Gutsense Header

Chapter 12. The Low-Fiber Advantage

Your body is the only “authority” you can trust unconditionally. It lets you feel and evaluate the advantages of a low-fiber diet li­terally “by your gut.” If that’s not enough for you, or if it seems too subjective, consider comparing your past and current blood tests. You should observe a drop in your triglycerides and HbA1c (the av­erage amount of blood sugar over the past six to eight weeks), and most likely, a rise in your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.[1] If you want to investigate things even further, ask your doctor to review your past and present metabolic (kidney- and diabetes-related) and hepatic (liver-related) test results, and you should see them normalizing as well.

Just keep in mind that it takes years, perhaps decades, to develop diet-related health disorders. Hence, it would be nuts to expect that any diet—low-fiber or not—can magically undo all of the damage in a day, a week, or even a year. Still, all things considered, getting better, even slowly, is a far better option than getting nowhere.

So what’s so magical about a low-fiber diet? In a nutshell, two things: (1) it makes the digestive process quick and efficient, and (2) it’s naturally low in carbohydrates. Here’s a brief summation of its most important advantages. First, in terms of your digestion:

The healing properties of a low-fiber diet

The impact of a low-fiber diet on the digestive process is recogniz­able from the relatively rapid reduction of functional (re­versible) side effects caused by excess fiber: the disappearance of heartburn (because there is less indigested food inside the sto­­mach), the absence of bloating (because there is less bacterial fermen­tation), the easy passing of stools (because the stools are smaller), the reduction of hemorrhoids (because there is less strain­ing), and the gradual vanishing of nagging abdominal discomfort (because of all of the above). You can’t miss these signs.

The progress doesn’t end with just the relief of side effects: as the quality of digestion improves, your body begins to absorb more essential nutrients from pretty much the same diet you consumed be­fore, because fiber is no longer there to impede their assimila­tion. The improved availability of nutrients accelerates tissue regen­eration throughout the body, rejuvenates the endocrine sys­tem, and increases the output of digestive enzymes. This, in turn, ac­celerates the healing of the digestive organs, which in turn im­proves digestion, and in turn accelerates the healing... well, you get the picture.

This process of recovery is the direct opposite of the harm fiber causes. The harm starts with fiber’s interference with digestion: as digestion becomes less efficient, so does the body’s ability to resist harm. As the harm increases in scope, digestion becomes even less efficient, and the harm more apparent. This step-by-step decline of health accelerates with aging. Therein lies yet another important ad­vantage of the low-fiber diet:

A Low-Fiber Diet Decelerates
Age-Related Decline

The decline may be slow and imperceptible in the case of young people, and precipitous and apparent in older people, but the as­pects of the decline caused by fiber come to a halt the moment you stop overconsuming it.

I emphasize this point to instill a dose of optimism in you: it doesn’t matter how old you are, nor does it matter how far this or that disorder has progressed. What really matters is that as soon as you take action, you put a stop to the self-inflicted downfall, be­cause you remove one of its most prominent causes. This in itself, even when complete recovery may not be feasible, is worth the ef­fort.

Diseases aside, the impact of fiber’s reduction on satiety is yet an­other important advantage of the low-fiber diet. While appetite makes you want to eat, a lack of satiety causes you to overeat. The mechanisms behind satiety are mainly physiological—you don’t feel satisfied from eating until the stomach is filled to a certain ca­pacity. That’s why stomach-reduction surgeries are so effective for morbidly obese people: after surgery they need just a fraction of food to feel “stuffed.”

But we aren’t actually born with huge, hungry stomachs. They stretch out gradually as we keep filling them with a high-bulk diet. In fact, fiber advocates hawk this phenomenon as an advantage: fi­ber fills you up and promotes satiety, they claim. But that’s a devil’s benefit, as each new “fill-up” keeps stretching your sto­mach a teeny bit more, so that the next time around you need a teeny bit more food to fill it to satiety again. Do this for some years, and eventually you “grow” a stomach that’s indeed hard to please. This is yet another aspect of fiber addiction.

Fortunately, it also works in reverse: as soon as you stop consum­ing a high-fiber diet, your stomach begins to gradually shrink in size, and with each new meal you’ll need less and less food to feel satisfied. All this without a gastric bypass (GBP) or a stomach band (LAP-BAND®) squeezed around it—the two most popular surgi­cal options to reduce the stomach’s capacity and “speed up” sa­tiety.

The advantages of a low-fiber diet don’t stop with just no longer overeating. Here’s a brief recap of its other undeniable benefits:

A low-fiber diet alone isn’t a guarantee of vibrant health and boundless longevity. It is, however, an important step toward attain­ing these treasured things. And it’s never too late to make it happen. Besides benefiting your digestive system, a low-fiber diet works wonders for your endocrine system and metabolism.

The metabolic advantages of a low-fiber diet

While the endocrine system governs the metabolism of energy, it’s you who governs the supply of nutrients that provide the en­er­­­gy in the first place. A true breaking down of the metabolism is a rarity: only about 5% of diabetes victims, for example, suffer from a failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. The other 95% over­power the body with so many carbohydrates that their pancreas ei­ther can’t keep up with the demand (for insulin), or their bodies sim­ply ignore the insulin, which is already plentiful.

Thus, true recovery from metabolic disorders like diabetes lies not in taking more drugs to trick the pancreas into producing even more insulin, or taxing the liver into converting excess blood sugar into even more body fat, but in balance. The plain, simple, elemen­tary balance between how much energy you really need and how much you’re actually getting from food.

Most people can’t find that balance, not because they aren’t will­ing, or are foolish, but simply because they’re misinformed about the role of dietary carbohydrates and natural fiber in health and nu­trition. That’s why so many well-meaning and health-conscious indi­viduals prefer getting their fiber from abundant “natural” sources, believing it’s healthier,[2] while in fact it’s as far from the truth as New York is from Paris.

Natural fiber—both the soluble and insoluble kind—is present only in plant-based foods, such as grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. It’s also found in foods processed from these plants, such as cereals, bread, pasta, and baked goods. Most of these foods contain anywhere from five to twenty times more carbohy­drates than fiber, which is enough to overpower even the most ro­bust endocrine system with excess energy. Thus, when you cut down on the fiber-rich foods in your diet, you’re also cutting out ac­companying carbs, and bringing the energy supply and demand back into balance.

Nutrients Reference Lookup

  • Fiber
    • Protein
    • Fat
    • Cholesterol
    • Carbohydrates
    • Sugars
    • Fiber
    • Water
    • Calories
    • Ash

  • All food groups
    • All food groups
    • American Indian/Alaska Native Foods
    • Baby Foods
    • Baked Products
    • Beef Products
    • Beverages
    • Breakfast Cereals
    • Cereal Grains and Pasta
    • Dairy and Egg Products
    • Fast Foods
    • Fats and Oils
    • Finfish and Shellfish Products
    • Fruits and Fruit Juices
    • Lamb, Veal, and Game Products
    • Legumes and Legume Products
    • Meals, Entrees, and Side Dishes
    • Nut and Seed Products
    • Pork Products
    • Poultry Products
    • Restaurant Foods
    • Sausages and Luncheon Meats
    • Snacks
    • Soups, Sauces, and Gravies
    • Spices and Herbs
    • Sweets
    • Vegetables and Vegetable Products

  • Highest to lowest
    • Highest to lowest
    • Lowest to highest

Go to expanded search

Assuming you won’t be rushing to replace these excluded carbo­hydrates with refined sugar, fruit juices, and soft drinks, your diet will become not just low in fiber, but decidedly low in carbs as well. Thus, serendipitously, you’ll be accruing the benefits of a low-carb diet, too.

While simple carbs (i.e. mono and disaccharides, such as sugar) di­gest rapidly and cause a brief spike in blood sugar, complex carbs (i.e. polysaccharides, such as starches in grains) digest for hours at a time. All along, while digestion is taking place, the pan­creas secretes insulin to keep up with the steady supply of glucose entering the bloodstream.

A chronically elevated level of insulin is called hyperinsulinemia. Besides extremely rare pancreatic tumors and extraordinary stress, there is only one factor that can cause hyperinsulinemia: dietary car­bohydrates. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin your pancreas produces to utilize them.

Elevated insulin is a potent vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows major and minor blood vessels throughout the body. When this hap­pens, blood pressure and pulse rates go up, while the supply of oxygenated blood delivered to the essential organs and extremities goes down. For these reasons, hyperinsulinemia is a primary cause of elevated blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, liver disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, peripheral vascular disease, dementia, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, at­tention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), incessant appetite, and obesity. And that’s just the big ones.

Not so long ago, the sum of most of these symptoms was called Syndrome X. Now it’s called “prediabetes,”[3] because the “X” in the syndrome is no longer a mystery. It stands for hyperinsulinemia, which is obviously caused by too many carbohydrates in one’s diet. Consider an average “healthy” breakfast: a glass of orange juice (26 g of carbs), a cup of Kellogg’s Crispix (25 g) with a cup of milk (12 g), and one medium-sized banana (27 g). That’s 90 g of carbs, or the equivalent of six tablespoons of sugar, which is al­most half the daily requirement for the average adult. While this modest breakfast keeps digesting, the body keeps secreting insulin, almost half the daily dose. And that’s before several snacks, sodas, lunch, and dinner.

Of course, if you don’t consume prodigious amounts of carbs, the pancreas doesn’t flood your body with insulin. So as soon as your consumption of carbs goes down, the state of your health goes up, and you can expect to see the following improvements just from taming the hyperinsulinemia:

Should I go any further? Even this long list is far from comprehen­sive. You may read a good deal more about the benefits of low-carb diets from numerous diet books. Luckily, a low-carb diet happens to be a low-fiber diet as well. Finders keepers!



1 The level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol is determined primarily by age and genetics. Normally, it goes up as people get older, and has no direct bearing on your diet, because LDL cholesterol (as measured) is produced exclusively by the liver regardless of your diet’s fat and cholesterol content. Actually, a falling level of cholesterol, including LDL, indicates liver disease, and is in fact one of the first symptoms of impending liver failure and death. According to The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy (2:15. Hyperlipidemia), the ave­rage (that means 95th percentile) level of cholesterol (LDL+HDL) for healthy people “ranges from 210 mg/dL (5.44 mmol/L) in Americans < 20 yr old to > 280 mg/dL (> 7.25 mmol/L) in those > 60 yr old.” [link]

2Paradoxically, if your goal is to add bulk to your diet, you are better off taking a supplemental fiber, than consuming a high-fiber natural diet, because supplements don’t add any digestible carbohydrates to an already bad mix.

3“Prediabetes” is a recently concocted term that describes people who have most or all of the symptoms of type II diabetes, except that their blood test is still below the threshold for diabetes. Please note that diabetes itself is a “syndrome,” which means a group of symptoms that make up a disorder. Because most physicians still rely on highly unreliable “fasting plasma glucose” blood tests, a great deal of people with diabetes aren’t diagnosed at all, are diagnosed with the incorrect type (i.e. type I or II), or are wrongly diagnosed (don’t have any diabetes).

4I am acquainted with someone who experienced a remission of hepatitis C infection (determined by the absence of antibodies) after following a near zero-carb diet for about five years. He adopted that diet after reading my Russian-language books, because he was affected by type II diabetes, which is now also in complete remission. By current yardsticks, a recovery from hepatitis C is considered a miracle. I’m not surprised, however: just as antibodies from most vaccines eventually wear off, apparently hepatitis C antibodies can also vanish. You just have to create a proper environment for healing. Apparently, a zero-carb diet did it for this man. Keep in mind that just one case like this, even well documented, is still considered anecdotal and unrepresentative, and is in no way indicative of what may transpire in any other case.

5 U.S. Center for Disease Control, Special Focus: Diabetes; [link]; page 11.