Fiber is a Gastroparesis patient’s worst enemy. Without enough fiber, constipation can wreak havoc on your body and cause a multitude of conditions and diseases. On the other hand, too much fiber is a GP’ers worst nightmare and can cause mild to severe abdominal pain, and bezoars which are essentially food masses that your body can’t break down that are known to be life threatening. There is a fine balance in not getting enough fiber and getting too much fiber and unfortunately, every individual’s body works differently.
So what is fiber exactly and what does it do for our bodies? Fiber is essentially a complex carbohydrate (also known as a carb) that makes the glucose that helps give you and your body the energy it needs to function by keeping your organs up and running and giving you the fuel you need to do daily activities. Fiber comes from the parts of fruits, vegetables, and other plants that are difficult for your body to process. The healthiest kind of carb that you can give your body is the ones found in the fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber. Foods that are high in sugar and low in fiber add calories and carbs but they are often empty ones that are lacking in nutritional value.
There are two different types of fiber, Water-soluble fiber and Insoluble fiber. Water-soluble fiber is the kind of fiber found in beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables and dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber is the kind of fiber which can’t dissolve in water (making it tough to digest). Insoluble fiber can be found in vegetables and many types of bran that are often used in breakfast cereals. As stated by MyFoodDiary.com, “Since fiber is not digested in the body, it simply follows along the digestive tract binding to water, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. By binding to cholesterol-making compounds as they move through the body, fiber causes less overall blood cholesterol
, which may improve heart health. As fiber binds to other carbohydrates, it slows down the absorption of these carbohydrates. This helps prevent unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels and may decrease a person’s risk for diabetes.”
Not getting enough fiber can increase your risks of heart disease, intestinal diseases like diverticulitis, kidney diseases, diabetes, dehydration, hemorrhoids, constipation, fissures, fistulas, and even cancer. On the other hand, those with Gastroparesis are restricted to a low fat, low fiber diet due to the digestive tract being paralyzed. When fiber enters the body as being the part of food that is difficult to break down and enters a GI system that is paralyzed, it will sit in the stomach or intestines unable to move through the GI tract. As you continue to eat, food will begin to collect and basically clog up and gunk-up your stomach causing severe abdominal pain, and food masses that often end in needing surgery to remove them.
It’s important for those with Gastroparesis to get small amounts of fiber if possible. The average (without Gastroparesis) adult woman (biased on a 2000 calorie diet) should get about 25 grams of fiber per day, and average man (biased on a 2000 calorie diet) should get 38 grams of fiber per day (See http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/fiber-how-much-do-you-need
). Those of us who have Gastroparesis need to focus on eating foods that are low in fiber but are still considered high fiber foods. Rather than eating fiber in its highest form (raw fruits and vegetables) it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables that are well-cooked so that way the amount of fiber is less and is more easily digested but the amount of nutrients is still high. It’s important for those with Gastroparesis to keep track of how much fiber they intake per “meal” and come up with a plan with their doctor to avoid eating over a specific amount of grams.
Always remember to check the back of the box or refer to looking up specific foods and brands of food on Google to double check (or triple check) on the amount of fiber content in the food that you’re about to ingest BEFORE ingesting it. Keeping track of your fiber can reduce symptoms of Gastroparesis dramatically and save you an unwanted trip to the emergency room. You never know just how much fiber you may find in a food product until you look it up, it might just surprise you!
10 Surprisingly high fiber foods to watch out for:
1. Popcorn: 1 cup of microwaved popcorn contains approximately 1.2 grams of fiber.
2. Bananas: 1 ripe average sized Banana contains approximately 3.0 grams of fiber.
3. Avocado: Half of an avocado contains approximately 6 grams of fiber.
4. Artichoke hearts: Well-cooked Artichoke heart contains approximately 7 grams of fiber.
5. Oranges: 1 cup of oranges contains approximately 4.4 grams of fiber (unless juiced and even less fiber without pulp).
6. Applesauce: 1 cup of sweetened applesauce contains approximately 3 grams of fiber and can aid in constipation which for some, can contribute to Gastroparesis symptoms.
7. Instant Oatmeal: 1 cup of instant oatmeal contains approximately 4 grams of fiber.
8. Split peas: 1 cup of well-cooked split peas contains approximately 16.3 grams of fiber.
9. Carrot: 1 (raw) average size carrot contains approximately 1.7 grams of fiber (when juicing large amounts of carrots, it’s important to get a juicer that takes the pulp out of the juice).
10. Sweet corn: 1 cup of cooked sweet corn contains approximately 4 grams of fiber.