Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients

Story behind Fiber

Make sure you get the right type of fiber
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

Soluble fiber becomes “sticky” when it gets wet. Oats, which are rich in soluble fiber, are great examples.


Insoluble fiber does not absorb much water, so it doesn’t change when liquid is added to it. Think of what celery would look like if you dropped it into a glass of water. It doesn’t absorb liquid or become sticky. That’s insoluble fiber.


For both diarrhea and constipation, you want to get more soluble fiber, such as oats, bran, and barley.

For constipation only, you can add in some insoluble fiber as well—fruits and vegetables are good sources.

Many people find that simply taking a daily fiber supplement, which is made up mostly of soluble fiber, will lessen both diarrhea and constipation.

Please ask your doctor or dietitian if it is okay to add in more fiber before you try a supplement. These products are considered safe for most people; however, some digestive problems may worsen with the addition of fiber.

Adding More Fiber

Once you get the okay from your medical team, you can pick up a fiber supplement at any pharmacy or supermarket.

Products made with a type of fiber called inulin, or those made of wheat dextrin or Psyllium, often work well.

Start with one-half serving and plenty of water, to see how your body tolerates the product.

Make sure to have at least eight ounces of fluid each time you take a fiber supplement, and drink additional water throughout the day to stay well-hydrated.

Adding fiber without adequate water can worsen constipation.

Over several days, slowly add in more fiber, as tolerated, to help normalize your bowel function. As well, you can experiment with taking the supplement in the morning, evening, or both, to determine what works best for you.

If you want to focus on food to get more soluble fiber, try oats and oatmeal, natural applesauce (no added sugar), lentils, pears, finely ground flaxseeds (not whole), barley, and white rice.


For insoluble fiber, try whole wheat and wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and raw vegetables. Beans and peas contain significant amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber.


Soluble fiber is good for both diarrhea and constipation.
Insoluble fiber is best for constipation only.