10 Indicators That Your Fiber Intake May Be Insufficient

A registered dietitian outlines the signals your body might be sending when it requires more fiber.

Not to raise undue alarm, but there is a significant shortfall in fiber consumption. A study in 2021 discovered that merely seven percent of U.S. adults meet the recommended levels of fiber—an essential nutrient crucial for various aspects of well-being, including digestive health, weight management, blood sugar control, and heart health. According to the National Institutes of Health, the suggested daily fiber intake is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. Unfortunately, the average American only consumes an average of 14 grams daily. Now, you might be wondering about the signs that suggest insufficient fiber intake. To address this question, we consulted with Destini Moody, RDN, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian and sports dietitian with Garage Gym Reviews, who highlights 10 common indicators that could signal a deficiency in this vital nutrient.

  1. Experiencing drowsiness after meals

Fiber is suggested to prevent energy crashes by maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. Feeling tired and lethargic after meals might imply insufficient fiber consumption. Registered dietitian Destini Moody explains, “A fiber-rich meal slows down the digestion of food, allowing glucose to enter the bloodstream more gradually. This prevents blood sugar spikes, which are often followed by crashes, leading to lower blood sugar levels than before eating. If you find yourself needing a nap after a carbohydrate-rich meal, it’s likely due to insufficient fiber intake.”

  1. Feel Constipated

Increasing your fiber intake, found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, can significantly impact those struggling with constipation. Fiber adds bulk to stool and facilitates smooth bowel movements. Registered dietitian Destini Moody notes, “One study revealed that 77 percent of individuals dealing with constipation experienced relief by incorporating more fiber into their diet. Insoluble fiber, commonly present in fruits and vegetables, acts as a digestive system ‘scrub brush,’ moving along the intestinal walls and maintaining gut contents in motion. This prevents digested food from becoming lodged and causing constipation. It’s crucial to ensure adequate water intake when increasing fiber, as insufficient water to propel the fiber through the digestive tract can have the opposite effect and exacerbate constipation.”

  1. Experince Diarrhea or Loose Stools

Conversely, an abrupt rise in fiber intake without adequate hydration may result in diarrhea. Hence, maintaining a balance between fiber consumption and water intake is essential for the proper functioning of your digestive system. Registered dietitian Destini Moody explains, “Insufficient fiber can also lead to a shift in your bowel movements because fiber contributes bulk to stools. This is particularly evident with soluble fiber, which can absorb fluids in the gut and create a gel-like substance. Since diarrhea is often caused by an excess of water in the digestive tract, having soluble fiber in the gut to absorb this excess fluid can aid in preventing loose stools.”

  1. Unsatisfied hunger

Numerous studies have indicated that fiber can enhance satiety and prevent overeating by adding volume to meals. However, persistent feelings of hunger may indicate a need to incorporate more fiber-rich foods into your diet. Destini Moody, a registered dietitian, explains, “High-fiber meals result in slower stomach emptying as fiber breaks down gradually. Additionally, fiber expands as it absorbs water in the gut. Both of these functions contribute to an extended feeling of fullness. This is evident when, for example, substituting the same amount of brown rice for white rice – even with identical calories and portions, individuals are likely to feel more satiated with brown rice.”

  1. High LDL-cholesterol

Elevated levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol might indicate a need for increased fiber intake. As per a 2019 study, high LDL cholesterol levels are associated with low-fiber diets. Destini Moody, a registered dietitian, explains, “While the impact of fiber on cholesterol is moderate, it does exhibit a positive effect compared to those with lower fiber consumption. Combining lifestyle changes like exercise with the incorporation of soluble fiber, such as oats, into your diet has been demonstrated to contribute to the reduction of LDL cholesterol.”

  1. Sluggish Feeling

Consuming fiber-rich foods offers a consistent release of energy, aiding in the alleviation of fatigue and sustaining a feeling of satiety. Destini Moody, a registered dietitian, emphasizes, “The majority of the fiber in our diet is derived from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods also boast antioxidants that are not present in meat and dairy. While fiber intake is beneficial, the antioxidants found in fiber-containing foods actively combat chronic inflammation in the body. This is why individuals who increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables often report feeling better. Therefore, if you’ve been experiencing unexplained fatigue or tiredness, consider incorporating more high-fiber foods into your diet.”

  1. Unknown Weight Gain

Studies indicate that a low intake of fiber is correlated with being overweight. This is attributed to the fact that fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, typically have fewer calories than meat and dairy. Incorporating fiber-rich foods into your diet can aid in weight loss by providing a sense of fullness without consuming excess calories. Destini Moody, a registered dietitian, notes, “If you consistently experience blood sugar crashes due to insufficient fiber to slow down digestion, you may unknowingly find yourself snacking more. This can lead to a subtle overconsumption of calories, resulting in unexpected weight gain. This is particularly true for individuals who exercise frequently, as physical activity can heighten hunger. In such cases, the perceived increase in appetite may be wrongly attributed to increased activity rather than a lack of fiber.”

  1. Always feel Bloated

Destini Moody explains, “Poor gut health can lead to the fermentation of bad bacteria in the gut, producing gases that result in bloating and stomach discomfort. This is where fiber plays a crucial role. Several types of fiber can function as prebiotics, a type of fiber that serves as nourishment for the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Prebiotics contribute positively to gut health by serving as a ‘feed’ for the microbiome, enabling the growth and multiplication of good bacteria and thereby enhancing our gut health.”

  1. Deficient in certain vitamins

A diet lacking in fiber may suggest an inadequate consumption of vital vitamins present in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Destini Moody explains, “Many foods containing fiber also boast key nutrients. For instance, sweet potatoes and carrots are abundant in vitamin A, while oats and spinach are rich in magnesium. If your diet is of subpar nutritional quality and lacks sufficient intake of these foods, you may discover a deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals.”

  1. Have hemorrhoids

A 2021 study suggests that fiber contributes to improved stool motility, reducing the risk of hemorrhoids. Destini Moody cautions, “If you have insufficient fiber intake, you may be prone to hemorrhoids. Hard stools can make bowel movements more challenging, leading to straining during bathroom breaks, ultimately causing hemorrhoids. Insoluble fiber, found in non-starchy fruits and vegetables, works to soften stool, alleviating the need for straining.”