If you have celiac, you have to follow gluten-free diet and fiber can be hard to get when eating gluten-free. In this post, I’ll talk about the importance of fiber, where to find gluten-free fiber-rich foods, and what a gluten-free balanced diet looks like.
(Hint: a gluten-free balanced diet includes adequate amounts of fiber).
Before we talk about the importance of fiber on a gluten-free diet, let’s talk about why people are gluten-free. To put it simply, if you have a gluten-related disorder, you need to eat gluten-free.
Depending on what gluten-related disorder you have, will depend on how strict your gluten-free diet will be.
The two most common gluten-related disorders are celiac disease and gluten intolerance. There are some key differences between celiac and gluten intolerance but despite those, fiber is a concern for both.
This is because a gluten-free diet can be low in fiber. And often if you’re on a gluten-free diet, fiber is even more essential. It helps keep your digestive system moving, maintains gut health, prevents constipation, and more.
Fiber comes from plant foods. Eating more fiber not only promotes health by lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer; it also helps boost your digestive system. It also helps you feel and stay full.
For those with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet and fiber are both important. Living gluten-free helps heal the gut and eating enough fiber can support gut health. Both of which can reduce uncomfortable digestive symptoms like constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and more.
If you have celiac or non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, you have to live gluten-free. Following a strict gluten-free diet eliminates gluten-containing grains which are important sources of fiber.
Additionally, the gluten-free diet can be low in fiber. Many alternatives do not have comparable amounts of fiber when compared to their gluten-containing versions.
Thus, those eating gluten-free must find alternate sources of fiber to help regulate bowel movements. Additionally with celiac, fiber can help your gut heal.
Lastly, not getting enough fiber puts you at a high risk for cardiovascular disease. Something that people with celiac are already at risk for when healing.
There are two types: soluble and insoluble fiber. A mix of both can be found in most fiber-containing foods, including fiber rich gluten-free foods.
Soluble fiber helps to slow the digestion of food. This slowed digestion causes sugar to be released and absorbed more slowly into the body. Thus, it can support blood sugar health.
It’s known as a heart healthy nutrient because it helps to lower cholesterol. This is because once in the small intestines, soluble fiber binds to bad cholesterol and prevents it from entering the bloodstream.
Soluble fiber also helps to manage diarrhea/loose stools and reduces symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This happens because of soluble fiber’s ability to attract water and remove excess fluid in the intestines. This ability helps to decrease symptoms of diarrhea.
Gluten-free sources of soluble fiber include:
Insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to your bowel movements and also slows down digestion. This keeps things moving through your intestines and as a result, promotes regular bowel movements. This movement also can prevent bloating and constipation by reducing how much time food has to ferment in the gut.
Of note, some types of insoluble fiber can be an irritant to the digestive system. For example, the insoluble fibers in cucumber peels is a huge irritant to my gut so I am careful to only eat peeled cucumbers.
Gluten-free food sources of insoluble fiber include:
Following a gluten-free diet, how much fiber do you need? In general, you want to aim for 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories you consume.
An easy way to eyeball this is to aim for a serving of fruits, vegetables, and gluten-free whole grains at each meal. This what compromises a balanced gluten-free diet rich in fiber.
For more specific fiber needs, daily recommendations for most health adults are as follows:
While we have these general recommendations, that’s all they are. They are not rules. So do what feels good for your body and if you need help figuring that out, let’s talk. I can help.
Additionally, there are some cases where fiber recommendations change. Things like diverticulitis and a chron’s flare could change fiber recommendations. Again, if you’re worried about your fiber needs, I’m happy to provide a consult.
We have general recommendations for fiber and a gluten-free diet, but how do you know if you’re eating too much fiber? Is there even a thing as too much fiber? The answer is yes!
Too much fiber can cause some pretty uncomfortable symptoms. Symptoms like constipation, that often overlap with gluten-related conditions. Sign you’re eating too much fiber on a gluten-free diet include:
To know if you’re eating too much fiber the best thing to do would be to meet with a celiac specialized dietitian. A celiac-specialized dietitian can help with celiac by determining if you’re eating an appropriately balanced diet (including fiber).
Too little fiber can be really hard on your entire body. Not eating enough fiber can cause similar symptoms to celiac and gluten-intolerance. Symptoms like bloating and constipation. Signs you’re eating too little fiber on a gluten-free diet include:
It’s important to note, if you go to increase your fiber, be sure to do it slowly. Not only that but make sure you increase your water intake with fiber, otherwise it can worsen symptoms.
There are many tips for adding fiber into your gluten-free diet.
First, it is important to add fiber slowly. If you add fiber in too quickly you can overwhelm your gut, causing things to get… stuck. Basically, adding too much fiber in too fast can cause constipation. You have to get your body used to pushing it through your digestive system.
Second, it’s important that as you increase fiber, you increase water too. Water is essential to fiber doing it’s job. Not drinking enough water while increasing fiber can also cause uncomfortable symptoms like constipation.
Lastly, add yummy high fiber to foods you already eat; add vegetables you like to sandwiches, sprinkle nuts and seeds on salads, and add beans to soups.
A gluten-free diet can be low in fiber. Despite this, there are many gluten-free high-fiber foods to add to a gluten-free and celiac diet.
Gluten-free high fiber food sources include gluten-free whole grains, gluten-free fiber supplements, high-fiber gluten-free breads, gluten-free high fiber cereals, fruits, vegetables, and more.
Some gluten-free high fiber whole grains and flours include:
Want to get some fiber in with gluten-free high fiber breads? Below are some great high-fiber gluten-free bread options:
Looking for a gluten-free high fiber breakfast cereal? Below are some options! (p.s. some of the options below have oats, if you’re confused on if oats are celiac-safe, click here).
Want to make your own fiber rich meals? Be confident in the fiber content of your meals by making sure you have a serving of gluten-free grains, fruits, and vegetables at each meal. Below are some gluten-free fiber rich recipes to try as well!
While there are many high-fiber foods that are gluten-free, if you are having trouble meeting fiber needs with diet, there are several fiber supplements to choose from.
Fiber supplements made with psyllium husk are naturally gluten-free and used by many brands such as Konsyl.
Another safe option for gluten-free fiber comes from methylcellulose found in Citrucel Caplets.
Metamucil is typically gluten-free but has a risk of cross-contact with gluten.
Other supplements like Benefiber have wheat dextrin in them, which can be gluten-free. However, the supplement industry is largely unregulated unlike the food label industry. Thus it’s difficult to know if wheat-derived supplements are celiac-safe and are recommended to be avoided.