If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it’s important to include fiber in your diet. However, not all fiber sources are the same, and some of them are not recommended if you have IBS. Bran fiber, in particular, can cause stomach upset and constipation, and make IBS symptoms worse.
This article will explain how bran fiber is different from other types of fiber and why it can make IBS symptoms worse. You’ll also learn about IBS-friendly fiber types.
What is bran?
Bran is a form of fiber extracted from the hard outer layers of grains such as barley, corn, oats, rice, and wheat.
Bran can be found in bran cereals, muffins, and products made from whole-wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is made from wheat germ (the inside of the grain’s kernel), endosperm (the bulk of the grain’s kernel), and bran. These are all ground together in flour.
The bran content aids digestion and provides more nutrients than refined (white) flour. Wheat bran is also an excellent source of potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6. One cup of wheat bran provides 100% of the daily recommended fiber intake.
Problems eating wheat if you have irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Bran
There is no clear answer as to why bran worsens symptoms in people with IBS. However, the researchers have some theories.
One theory is that tough bran irritates the nerves that line the gut. These nerves are part of the enteric nervous system (ENT) in the gut. The ENT is responsible for regulating the digestive process. ENT dysfunction is a major factor in IBS. Bran may make it harder for an ENT to work properly.
Another possibility is that wheat bran contains fructans, which are classified as FODMAPs (fermentable Oligosaccharide, disaccharide, Monosaccharideand Polyol).
These are short-chain carbohydrates found in many different foods. FODMAP can ferment and increase the amount of fluid and gas in the gut. Eating a diet high in FODMAP is thought to be associated with an increase in IBS symptoms.
A simpler explanation is that a standard serving of wheat bran is simply too much for someone with IBS. Wheat bran is an insoluble fiber. This means it draws water into the intestines, making stools softer and helping ease digestion. However, if you eat too much, it can increase gas production, leading to bloating and gas (gas).
People with IBS may simply be eating more bran than they should. This may explain why some people with IBS are affected by bran, while others are not.
Controlling your IBS symptoms may just require reducing your bran intake. Over time, as your body uses more and more of this fiber, you can slowly increase the amount of bran you eat.
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IBS Friendly Fiber Alternatives
While insoluble fiber can worsen IBS, soluble fiber may be beneficial for people with IBS. In their most recent guidelines, the American College of Gastroenterology concluded that not only can soluble fiber help reduce IBS symptoms, but it can also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
If wheat bran is causing you problems, here are some sources of soluble fiber that may be less irritating:
- Apple (unpeeled)
- green beans
- Haricot vert
You can also tolerate bran from non-wheat sources (such as corn, oats, and rice), especially if constipation is a problem.
fiber supplements such as psyllium (also known as isfaqula shell) may help relieve IBS symptoms. Another option is ground flax seeds, which can help if constipation is the main symptom of IBS.
Although a high-fiber diet is optimal for digestive health, some studies suggest that it may be more beneficial for people with IBS with constipation (IBS-C) than other IBS subtypes.
Fiber is an important part of your diet if you have IBS. However, wheat bran, which is extracted from the hard husks of grains, is known to make IBS symptoms worse. It’s not entirely clear why this is the case, but one theory is that the hard shell irritates the gut. Other forms of fiber, such as that found in certain fruits and vegetables, tend to be easier on the digestive system of people with IBS.
If you’re not sure which fiber source is best for you, consider meeting with a nutritionist with IBS experience to develop a meal plan. Often, finding the most suitable option requires trial and error.
When increasing your fiber intake or trying new foods, it’s best to take a step-by-step approach to give your body time to adapt to the changes.
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