Fiber Supplements: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage

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Fiber supplements are foods that you can buy without a prescription at pharmacies, health food stores, big boxes, and online. They come in a variety of formulations, including capsules, powders, and baked goods, and contain one of three types of fiber: psyllium , methylcellulose, or polycarbophil.

Fiber supplements are commonly taken to support healthy digestive system function, reduce weight, and treat or prevent certain diseases and conditions. They are generally considered safe, but some fiber supplements can cause side effects like bloating or gas, especially if not taken as directed.

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Health benefits

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fiber is important for maintaining regular bowel movements . Dietary fiber is also satisfying and can be beneficial for weight loss and maintenance.

While they are plentiful, most Americans don't eat enough fiber-containing foods naturally. Supplements can help people get many of the health benefits of fiber, including maintaining optimal blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Adequate fiber intake has also been linked to the prevention of certain types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and food allergies.

For optimal health, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that adult men consume at least 38 grams (g) of fiber per day and women 25 grams of fiber per day.

Often people take fiber supplements to help control common digestive problems.

  • Diarrhea : As it passes through the digestive tract, soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a jelly-like substance that helps slow digestion, making it especially useful for treating diarrhea.
  • Constipation – Insoluble fiber softens and bulks up your stool, making it easier to pass, which can help relieve constipation and prevent hemorrhoids and anal fissures that can result from hard stools.

Fiber supplements are sometimes included in the general treatment plan for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. In such circumstances, they should only be used as directed by a physician.

Possible side effects.

Possible side effects of fiber supplementation include:

  • Gas and gas pain
  • Swelling
  • Low blood glucose
  • Diarrhea or constipation (if used excessively)
  • Unwanted weight loss

Because dietary fiber supplements accumulate in the contents of food in the intestinal tract and absorb surrounding substances, they can interfere with the body's ability to absorb medications, vitamins, and nutrients.

Dosage and preparation

Fiber supplements come in a variety of forms, including powders to mix with water or other liquid, or capsules to swallow whole. Fiber is also often added to foods like crackers, crackers, cereals, and bars.

The dose depends on the product and the desired effect. In general, it is recommended to start with a low dose and increase it until you reach the recommended total daily intake of fiber. however, you should always consider your sources of dietary fiber.

Psyllium

Banana , made from the seeds of banana plants, contains 70% soluble fiber and 30% insoluble fiber. It is broken down in the intestines (fermentation) as a food source for "good bacteria." For this reason, it can cause gas.

Psyllium is used to treat constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. There are approximately 20 calories in a tablespoon. Brand names include Metamucil, Fiberall, Hydrocil, Consil, and Serutan.

Methylcellulose

This non-allergenic, non-fermentable fiber is derived from the cell walls of plants. It is a soluble fiber that absorbs water to create softer stools and is often used to treat constipation and some causes of diarrhea, and to keep bowel movements regular.

It can be used for a long time, but it can interfere with the absorption of food and nutrients, so it should not be taken at the same time as some prescription drugs. Methylcellulose is marketed under the brand name Citrucel.

Polycarbophil

This soluble fiber absorbs water in the intestinal tract and creates softer, bulkier stools. It is not fermented or absorbed by the body.

Polycarbophil can be used to treat constipation and intestinal problems, but it is not suitable for people who have difficulty swallowing. It should not be taken at the same time as medications. Polycarbophil is marketed under the brand names FiberCon, Fiber Lax, Equalactin, and Mitrolan.

What to look for

When shopping for fiber supplements, make sure they contain the type of fiber you need. And some additives have added sugar, salt, flavors, or colors that you may want to avoid. For these reasons, be sure to check the ingredients listed on the package before purchasing.

Get the word of drug information

Fiber supplements are available without a prescription and are considered safe for most people. If you have a medical condition that you think can be improved by taking fiber supplements, talk to your doctor first. If you regularly experience diarrhea or constipation, you may need to have your digestive system tested before starting fiber treatment.

Frequently asked questions

  • Among the richest sources of dietary fiber:

    • Cereal
    • Popcorn
    • Whole grains (especially bulgur, spelled, teff, barley, and oat bran)
    • Beans
    • Lentils
    • Vegetables (artichokes, canned pumpkin, boiled parsnips, pumpkin, turnip greens)
    • Whole fruits and berries
    • Fresh vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, and carrots)
    • Legumes (lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans)
    • Seeds (pumpkin, chia, sunflower, flax)

  • Recommendations vary, but you can divide your dose into two or even three so that you can take them at regular intervals throughout the day. For example, the manufacturers of Metamucil recommend taking their product three times a day with meals. This can help prevent bloating and gas that sometimes results from taking a large dose at the same time.

  • It is perfectly normal for most healthy people to take fiber supplements on a daily basis, and many people rely on them to make up for the lack of fiber in their diets. However, it's always best to get your nutrients from food sources, so if you need to increase your fiber intake, start by eating more high-fiber foods.

  • In general, you should avoid taking medications with fiber supplements. Because fiber passes through the digestive system relatively quickly, medications taken at the same time as a supplement can be excreted in your stool before your body can metabolize them. Ask your PCP about the ideal time.

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