There is a strong relationship between fiber and the production of gas in the human body. While fiber cannot be completely digested, it can be partially digested by bacteria in the colon. The gas is a by-product of the bacteria’s digestion of the fiber. How much gas is produced depends on the amount and type of fiber consumed.
The balance of fiber and gas production depends on the type of fiber consumed. Soluble fibers ferment more than less digestible insoluble fibers, thus producing more gas. Eating a variety of foods with high fiber content of either type can help to lessen the impact of this imbalance. Insoluble fiber can be found in legumes, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and the skins of fruit. Good foods with soluble fiber include oat bran, apples, oranges, lentils, and broccoli.
Eating food slowly and chewing thoroughly reduces the production of gas, as the bacteria in the colon will have less matter to break down. It can also be helpful to balance high-fiber foods evenly among meals and snacks, rather than eating a large amount in one meal. In addition, adequate consumption of water can speed the progress of food through the digestive system, thus reducing amount of time it spends with bacteria in the colon.
The specific chemical reaction that occurs between fiber and gas depends upon the individual. Each body reacts differently to the various types of food, including both kinds of fiber. It may be necessary to experiment with foods one at a time in order to find the correct balance.
Though there is a strong connection between fiber and gas, it is important for overall health to consume sufficient amounts of this plant-based material. When adding fiber to a diet, it is advisable to increase intake slowly. This can decrease bloating and gas.
Bloating is closely related to the connection between fiber and gas. Some high-fiber foods may not create gas, but do affect the way it moves through the body. High-fiber dietary supplements such as psyllium and methyl cellulose should be used in moderation, as they can prevent gas from leaving the body quickly, thus resulting in bloating.
Gas can also be the result of consuming too much fiber. Some signs of excessive fiber intake include pain in the abdomen and uncomfortably large and frequent bowl movements. Too little fiber can lead to hard, infrequent bowl movements and constipation. It can also cause a sluggish feeling.