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Fibre and Bowel Movements: Finding the Right Balance for Your Gut


medically reviewed by Dr Godmi Tresa

Dr. Bhavya

Updated on November 20, 2023

Here's something that can make a big difference to how your tummy feels. 

Fibres: Fibres are an essential part of your diet to keep up with a healthy digestive system and a regular bowel movement. Read on to discover why fibre is essential for keeping your gut happy. Further, step into the world of the two fibre types - soluble and insoluble. The blog will help you understand how to get the right fibre mix in your diet.

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Know Your Dietary Fibres Well

Dietary fibre is consistently recognised as an essential aspect of staying healthy. But here's the thing: Our modern diets have shifted away from this nutritional gem, especially in Western cultures. 

And guess what? 

You can link this shift to increased gut-related issues, like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

When pointing out these conditions, we discuss a standard set of metabolic problems: insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels (fasting and after meals), high cholesterol, etc.

It's fascinating that our gut plays a vital role in maintaining overall well-being with its enormous microbial community. And there is a clear connection between your diet, the gut microbes, and the health issues.

So, here's the highlight: DIETARY FIBRE might be the superhero you need to turn things around. 


Well, it's all about fermentation in your gut and short-chain fatty acid production, which are by-products of the digestion of fatty acids from food.

Eating the right kinds of dietary fibre can help get your gut back on track, which can help you manage those metabolic issues. It's like a natural, delicious solution to common health problems.

So, consider adding some fibre-rich foods next time you plan your meals. Your overall health will thank you for it!

Understanding Dietary Fibres: What and Which?

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Let's break down dietary fibre, shall we?

Back in 1953, a scientist named Hinsley took a crack at defining dietary fibre as a "non-digestible constituent that makes up the plant cell wall".

So, it's a plant-based carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest using our digestive enzymes, like amylase. Instead, the gut microbiota works its magic through anaerobic fermentation (a chemical process without using oxygen). The product of this fermentation is the fantastic compounds called SCFAs (Short Chain Fatty Acids).

You may be wondering, "What exactly counts as dietary fibre?"

The Dietary Fibres

Fibre isn't what it is chemically made of and what it produces; it's also about what it does in our bodies. 

You have already heard a lot about the health benefits of dietary fibres. People eat fibre for its health benefits. How does it do that?

Each type of fibre uniquely shapes our gut microbiota and, in turn, affects our overall health. 

How a fibre behaves in your gut depends on its properties, such as;

  • Whether it dissolves in water (solubility)
  • How much your gut microbes can chow down on it (fermentability)
  • If it can form a gel-like consistency in water (viscosity)

Let's forget this scientific jargon about fibres and keep it simple.

Different Categories of Dietary Fibre

So, dietary fibre has two main categories:

Dietary Fibre Vs Added Fibre

Dietary Fibre

This is the good stuff naturally found in plants. It includes non-digestible carbohydrates and lignin (a protein in the wall of plants that gives them structure).

When we say "non-digestible", we mean these are the parts of plants that aren't broken down or absorbed in our small intestine. They are like the sturdy scaffolding of plant cell walls, keeping their shape even after severe chewing or grinding.

Added Fibre

This category covers those indigestible carbs taken from plant or animal sources but can do fantastic things in our bodies.

They can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels and keep things moving smoothly in our digestive system. Even synthetic non-digestible carbs, like resistant starch, can fall into this group.

Source Matters while using added fibre. Even though it can have benefits, choosing products with naturally derived or minimally processed fibres is essential, as highly refined or isolated fibres may lack broader health benefits associated with other whole food sources.

Incorporation should be gradual into your diet to help your digestive system adjust and reduce the likelihood of discomfort or bloating.

But here's the catch: to be considered "added fibre", it's not enough for a lab to create it. It has to prove health benefits first.

Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty of fibre types based on their physicochemical properties:

Soluble v/s Insoluble Fibre

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Soluble Fibre - The Gut's Best Friend

These fibres are like the best friends of water - they dissolve in. They come from the inner flesh of plants and include substances like:

  • Pectin
  • Gums
  • Mucilage

When they hang out in your colon, they get fermented by friendly bacteria, producing short-chain fatty acids.

You can find soluble fibres in the following:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Legumes
  • Peas
  • Veggies like broccoli and carrots
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Pears 
  • Strawberries
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips 

Insoluble Fibre - The Digestive Dynamo

On the other hand, insoluble fibres are a bit more resilient. They come from the outer skins of plants and don't dissolve in water. 

Instead, they add bulk to your stool and help keep things moving in your digestive tract. Think of it as the natural way to prevent constipation.

Bacteria do not ferment it, so it does not produce the same by-product as soluble fibre. Instead, it helps maintain regularity and prevents things from getting stuck.

You can find insoluble fibre in foods like:

  • Corn barn
  • Potato skins
  • The skin of many tree fruits (like apples and bananas)
  • Green veggies
  • Whole grains
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Blackberries

Now, why does this matter?

Scientists use the term "Microbiota - Accessible carbohydrate" or MAC to refer to those fibre-rich foods that the microbiomes can eat up or dissolve. 

This term excludes the insoluble fibres since our gut buddies can't use them.

Soluble, fermentable, and viscous fibres are the star players.

But why does understanding this matter to you?

To know the right time to eat which fibre, you need to know the difference and where to find them.

Soluble Fibre Vs Insoluble Fibre: Which Is Right for You?

As mentioned in the previous sections, soluble fibre is like the soothing troubleshooter of digestion. It is excellent for slowing things down in your gut, which can be helpful with issues like:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Blood sugar spikes

Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, is like a reliable mover and shaker. It adds bulk to your stool, which prevents constipation and keeps things regular.

The choice between soluble and insoluble fibre depends on what is going on in your digestive system. 

  • Intake of soluble fibres - To control blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels. 
  • Intake of insoluble fibres - To manage irregular bowel movements and constipation.

What Are the Primary Benefits of Consuming a High-Fibre Diet?

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We have understood how a good fibre diet can help you with your bowel movements and other digestive health. However, apart from these, adding fibres to your diet has other advantages.

Weight Management

Fibre helps you feel full and satisfied, reducing the temptation to overeat. It also slows digestion, stabilising blood sugar levels and managing weight.

Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases

A lower risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer is seen in a high-fibre diet. Soluble fibre can help lower LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease.

Creative Ways to Include More Fibre in Your Diet

  • Start Your Day Right - Swap out refined cereals for whole grain options like oatmeal or whole wheat toast. Add berries or sliced bananas for an extra fibre boost.
  • Snack Smart - Keep a stash of nuts, seeds, or dried fruits for quick, high-fibre snacks. A handful of almonds or a small bowl of trail mix can do wonders.
  • Veggies Power - Sneak extra vegetables into your meals. Add kale or spinach to your morning smoothie, toss extra veggies into your stir fry, or mix grated carrots into muffin batter.
  • Bean Bonanza - Beans are super versatile. Use them in soups, salads, and even in place of meat in some dishes like burgers or chilli.
  • Whole Grains Everywhere - Opt for whole grain options whenever possible. Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole grain bread are easy swaps.
  • Fruity Delights - Snack on whole fruits instead of fruit juices. The fibre in the fruit skin is a bonus.

Fibres - Yes, But Balanced Nutrition?

While increasing your fibre intake is fantastic for your health, remember that balance is essential. Don't solely focus on fibre - ensure you get a well-rounded diet. Ayurveda experts also emphasise the importance of getting all six tastes in your food.

13 High-Fibre Foods You Must Know

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Pears are delicious and nutritious choices, perfect for satisfying your sweet cravings. They also offer a generous dose of fibre.

  • In a medium-sized, raw pear, you'll find about 5.5 grams of fibre or approximately 3.1 grams per 100 grams.


Strawberries are a delightful and wholesome choice, whether you enjoy them as a refreshing summer dessert or a quick office snack.

  • In addition to their deliciousness, strawberries pack a punch of nutrients, including fibre, vitamin C, manganese, and a range of antioxidants.

You'll find approximately 3 grams of fibre in a one-cup serving of fresh strawberries, which translates to about 2 grams per 100 grams.


Apples are not only delicious but also quite fulfilling. When you enjoy them whole, you're getting the benefits of both soluble and insoluble fibre.

  • You'll discover approximately 4.4 grams of fibre in a medium-sized, raw apple. If we're talking about 100 grams of apples, that's about 2.4 grams of fibre.


Bananas are a nutritional powerhouse, offering a range of essential nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium.

Interestingly, green or unripe bananas are also rich in resistant starch, an indigestible carbohydrate similar to fibre.

  • Regarding fibre content, a medium-sized banana contains approximately 3.1 grams, equivalent to around 2.6 grams per 100 grams.


Carrots, those versatile root vegetables, can be enjoyed in raw and cooked forms.

Besides being a source of fibre, carrots offer a nutritional jackpot, including Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and beta carotene - an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A.

  • Regarding fibre content, a cup of raw carrots packs approximately 3.6 grams, about 2.8 grams per 100 grams.


Beets, or beetroot, are a root vegetable packed with valuable nutrients. They offer a range of essential elements, including folate, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium.

What makes beets even more interesting is their supply of inorganic nitrates, which could have potential benefits for managing blood pressure and enhancing exercise performance.

  • Regarding fibre content, a cup of raw beets contains approximately 3.8 grams, which translates to about 2 grams per 100 grams.

Brussel Sprouts

Those little cruciferous veggies in the broccoli family, Brussels sprouts, are the nutritional powerhouses. Apart from their fibre content, they are rich in vitamin K, potassium, folate, and potentially beneficial antioxidants that might help in the fight against cancer.

  • Regarding fibre, a cup of raw Brussels sprouts provides around 3.3 grams, approximately 3.8 grams per 100 grams.

Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are a beloved legume known for their versatility in various dishes. Like their legume cousins, they offer plant-based protein along with a host of valuable nutrients.

  • Regarding fibre content, kidney beans deliver a whopping 12.2 grams of fibre, approximately 7.4 grams per 100 grams. These beans are an excellent addition to your diet for both protein and fibre intake.


Chickpeas, a beloved legume, are renowned for their impressive fibre content and versatility in the kitchen. They're fibre-rich and provide a good dose of protein and various essential minerals.

You can get chickpeas in various dishes, from creamy hummus to flavourful curries and hearty soups.

  • In terms of fibre, a cup of cooked chickpeas boasts an impressive 12.5 grams, roughly 7.6 grams per 100 grams. These little legumes are a fantastic addition to your diet for both fibre and protein needs. 


Popcorn isn't just a fun snack; it can also be a healthy way to boost your fibre intake. 

When you air pop your popcorn, it becomes an excellent source of dietary fibre, calorie for calorie. However, it's essential to note that the fibre-to-calorie ratio can decrease by a huge margin if you add fats or sugars.

  • Regarding fibre content, a cup of air-popped popcorn provides around 1.15 grams. So, plain air-popped popcorn is a fantastic choice when you're looking for a crunchy and fibre-rich snack.

Chia Seeds

The cute little chia seeds can be a fibre-rich addition to your diet. They can go well with any recipe you wish to make. You can add chia seeds to a glass of water for your daily fibre intake.

Besides being fibre-rich, they are an excellent antioxidant and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 10 grams of fibre-rich content. 


Quinoa is a whole grain and has a rich content of fibre. It is an intelligent carbohydrate choice because of its rich fibre, mineral and antioxidant content. It is gluten-free, delicious, versatile, and an ancient grain of sacred food.

  • One cup serving of cooked quinoa seeds contains 5.18 grams of fibre. 


Avocados are fleshy fruits that contain an impressive amount of nutrients and are rich in fibre, B6, Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin E, and folate. You can eat them in salads and as desserts. 

  • One avocado contains 3.5 grams of fibre.

Fibre Meals Plans: Ideas for Boosting Fibre Intake

You must include enough fibre in your daily diet to maintain good health. 

Some examples of meals and snacks that can help you reach your daily fibre goals:

Fibre in Breakfast

  • Two thick slices of wholemeal toasted bread (6.6g of fibre)
  • Topped with one sliced banana (1.4g)
  • A small glass (150ml) of fruit juice (1.2g)

This breakfast combination provides around 9.2g of fibre to kickstart your day.

Fibre in Lunch

  • A baked jacket potato with the skin on (4.7g)
  • About half a can (about a 200g portion) of reduced-sugar and reduced-salt baked beans in tomato sauce (9.8g)
  • An apple (1.2g)

Enjoying this lunch will give you approximately 15.7g of fibre, keeping you satisfied and energised.

Fibre at Dinner

  • A mixed vegetable tomato-based curry cooked with onion and spices (6.6g)
  • Boiled wholegrain rice (2.7g)

This dinner combination provides around 9.3g of fibre. Opt for lower-sugar diet dinner versions when possible.

Fibre as a Snack

  • A small handful of nuts (30g), such as almonds (about 3.8g of fibre)

Choosing unsalted nuts without added sugars for your snack can contribute to your daily fibre intake.

Total Fibre Intake: Approximately 38g

Note: Remember that the total Fibre intake mentioned here is an example, and the amount of fibre in foods can vary based on preparation and portion sizes.

However, checking food labels is essential. Many packed foods provide nutrition information, including dietary fibre.

It's easier to understand based on how much fibre you should aim for daily. 

How Much Fibre Should You Aim to Consume Daily?

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  • Adults - 25 to 30 grams
  • Children - Age + 5 grams

According to the United Institute of Medicines,  the recommended daily intake of fibre is as follows;

  • Children aged 1 to 3 years: 14 grams(g)
  • Girls 4 to 8 years: 16.8g
  • Boys 4 to 8 years: 19.6g
  • Girls 9 to 13 years: 22.4g
  • Boys of 9 to 13 years: 25.2g
  • Girls 14 to 18 years: 25.2g
  • Boys 14 to 18 years: 30.8g
  • Women aged 19 to 50 years: 25g
  • Men aged 19 to 50 years: 38g
  • Women aged 51 and older: 21g
  • Men aged 51 and older: 30g

Gradually Increasing Fibre Intake

If you have yet to become accustomed to a high-fibre diet, gradually increasing your fibre intake is essential. Suddenly, jumping to a high-fibre diet can lead to digestive discomfort, including gas, bloating, and diarrhoea.

To avoid these issues:

  • Add Fibre Slowly: Add more fibre-rich foods into your meals a little at a time. This gives your digestive system time to adjust.
  • Drink Water: As you increase your fibre intake, drink plenty. Fibre works best with enough liquid to move smoothly through your digestive tract.

Factors Influencing Ideal Fibre Amount

The ideal amount of fibre for an individual can depend on several factors:

  • Activity Level: If you're highly active and burn many calories, you may need more fibre to support your energy needs and recovery.
  • Overall Health: Some medical conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may require special attention to fibre intake. Working with a healthcare provider to determine the right fibre strategy is essential in such cases.
  • Age: As you age, your metabolism and digestive system may change. Adjust your fibre intake to match your body's evolving needs.

Achieving Gut Health and Weight Loss With High-Fibre Foods

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More than maintaining regularity in your bowels, an added plus point of a fibre diet is helping you in weight loss.  

How does it do that?


Foods high in fibre are generally more filling. They take longer to chew and digest, which can help you feel full and satisfied. As a result, you're less likely to overeat or snack on unhealthy options between meals.

Calorie Reduction

High-fibre foods often have fewer calories compared to processed and high-sugar options. You naturally reduce your calorie intake by choosing fibre-rich foods, crucial for weight management.

Blood Sugar Control

Soluble fibre in foods like oats and beans can help stabilise blood sugar levels. When blood sugar remains steady, you're less likely to experience intense hunger and cravings.

Reduced Fat Absorption

Some dietary fibre binds to dietary fat, preventing its absorption in the digestive tract. This can lead to lower calorie absorption and contribute to weight loss.

Weight Loss - A By-Product of Healthy Microbiome

All these weight loss attempts done by fibre aim towards promoting a healthy gut microbiome, which balances the whole body's metabolism.

Two unique ways in which fibre helps weight loss using microbiome are;

  • Microbiome Balance - Fibre acts as a prebiotic, nourishing beneficial bacteria.
  • Fermentation - Soluble fibres ferment in the gut, producing SCFAs and improving the gut barrier function.

With these, digestive health improves, which helps you manage your weight.

Dr Isra, Ayurveda consultant at Nirva Health, recollects how her clients achieved regularity in bowel movement after years of struggle by maintaining a fibre-rich diet and balancing gut microbiome. This was with an added benefit of weight loss. 

Dr Isra quotes; "Lisa's journey to better gut health involved adding fibre-rich foods like yoghurt, oats, and legumes. Not only did she notice improved digestion, but she also shed unwanted weight and felt more energetic."

To Conclude

A high-fibre diet can be a game changer for weight management and gut health. It promotes fullness, helps control blood sugar, and supports a balanced gut microbiome. 

A rich fibre diet was always encouraged by Ayurvedic science and Ayurveda practitioners. With an inclination towards better health achievement naturally by the modern population, science has grown to substantiate the traditional ways of decorating the plate.

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