Fibre and the Bariatric Patient - Are You Getting Enough?

Fibre is essential for a healthy diet, and this is especially true if you have had bariatric surgery. With your new smaller stomach, you may find it a little more of a challenge getting enough fibre into your meals. They say that food is medicine, and for someone who has undergone gastric sleeve, gastric bypass or other procedures this is never more true. Empty calories just have no place in your new bariatric diet and working to achieve the right balance is the goal. 

When it comes to fibre, we have high needs. In this article, we explain why fibre is important, and which foods are fibre rich.

We also include some tips especially for you if you’ve had bariatric surgery, to help choose the right fibre-rich foods for you unique needs.

What is fibre and why is it so good for us?

Dietary fibre is found in plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. If you guessed that most Australians are not averaging enough fibre each day, you are right. So why is it so important?

Fibre is the indigestible portion of whole plant foods. Why do our bodies benefit from these indigestible components so greatly? Well, there are three main types of fibre which work well to keep us healthy:

  1. Soluble fibre. Found in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley, psyllium and legumes. This fibre dissolves in water and intestinal fluids and turns into a gel. It is then digested by our gut bacteria. it helps to slow the digestion process from our stomach. This in turns does things like lowering our blood sugar and regulates the absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol.
  2. Insoluble fibre. Found in foods like whole-grains, nuts, beans, cauliflower, and in the skin and seeds of fruit and vegetables. This type of fibre remains unchanged as it digests. it adds bulk to the stool and moves digestion along, preventing and treating constipation. Because of its high water absorption, it also helps us feel satiated.
  3. Resistant starch. Is broken down in the large intestine, this assists in the population of good bacteria in our large intestine. Found in foods like just-ripe bananas, al-dente pasta, rice and cooked and cooled potato.

How much fibre should we eat?

The sweet spot for fibre intake is about 25-30 grams of fibre per day. A study examining the data of 185 observational studies, and 58 clinical trials found that people who had more fibre in their diet were 15-30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause or a cardiovascular condition.

What are the symptoms of not enough fibre?

While these symptoms don’t all mean you have inadequate fibre intake, they just might, especially when combined. Symptoms of not enough fibre can include:

  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Blood sugar spikes
  • Cravings and hunger
  • Weight gain
  • High cholesterol or blood pressure

Dietetic support is invaluable

It is important to remember that everyone is different and you also will have different tolerances and needs at each stage post-surgery. Keeping a dialogue and regular follow up appointments with your surgeon and dietitian will ensure you aren’t missing out on important nutrients like fibre.

If you aren’t getting enough fibre, your dietitian can help you navigate the decision to supplement. This means deciding on the right supplement for you – containing the appropriate types of fibre. As well, working out the correct amounts in your specific case to maintain a healthy digestive system. We would never recommend supplementing anything without having a conversation with your surgeon/dietitian first. Please remember, that everybody is different. Even if a fellow bariatric patient has had success, this may not mean it is right for you.

The good news is, if you’re able to increase your intake of good quality fibre, it can have a positive impact on your gut microbiome. This in turn will have a positive impact on your weight loss. Another great reason to be proactive.

Image Credit: Trainer Academy

Got more questions about bariatric diet?

Check out our more tips on navigating diet after bariatric surgery.