This column comes with a warning: Stop reading if you are uncomfortable with conversations about poop and farts.
There is no way to avoid these functions when discussing dietary fiber. You could say poop and farts are messages from your digestive track. Here is what they are saying:
A small study of 18 men was published this month in Nutrients. These men were put on a low-fiber diet of 4.6 grams for two weeks, and after a rest period, were given a high fiber diet of 54 grams. Recommended fiber intake is 21-25 grams a day for women and 30-38 grams a day for men.
Unfortunately, most people are only eating about 15 grams of fiber a day. During the two study periods, subjects collected and weighed their poop and using a handheld counter, logged in daily farts.
During the high-fiber session, subjects farted seven times more and their poop was double the weight. On a low-fiber diet, average stool weight was 3.3 ounces. On a high-fiber diet, it was 6.6 ounces. The additional weight was increased water, undigested fiber and bacteria. A large bulky stool is desirable and easier to pass.
The increased farting is from the good gut bacteria fermenting the plant fiber. One product of the fermentation is short chain fatty acids. The short chain fatty acids keep the gut healthy and reduce risk of bowel cancer.
Borborygmi, stomach growling due to gas moving through the intestines, also increased during the high-fiber period. So farting and bigger poops are a sign of a happy, fiber-filled gut.
Fiber containing foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans. To avoid any unnecessary discomfort slowly increase the fiber in your diet. Choosing a cereal with at least 5 grams of fiber and adding beans to soups and salads is an easy start to increased fiber. Also boost fluids as the fiber is drawing water into the stool.
For more info, go to www.nutrition.gov and search on fiber.
Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Miami.