There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
There’s a great review on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietary_fiber. Wikipedia’s definition of fiber is as follows:
“Dietary fiber, sometimes called roughage, is the indigestible portion of plant foods having two main components — soluble (prebiotic, viscous) fiber that is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active byproducts, and insoluble fiber that is metabolically inert, absorbing water throughout the digestive system and easing defecation. It acts by changing the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract, and by changing how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed.”
I have read a lot about the benefits of fiber for both diarrhea and constipation over the years. However, in my experience, insoluble fiber tends to make diarrhea worse for many sufferers, while soluble fiber helps “thicken” stools. Thus, for those with chronic diarrhea, I recommend to decrease insoluble fiber and increase soluble fiber in the diet.
Examples of insoluble fiber are: nuts, seeds, bran, seeds such as flax seed, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds, skin of the potato & tomato, and wheat bran
Examples of soluble fiber are: bananas, oatmeal, inside of the potato, beans, soybeans (contains insoluble too), barley
Some of you may tolerate certain types of soluble fiber better than others. If that is the case, you may benefit from the FODMAPs Elimination diet. FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that pull water into the intestine and worsen gas, pain and diarrhea, especially those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). For more information on the FODMAPs diet, please visit: www.ibsfree.net or purchase a copy of Patsy Catsos’ new updated book: IBS- Free at Last!
I will discuss the FODMAPs diet in greater detail in a future post.