Skip to content
Font Size

The Facts About Fiber

By Renee Bacher
WebMD Feature

Chances are, you could use more fiber in your diet. It can help keep your digestive system on track.

“Fiber actually works as a bowel regulator and can be effective for both constipation and diarrhea,” says gastroenterologist David Goldstein, MD, of Old Hook Medical Associates in Emerson, N.J.

Recommended Related to Digestive Disorders

Enlarged Spleen: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

What is the spleen and what causes an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)? The spleen sits under your rib cage in the upper left part of your abdomen toward your back. It is an organ that is part of the lymph system and works as a drainage network that defends your body against infection. White blood cells produced in the spleen engulf bacteria, dead tissue, and foreign matter, removing them from the blood as blood passes through it. The spleen also maintains healthy red and white blood cells and platelets;...

Read the Enlarged Spleen: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments article > >


When you're constipated, your body makes stool that is dry and hard. Straining to have a bowel movement is uncomfortable and can put pressure on your body. That can lead to hemorrhoids, hernias, and even varicose veins.

Fiber helps pull water from the colon, making the stool softer and easier to pass. So if you're often constipated, eat a fiber-rich diet.


The other extreme is diarrhea, which happens when there is too much water in the colon. Again, fiber can help get your system back in order.

“Soluble fiber can actually absorb excess fluid in the bowel and thus act to firm up a loose stool. Think of it as a sponge effect,” Goldstein says.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

The average American eats 15 grams of fiber per day, but they should get much more than that, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says. The academy recommends 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Add more fiber to your diet slowly to avoid cramps and bloating; do it over a 2-3 week period and drink plenty of water. “Start by adding 7 grams of fiber to your daily diet and increase it each week until you are at the goal of 25-38 grams of fiber daily,” says Megan Davis, RD, LD. She's a dietician at the University of Alabama’s EatRight program in Birmingham.

To reach her daily target, a woman could eat:

  • A cup of oatmeal (4g) and a pear (4g) for breakfast
  • A large apple for a snack (4.5g)
  • A salad made with 3 cups of romaine lettuce (3g), ¼ cup of chopped celery (2g), and a small tomato (1.4g) with lunch
  • Half a cup of cooked spinach (7g) as a side dish with dinner

A man could reach that target by adding three dried figs (10.5g) and a medium-sized baked yam (6.8g) to his dinner.

Today on WebMD

man holding his stomach
Get the facts on common problems.
blueberries in a palm
Best and worst foods.
woman shopping
Learn what foods to avoid.
fresh and dried plums
Will it help constipation?
top foods for probiotics
couple eating at cafe
sick child
Woman blowing bubble gum

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with crohns in pain
Woman with stomach pain
diet for diverticulitis
what causes diarrhea