Last year, new research revealed a link between increased fiber consumption and reduced risk of arthritis. Previously I might have ignored this study, but a few months earlier I’d begun to transition to a plant-based diet. Eating plant-based can mean different things to different people. My version, for the most part, involves purposefully eating loads of fiber every day. I hope you enjoy learning about this newly discovered way to avoid suffering from arthritis.
Study: Link Between Fiber and Arthritis
Osteoarthritis, also known as the wear and tear arthritis, affects more than 30 million adults in the US. The study published in 2017 was an analysis of two large long-term studies. Together, they revealed that higher total fiber intake was associated with a lower risk of experiencing painful arthritis.1 The high fiber intake patients were consuming between 15-19 grams of fiber a day.
The study looked specifically at knee arthritis. However, it’s likely that the results could be applied to more areas of the body, especially joints from the hips down. Dietary fiber reduces body weight and inflammation. Increased body weight and inflammation are both linked with arthritis. Currently, this is the explanation for their findings.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
In the US, average fiber intake is estimated to be around 12 grams a day.2 According to the Institute of Medicine, adult women need 25 grams of fiber a day, and adult men need 38 grams a day.3 The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you get your fiber by eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain cereals rather than soluble fiber supplements. Luckily, these same foods also provide you with essential minerals and vitamins.
I was wondering if it’s possible to eat too much fiber. The answer appears to be no. People residing in rural African villages are known to consume around 66 grams of fiber per day.4
What Does a Day of Eating Enough Fiber Look Like?
On a random Friday, I decided to track my fiber intake. Dinner that evening was at a charity event for Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS), an educational organization that grows food on a 3/4 acre garden. The majority of the dinner was prepared using vegetables from their garden. Apparently, this was a good day to be tracking my fiber intake.
The result: First, I’m capable of eating fiber nearly as well as a rural African village dweller. Second, it isn’t hard to get more than adequate amounts of fiber if you focus on eating mostly plants. 47 grams
- Breakfast: I chose to eat one of my more fibrous breakfasts — sprouted 7-grain English muffin with medium avocado. The English muffin alone has 6 grams of fiber in it, the avocado has 13 grams.
- Snack: My snack was a KIND bar and green tea. Surprisingly, this bar has 7 grams of fiber in it.
- **I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d already eaten 26 grams of fiber (over the recommended amount for women) by 10:30 AM**
- Lunch: Lunch that day was leftovers from dinner earlier in the week — summer squash, green beans, swiss chard and kidney beans, plus 2 slices of sourdough bread. 10 grams
- Dinner: Roasted carrots, cabbage/broccoli slaw, lasagna, chicken (not included in the photo was also a side salad and piece of carrot cake). 11 grams
Tips For Increasing Your Fiber Intake
Take It Slow
To avoid problems, don’t add too much fiber all at once. You may get symptoms of bloating, cramping or gas. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water as you increase your fiber intake. Fluids help your body digest fiber.
Track Your Fiber Intake
I looked for a slick, free, user-friendly app to share with you to calculate your fiber intake for the day. Unfortunately, I didn’t find one worth sharing.
The easiest way I found utilized good old Google. Just type in “how much fiber in ___”. Then a handy table pops up. For accuracy, it lets you choose how you prepared it and the quantity of the food (see drop down menus in screenshot below). Using the example in the screenshot, if you ate 1/3 cup of kidney beans, you would multiply the amount in 1 cup by .33 to get an answer of 3.6 grams.
Learn Which Foods are Higher in Fiber
I didn’t find these lists as helpful for analyzing the food that I ate in a day. However, these links are super helpful for learning which foods have higher fiber content.
Other Ways to Prevent Arthritis
In addition to the information you learned here, there are other ways to protect your body from developing osteoarthritis. They include: maintaining an ideal body weight, engaging in low impact exercise, using your joints the way that they are intended (avoiding repetition and focusing on alignment), controlling blood sugar, and fully rehabilitating acute injuries. Trauma from injuries can lead to arthritis down the road. We can’t always prevent injuries, but we can choose to rehabilitate fully after them. And now, we can add to the list….eat more fiber!