long as what you eat doesn’t harm you, and get rid of processed fiber. Ideally, what you eat is also good for you. But that’s a completely different story, and I plan to tackle it in a separate book in the future.

      Thank you for contributing into our discussion!

      • Candice says:

        WOW – that is an amazing response. Thank you so much. That has given me immense clarity.
        Thank you thank you thank you!
        and again Ben, thanks for your awesome website and ongoing brilliance in nutrition and health and fitness- you have changed my life! (: C

  29. Yannick says:

    don t eat fiber!, no fruit&vegetables BUT buy my supplement. i ve been a huge fan of yours to the point when you started telling people to stay from certain health foods and buy 12303020 supplements of yours.
    lets face it this way: neither you, neither i , neither any docter can tell the real truth about proper food. there s so much controversy, we know like a 10th of a billion maybe. from tme to time a crazy docter is trying to convince people of his ridiculous theory and thinks that he truly understands human physiology and debunks any other research. the reason i m writing this is because i suffered the past five years from irritible bowel syndrom and huge digestion problems. ever since i switched to a very high fiber diet i feel way better and my digestion is better and smoother. i can t explain it, but that s just the way it is.
    don t et any fiber and high fat and you ll have to take laxative just like my uncle.
    this fiber menace thing lacks in so much research. in about 200 years we ll hopefully more…

  30. Yannick,

    For starters, my book and recommendations have nothing to do with supplements. The supplements on my site are intended for people with severe digestive disorders, and you can buy similar supplements in any food store.

    Second, 95% of American medical doctors take daily supplements, and consider the remaining 5% crazy.

    Third, as my book describes, high fiber diet is like a bomb with a time fuse — it works for young and healthy people for a while, but only for a while.

    Fourth, you probably took a lot of antibiotics to treat your IBS over those traumatic five years, and these antibiotics wiped out your intestinal flora. That is why you are able to consume high fiber diet with impunity, and why it provides you with relief. All this explained in my book as well.

    Fifth, to say that Fiber Menace "lacks in so much research," you must first read it.

    Finally, just like you, I was taking care of my own IBS with high fiber diet for 11 years, and I ended up fat, diabetic, and broke (because I was so sick that I could no longer work.) If that's what you are after, let's revisit your experience in 10-15 years from now, not 200. I started on high-fiber path on my doctors advice in 1985, and ended up near dead in 1996. You can read more about it here: I Lived To Tell the Story I‘d Rather I Hadn‘t Learned http://goo.gl/W5u9L

  31. If you present the same question to a judge, she will reply: "Aidan, ignorance of the law is no excuse." And in this particular situation we are talking about "the laws of nature," not some stupid traffic ticket. So if you are having doubts, then read the darn book, read the reviews on Amazon, read my site, and make up your own mind if "these things for real," or not.

    Alternatively, you can wait for another five-ten years until The New York Times will proclaim that "A new research indicates that dietary fiber may be bad for you." But don't worry, an army of doctors will still be standing by to mend your constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, colon cancer, or what have you.

  32. Dave Johnson says:

    Many years ago I came across the book "Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management" by Bernard Jensen. It had all of these xray pictures of really messed up colons. Also photos of stuff they had taken out of people through colonics. Its a pretty interesting and compelling book that builds a case that someone whose diet is mainly processed food is not getting enough fiber. Since whole foods have fiber, I am not convinced that its totally bad and should be avoided as this article appears to indicate. I myself have a couple of heaping tablespoons of flaxseed meal every day, and my digestive system is just happier and works better. Dr. Denis Burkett has said that wherever you go throughout the world – if there are "small stools" there are "large hospitals" and where there are "large stools" then there are "small hospitals" I still believe in general terms that America is a constipated nation thats deficient in fiber!

  33. Denis,

    The premise of your comments is that dietary fiber in one's diet prevents disease. The premise of Fiber Menace is that fiber-fortified processed foods and fiber laxatives cause disease and death.

    You site a work of a long-dead doctor and another equally obscure title that was written to promote colonics. Fiber Menace sites hundreds of studies published in the likes of The Lancet, JAMA, and The New England Journal of Medicine. IT DOES NOT EXPRESS MY PERSONAL OPINIONS, AND IT ISN'T BASED ON MY DIET OR MY BATHROOM EXPERIENCE.

    Dr. Burkett's research on fiber was conducted in poor African countries. It was strictly observational, and based on the fact that poor African children could produce bowel movement on demand. So he concluded that this unique ability was based on the fact they had a high-fiber diet. The sad truth is, most of of those kids were dead from various diseases long before reaching 50 years of age. So, please, kindly go back up this page, and reread Myth #10 to learn about the outcomes of high-fiber diet among poor Africans.

    Regarding flax seeds and oatmeal, another British favorite. When I was growing up, oats were used to feed horses, and flax seed oil — to lubricate sawing machines. Now this livestock feed and industrial lubricant are premium foods. Go figure…

  34. Mer says:

    Ugh, this is really going to get the paleos going. Humans are meant to die if they're bodies aren't strong enough. dietetic research all seems to clash. eat whatever makes you feel energized i guess. twinkies, beans, and neurotoxin coated veggies might all give you cancer…

  35. vegpedlr says:

    Unimpressed.
    I don't feel menaced at all by whole, unprocessed plant foods containing fiber. I do feel menaced by processed foods, whether they have added fiber or not. I'll listen in anyway to see if the questions get answered.

  36. Scott says:

    I eat tons and tons of leafy vegetables… collard greens, kale, and spinach. Tossed in hot coconut oil. Some cabbage and broccoli here and there. Seems like lots of fiber. Am I going to die an early death?

    • You may, you may not. The subject of my book isn't "early death," but the quality of life. If you consider having hemorrhoidal diease by 50, diverticular disease by 60, colorectal cancer by 70 as "normal," than this book isn't for you.

      And on the question of eating "tons and tons of leafy vegetables…" — human digestive organs were not designed by nature (or God, if you prefer) to consume "leafy vegetables." Our very first digestive organ — the stomach — is desgined for exclusive digestion of proteins, and it ain't what "leafy vegetables" contain in abundance, if at all.

    • rose says:

      god if that's not good for you then lord help us all. maybe we should all eat twinkles and bon bons

  37. Reka says:

    I don’t get why butyrate getting formed in the guts gets bashed as a bad thing. As far as I know it is healthy.
    Look at this for example:
    http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.hu/2009/12/butyric-acid-ancient-controller-of.html

  38. michael says:

    I like possible paradigm shifting ideas, so I’m excited to tune into the podcast to get further info (before possibly buying the book). That said, with the amount of studies (both for & against) any single topic these days, they have about the same effect as a celebrity endorsing something does. The real proof comes when you try this yourself, as that’s the only tangible evidence available to any given person. For anybody who claims that high fiber has fixed their problems, what your body has really done is adapt to the new circumstances. There’s many different ways one can fix a body problem, (remember our bodies inner workings are a symphony of intelligent design.) Taking fiber to fix something is patching up the problem (not healing it), so you’re stuck always having to take high fiber to regulate the issue. It may be plausible that once the body is back to running efficiently, the cons outweigh the pros with regards to fiber. Looking forward to hearing more about this in the future.

    In the meantime I will read over the gutsense website to see if there are any questions I have for the podcast.

    Thanks a million.

    • Michael,

      You are correct. Fiber is a fix for disbacteriosis (dysbiosis) related to the abuse of antibiotics and exposure to heavy metals from the environment and amalgam fillings. It works for 10-20 years pretty well because it fills the colon with water-retaining bulk. But, eventually, this bulk (and resulting large stools) lead to anal canal damage (from enlarged hemorrhoids), then straining, then external hemorrhoids, then diverticular disease, and the rest depends on one's luck.

  39. Myth #2 is a gross exaggeration, not a blatant deception. Granted, there is a huge political and economic agenda behind the message, especially as it is presented here in a straw-man form. Consuming 100 grams of table sugar takes a few minutes. Consuming 100 grams of fruit sugar in whole fruit takes dedication. Just think of how long it would take you to chug a glass of orange juice versus peeling and eating 5-6 oranges. Plus, I question your blanket statement that longer-term lower insulin is worse than short-term higher insulin. This is not consistent with my understanding of the neuroendocrine mechanisms of energy regulation, although it does make sense regarding regulation of body fat accumulation from excessive carb loading.

    • Konstantin M says:

      Steven,

      Please kindly point me out to the statement in Myth #2 that says "… longer-term lower insulin is worse than short-term higher insulin," I am not sure I understand what you mean. Are you addressing me?

      Konstantin Monastyrskky

  40. Myth #5, if stated that colon cancer is decreased by the presence of fiber in the colon, is almost true. Fiber is a source of butyrate, which can be an important fuel for the colonocytes.

    But I would suggest that this would be better presented as Myth #13, that the butyrate-effect from fiber is from fiber. It is not. It is from certain species of fiber-digesting microbes, which if absent, eliminate the butyrate supply to the colonocytes. With recent advent of microbiome testing, we should see within ten years the devastating effect of antibiotic use on butyrate-generating microbes. But more importantly to your readers is the observation that a high fat diet, high MCT fat diet (coconut oil) and low-carb diet feeds butyrate analogs (beta-ketobutyrate and beta-hydroxybutyrate) to the colonocytes from the blood supply (from ketosis), this bypasses the need for fiber as an "external" butyrate source. So (laugh with me here), the public-health advice should be to promote fecal transplants along with fiber for colonocyte health and lower colon cancer risk.

    • I am with you on fecal transplants. In fact, I was the first person in the USA to highlight the original Australian research back in 2007 on my site. It is widely read by GI physicians because patients "harass" them with my book and information on my site.

  41. Konstantin M says:

    Ben asked me to respond to Mr. Bob Cedar, who is having serious concerns about the validity and legitimacy of my work, and asked Ben the following questions:

    BC. This is Bob Cedar I read your information on your website about the Fiber Menace. I just want to let you know that I think it is really misleading because It makes it sound like all fiber is not really a worthwhile thing, which in my experiences that of the contrary to what what I've experienced.

    KM. Bob, your impression is not correct. My book opens with the following paragraph:

    “If you consume minor quantities of fiber from natural, unprocessed food, there isn‘t anything wrong with it, because (a) small amounts of natural fiber (which is mostly soluble) will not obstruct your intestines or cause diarrhea, (b) most of it will get fermented in the large intestine, and (c) the remainder will not bulk up the volume of stool high enough to cause any damage from “roughage.” http://goo.gl/lXKcC

    BC. I suffer from Irritable bowel syndrome, in addition constipation, and I take psyllium husk power. As a fiber supplement and it just works wonders. It has for many years. After I quit taking it, the symptoms of hemorrhoids, constipation and IBS reappear.

    KM. There is not denying that fiber supplements work, and work well for 10-20 years. But just like any palliative, they cause dependence, as is clear from your e-mail, and they mask the underlining problem – acute disbacteriosis. This is a pretty harmful condition, it isn’t fixed by fiber, and if left untreated, it causes a broad range of immune, blood, and neurological disorders. Unfortunately, advocating fiber instead of addressing the underlining condition, is, in my book, a “crime against humanity.”

    BC: So I understand what the author. Here is trying to get at in terms of vegetables source for fiber. That has not work for me. However, that the selling the house capped work for me.

    KM. My book is addressed to people with severe digestive disorders related to overconsumption of fiber. It is not addressed specifically to you, unless you want to prevent these disorders from affecting you years down the road.

    BC. And also I would encourage you to take a look at. Dr. Parks article, that he's a National Cancer Institute research worker. And he did a study with the national Cancer Institute, in conjunction with AARP In 2011. His name is. Dr. Park, and they found that fiber did have a link estate anti cancer supplements, and some other benefits.

    KM: My book has an entire chapter dedicate to chapter/cancer connection. It lists a range of mainstream studies that point out to a complete opposite. Please consider this quote from the Harvard School of Medicine’s website:

    “For years, Americans have been told to consume a high-fiber diet to lower the risk of colon cancer—mainly on the basis of results from relatively small studies. Larger and better-designed studies have largely failed to show a link between fiber and colon cancer. One of these—a Harvard study that followed over 80,000 female nurses for 16 years—found that dietary fiber was not strongly associated with a reduced risk for either colon cancer or polyps (a precursor to colon cancer). (1) More recently, researchers combined the results of the Harvard study with those of several other large studies that followed more than 700,000 men and women, some for up to 20 years. (2) After accounting for differences in participants’ red meat and alcohol intake, as well as other factors that could increase colon cancer risk, high intake of fiber was not found to protect against colorectal cancer. (Read more about the scientific research on fiber and colon cancer.)” (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fiber-full-story/#colon)

    So, as you can see, I am not alone in my conclusions, and my book was written several years before this article.

    BC: So I don't think this author's is on base. I think there's a lot of general inflation, and I know that a lot of stuff to have to be gets to get through on the wall on your website. And I would encourage you to just keep it from being misleading because this is absolutely 180 degrees from what I see in terms of research evidence and my personal experience. Thank you

    KM: I hope you’ll study my book in its entirety, and reconsider your opinion.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Konstantin Monastyrsky

  42. TrainerJeff says:

    I do want to comment on this post, and please know that I'm an ACSM certified personal trainer, and not a registered dietician. If you consider that the USDA has, for decades, told us how to eat in their many "My Pyramid" and "My Plate" campaigns, and you then access their own data base that shows the constant rise in metabolic syndromes, like diabetes, you must ask "why?" This link to the USDA Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2010 PDF offers proof that things are not right: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/dietaryguid… at tables 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, and 2.4 for starters. Table 2.4 in particular shows the macronutrient recommendations of up to 65% of calories from carbohydrates. It doesn't matter what kind of carbohydrates you consume, they all elevate your blood sugar to some degree which, if done daily for years is a trip aboard the "diabetes express

  43. Konstantin M says:

    Jeff,

    You are absolutely correct. If high carbs/high fiber diet was so good for health (digestive and otherwise), we would have become a healthiest country on earth. But the stats are telling a completely different story. We are dead last in terms of health among the developed countries, and the first in medical expenses.

  44. I have a sandwich made of wholewheat bread for breakfast and for dinner. And two pieces of bread have about 20% of the recommended fiber intake. I mean, only with bread, I get 40%, not taking into account flax, oatmeal, veggies and fruits I eat on a daily basis. I've already read above that fruits and veggies don't matter that much when it comes to fiber intake, but what about oatmeal, flax, wholewheat bread and brown rice? I just can't see how eating carbs made of white flour can be a better choice.

  45. Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own
    a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam
    comments? If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you
    can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any help is very much appreciated.

  46. Rose says:

    Hi Ben,

    I usually get a lot out of the experts you interview, but this one goes a bit far. I can't imagine that fiber in moderation is bad for you. I the author of this article is quite constipated and needs a good dose of fiber to rid himself of this crap. Sorry, but had to take advantage of a good pun!

  47. Rose,

    My article addresses a number of misconceptions about the alleged benefits of dietary fiber. I don't debunk any of them with my own research or opinion, but by quoting some of the most prominent medical authorities. In other words, I simply report the facts. If hearing about these facts makes you uncomfortable, please don't wish ill to the messenger.

  48. [...] supplement. I tend to side with Dr. Konstantin Monastyrsky when it comes to high fiber (he wrote this article on BenGreenfieldFitness about why too much fiber is bad), and I feel the long term health effects may outweigh the short term pooping benefits. But Troy [...]

  49. I savor, result in I found just what I used to be taking a look for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  50. [...] A couple months ago, I published an extremely controversial guest article: “Is Fiber Bad For You? The Top 12 Myths And The Real Truth About Whether Fiber Is Killing Your Inside…“ [...]

  51. Geoff says:

    Great post Ben

    From personal experience fibre definetely dries up your insides without adequate fat eg. Flaxmeal .
    Steer clear of most grains and eat ample vegies
    Steve Phinney or the GAPS diet founder would agree with this thread.

  52. zeeshanparvez says:

    "Myth #11: Fiber is safe and effective for the treatment and prevention of diarrhea"

    Maybe a myth for the write but definitely not a myth for me. Increasing protein in my diet caused diarrhea. Someone at bodybuilding.com recommended increasing fiber.

    I did just that and guess what?

    This "myth" turned into reality. I do not have diarrhea anymore.

    • You could possibly have been allergic to your protein source too!

      • zeeshanparvez says:

        Well, that could be but it happened when I increased my protein by eating more chicken. Then I tried eating more eggs, instead, and it still caused diarrhea.

        Anyway, I honestly believe, as I often mention on my blog, that there are things that apply to masses in the nutrition and fitness world, but at the individual level, since we are different, a person might actually benefit from somethings others do not.

        I guess for the masses it may not cure diarrhea. But for me it seems to have worked for now. I never had this problem of diarrhea when I ate tons of protein in High Schoo,l but now that I am in my 30s, I seem to get it whenever my protein increases.

        I was going to try proteolytic enzymes, but since the fiber seems to have helped, I think I will stick to it. I used Ispaghol, which I believe is equivalent to Bens FIber. In my country, you could think of Ispaghol as the poor man alternative! lol.

        By the way, nice blog. I remember reading several articles on this very same site a few weeks back – I cannot remember which ones – but they were very helpful.

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