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The 411 on Fiber


Diets and what you eat play a big role in your digestive health. It’s important that your food choices give your body the nutrients it needs to perform at its best, or that you’re properly supplementing your nutritional needs. Jessica Harris, MD, a Gastroenterologist, Board Certified in Internal Medicine at Crystal Run Healthcare, explains how you can use foods rich in fiber to keep your body healthy and moving as it should.


What is fiber?

Fiber plays an essential part in your everyday diet that helps regulate bowel movements and maintain a healthy weight. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body does not fully break down and it remains in the intestinal tract to aid in digestion. There are two types of fiber that make up dietary fiber, called soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

“Soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not, though both play an important role in bowel function and disease prevention,” explains Dr. Harris, “Fiber also helps decrease the risk of developing Type II diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and potentially colon cancer.”


Which types of food contain fiber?

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts like almonds and peanuts are all good sources of dietary fiber. The nutrition label on packaged foods shows both the amount of fiber per serving and the percentage of your daily fiber intake that each serving represents. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the recommended quantity of dietary fiber is 14g per 1000 calories, or around 25-36g daily. However, a recent study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that only around 10% of Americans are consuming adequate dietary fiber each day.


How can I increase my fiber intake?

“You can increase your fiber intake by trying to substitute processed, fatty foods with foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. There are also many over-the-counter fiber supplements such as psyllium, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin, and calcium polycarbophil that can be taken daily to increase your fiber content,” said Dr. Harris, “It is important to remember to increase fiber intake gradually and to increase water intake to minimize potential side effects of cramping and bloating.”


When should I talk to my doctor?

Adding fiber to your diet can help regulate bowel movements and sometimes help with symptoms like bloating, cramping, and gas pains. However, it is important to talk to your doctor any time there is a change in your bowel habits, including a change in the shape, color, or frequency of your stools. You should also make sure to contact your doctor if you notice any blood in your stools or experience any unintentional weight loss.

An experienced Gastroenterologist, or stomach doctor, can help you with your digestive and intestine-related needs. At Crystal Run Healthcare, our academically trained Gastroenterologists treat everything from digestive problems to colon cancer. Our doctors will help diagnose and treat your symptoms with the most advanced technology and medical therapies available.


Jessica Harris, MD, is a Gastroenterologist and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. She earned her Medical Degree at Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, NY. She completed her Residency in Internal Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook in Stony Brook, NY. She completed her Fellowship in Gastroenterology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY. Her clinical interests include gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease, colon cancer prevention, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Dr. Harris is seeing patients in Middletown and Newburgh.