FYI Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber

FYI Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber

Posted in the Diverticulitis Forum


Princeton, NJ

#1 Apr 21, 2008
Hi All, I needed to find some more soluble fiber foods this week and came across this site. It is for IBS but it good diet info for people who need to identify soluble fiber (easier to digest) after a diverticulitis attack. Here's what it said..........
Hmmm....You've heard of fiber, you're pretty sure you know what it is, and you've probably had it recommended to you as beneficial for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. But soluble fiber? Is this something special? Yes, it is.
Soluble fiber is the single greatest dietary aid for preventing Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms in the first place, as well as relieving them once they occur. Here's the kicker. Soluble fiber is NOT typically found in foods most people think of as "fiber," such as bran or raw leafy green vegetables. Soluble fiber is actually found in foods commonly thought of as "starches", though soluble fiber itself differs from starch as the chemical bonds that join its individual sugar units cannot be digested by enzymes in the human GI tract. In other words, soluble fiber has no calories because it passes through the body intact.
As a general rule, the grain and cereal foods at the top of this list make the safest, easiest, and most versatile soluble fiber foundations for your meals and snacks.[1]
Rice, Pasta and noodles, Oatmeal, Barley, Fresh white breads such as French or sourdough (NOT whole wheat or whole grain)*, Rice cereals, Flour tortillas, Soy, Quinoa, Corn meal, Potatoes, Carrots Yams, Sweet potatoes, Turnips, Rutabagas, Parsnips, Beets, Squash and pumpkins, Mushrooms, Chestnuts, Avocados (though they do have some fat), Bananas, Applesauce, Mangoes, Papayas (also digestive aids that relieve gas and indigestion)*Please choose a baked-daily, high quality, preservative-free brand. White bread does not mean Wonder.

Princeton, NJ

#2 Apr 21, 2008
Continued from last string....

Why is soluble fiber so special? Because unlike any other food category, it soothes and regulates the digestive tract, stabilizes the intestinal contractions resulting from the gastrocolic reflex, and normalizes bowel function from either extreme.

That's right – soluble fiber prevents and relieves BOTH diarrhea and constipation. Nothing else in the world will do this for you.
How is this possible? The "soluble" in soluble fiber means that it dissolves in water (though it is not digested). This allows it to absorb excess liquid in the colon, preventing diarrhea by forming a thick gel and adding a great deal of bulk as it passes intact through the gut. This gel (as opposed to a watery liquid) also keeps the GI muscles stretched gently around a full colon, giving those muscles something to easily "grip" during peristaltic contractions, thus preventing the rapid transit time and explosive bowel movements of diarrhea as well.
By the same token, the full gel-filled colon (as opposed to a colon tightly clenched around dry, hard, impacted stools) provides the same "grip" during the muscle waves of constipation sufferers, allowing for an easier and faster transit time, and the passage of the thick wet gel also effectively relieves constipation by softening and pushing through impacted fecal matter. If you can mentally picture your colon as a tube that is squeezing through matter via regular waves of contractions, it's easy to see how a colon filled with soluble fiber gel is beneficial for both sides of the IBS coin.

As a glorious bonus here, normalizing the contractions of the colon (from too fast or too slow speeds) prevents the violent and irregular spasms that result in the lower abdominal cramping pain that cripples so many IBS patients. This single action alone is the reason I don't eat anything on an empty stomach but soluble fiber. Ever. The only foods I want to trigger my gastrocolic reflex are soluble fiber, as that's the only way I can keep those contractions (and thus my life) normal. I routinely snack on small quantities of soluble fiber foods all day long, every single day. If I don't have a chance to eat or I'm not that hungry, I'll take a soluble fiber supplement.

Princeton, NJ

#3 Apr 21, 2008
Re: Insoluble fiber.....

Insoluble Fiber ~ Good or Bad for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Both! Here's the type of fiber everyone is familiar with – insoluble fiber is in bran, whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables (note the exceptions under Soluble Fiber), greens, sprouts, legumes, seeds, and nuts. In short, the healthiest foods in the world are high in insoluble fiber, and what everyone should be eating as much of as possible. Right? Well, right, except for one small problem.

Insoluble fiber, like fat, is a very powerful GI tract stimulant, and for those of us with Irritable Bowel Syndrome this can spell big trouble. Unlike fat, however, you cannot simply minimize your insoluble fiber intake, as this will leave you with a seriously unhealthy diet. It's a Catch-22, but the insoluble fiber conflict can be solved fairly easily.

One glance will tell you these insoluble fiber foods are the best (and tastiest) around, but your colon simply can't handle it if you eat them with abandon. You absolutely must eat insoluble fiber foods, and as much as safely possible, but within the IBS dietary guidelines. Treat insoluble fiber foods with suitable caution, and you'll be able to enjoy a wide variety of them, in very healthy quantities, without problem.

In general, if a plant food (no animal products contain fiber) seems rough, stringy, has a tough skin, hull, peel, pod, or seeds, be careful, as it's likely very high in insoluble fiber. This is not a comprehensive list of insoluble fiber foods by any means but it should give you the general idea.

Whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread, whole wheat cereal
Wheat bran
Whole grains, whole grain breads, whole grain cereals
Beans and lentils (mashed or pureed they're much safer)
Berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc.)
Grapes and raisins
Peaches, nectarines, apricots, and pears with skins (peeled they're much safer)
Apples (peeled they're safe)
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes
Dates and prunes
Greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, mesclun, collards, arugala, watercress, etc.)
Whole peas, snow peas, snap peas, pea pods
Green beans
Kernel corn
Bell peppers (roasted and peeled they're safer)
Eggplant (peeled and seeded it's much safer)
Onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic
Cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts
Tomatoes (peeled and seeded, especially raw, they're much safer)
Cucumbers (again, peel and seed them and they're much safer)
Sprouts (alfalfa, sunflower, radish, etc.)
Fresh herbs

Never eat insoluble fiber alone or on an empty stomach. Always eat it with a larger quantity of soluble fiber, and you will keep your gastrocolic reflex stable.

Princeton, NJ

#4 Apr 21, 2008
Insoluble fiber continued....

What does this mean in practical terms? Cook some diced vegetables into a low-fat sauce for pasta, stir-fry veggies into a fried rice, or blend fresh fruit into a smoothie to drink after a breakfast bowl of oatmeal. For fruits, vegetables, and legumes in general, peeling, chopping, cooking, and pureeing them will significantly minimize the impact of their insoluble fiber.

Make soups, drinks, sauces, breads, and dips from your veggies and fruits instead of eating them whole and raw. For beans and lentils, cook and blend them into sauces, dips, soups, or spreads - their insoluble fiber is found in their outer skins and their insides are actually rich in soluble fiber. For nuts, finely grind and incorporate them into breads or cakes with white flour, which gives a safe soluble fiber base. For bran and other whole grains, eat them in small quantities following soluble fiber foods – have a little whole wheat dinner roll after a big sourdough one, or mix a small amount of fat-free granola into a large bowl of cream of rice or Corn Chex cereal. For raw fruit and green salads, eat them at the end of a soluble fiber meal instead of at the beginning. For all insoluble fiber foods, start with small quantities and gradually increase your intake.

Some fruits and vegetables are particularly troublesome for IBS:

Sulfur-containing foods (garlic, onions, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts), in addition to their high amounts of insoluble fiber, also produce significant gas in the GI tract and this can trigger attacks. As with all other fruits and veggies, however, these are extremely nutritious foods with significant health benefits, so they need to be treated with caution but definitely not eliminated from your diet.

Acidic foods (citrus fruits, vinegars, and cooked tomatoes) should be treated with extra care as well, as their acidity can cause both upper and lower GI distress. Once again, follow the rules for insoluble fiber and eat these foods in smaller quantities incorporated with soluble fiber – but please do eat them.

Fructose, a fruit sugar, can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea (this is typically not true for sucrose, or plain table sugar). Honey contains fairly high amounts of fructose. Fruit juices, particularly apple and grape juice, are often sky high in fructose and even more problematic than whole fresh fruit. It's simply much easier and faster to drink a large glass of juice (and ingest a great deal of fructose) than to eat an equivalent amount of whole fruit. So treat juices as you would insoluble fiber and drink them carefully, with soluble fiber foods.

Still confused about the two different kinds of fiber? Don't worry, most folks are at first. Click here for the IBS Diet FAQ, and you'll likely find the answers to your questions.

While understanding the difference betweeen soluble and insoluble fiber is critical, there's another crucial component to eating safely for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Click here to learn about trigger foods - and why they're best eliminated from your diet altogether.

Princeton, NJ

#5 Apr 21, 2008
Just a little disclaimer. THIS IS NOT A DIET FOR PEOPLE RIGHT AFTER AN ATTACK. It was just really helpful for me to understand the diff. between the two types of fiber. For me, I had to start months later incorporating fiber and I started with more soluble fiber. To this day, I still have a hard time with insoluble fiber, esp. lettuce and stringy veggies!

Albuquerque, NM

#6 Apr 29, 2011
Is IBS the same thing as diverticulitis?

Manchester Township, NJ

#7 Apr 30, 2011
No irritable bowel syndrome is not an infection and will not kill you. Just makes you miserable.

Stoke-on-trent, UK

#8 May 1, 2011
All the above is what I've been saying all along -oatbran is mainly soluble fibre' which is why I eat lots of it.

Albuquerque, NM

#9 May 1, 2011
will kill me??! i just recovered from a diverticulitis attack. what do you mean will kill me?

Santa Cruz, CA

#10 Mar 2, 2013
Well, I nearly died from a sudden diverticulitis attack in October of 2011. It began with pain in the familiar lower left quadrant of the abdomen, but within an hour I was crying out. I postponed going to the hospital, b/c a friend gave me an acutron treatment and the painsubsided for 10 hours of so. My abdomen became very swollen and extremely tender to the touch. I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. The pain got so extreme that I began thinking about pain killers like morphine.

That's when I went to the ER. After a CT scan which revealed that my colon had ruptured, I was wheeled into emergency surgery. I was told that if I didn't get the surgery I'd be dead within a couple of hours b/c the infection which caused the rupture infiltrated the abdominal cavity. It's called peritonitis, which quickly lead to sepsis, which means the toxic infection has entered the blood stream. I was told that I'm lucky to be alive. I had to have a colostomy bag, which I was told would be reversible.

I had that surgery performed five months later, and had severe complications, which nearly killed me again. I do not have a colostomy now, but it is taking me a long while to recuperate from such a horrendous ordeal. I got an infection at the site of reconnection and developed a hole. I avoided another surgery and another colostomy b/c I refused it, and was then treated by an interventional radiologist, who ran drain tubes into the infection site to drain fluid there so that the hole could heal on its own.

I was in the hospital a total of 30 days and couldn't eat anything during that time. After I left the hospital, with a hole in my colon the size of a quarter, I had to take in many calories and grams of protein in order to heal the opening in my colon. It took 4 months on this diet, along with Chinese herbs and supplements to heal the hole.

It's been two months short of a year since I was released from the hospital, and I'm finally eating whole foods again, and feeling my way along with what to eat. I seem to have a tendency for dry hard stools, and this gives me great concern since this is probably a main culprit to developing diverticulosis and causing diverticulitis, and ultimately a rupture.

I would welcome anyone's advice on fiber intake. I don't trust fiber products in general, since I had been on a cleansing/detox program at the time of the rupture.

I'd appreciate any advice. Thanks.

Bloomfield Hills, MI

#11 Aug 19, 2013
Excellent post, Linda...thank you.

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