Best Fiber Supplement
Since the highest amounts of fiber are in healthy whole foods, like fruit and veggies, many people find it hard to get enough fiber while eating a diet they really enjoy. The result of this is that a shocking 95% of people in the United States don’t meet the daily recommendation for fiber intake. Healthy diet changes are never a bad thing, but if your main concern is fiber, you can always use a supplement instead.
How does it work in the body?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate, but unlike other carbs, it can’t be digested by humans. It isn’t broken down for energy, and it passes through the digestive system intact. However, it is still an important part of a healthy diet that offers benefits to the digestive process. Soluble fiber (which dissolves in water) helps to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber (which does not dissolve) helps food to move easily through the digestive tract, promoting healthy stools and preventing constipation.
Conditions Treated with Fiber
Because fiber is not digested or absorbed by the body, it doesn’t “treat” conditions in the same way that other supplements might. The benefits of fiber are often more long-term; fiber keeps the digestive system healthy and can protect it from certain problems. The one main condition that we might say a fiber supplement could treat is chronic constipation. People who experience constipation often may find that increased fiber intake or a fiber supplement treats their chronic issue.
Conditions Prevented with Fiber
A fiber-rich diet is found to be associated with a lower risk of many health conditions. Some of this is due to the benefits of the fiber itself, and some of it is due to the other health benefits of foods that have a lot of fiber.
We mentioned already that chronic constipation can be treated with fiber, but it can also be prevented before it starts. People who consume enough fiber every day aren’t likely to develop this problem.Digestive tract disorders and diseases can be prevented, and their symptoms reduced if they occur anyway, with a sufficient fiber intake. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and ulcers are just a few examples of digestive tract problems that can be prevented or improved by keeping your digestive system healthy with an adequate fiber intake.
Thanks to the role it plays in glucose regulation, fiber may also reduce the risk of diabetes, and thanks to the role it plays in cholesterol regulation, it may reduce the risk of heart disease. Interestingly, fiber can also prevent weight gain and obesity. This is probably because fiber takes a long time to chew and makes you feel full, both of which tend to discourage people from overeating.
There are a few types of fiber that may be used in supplements, and the supplements can come in different forms. When you know which one you are looking for, you can check out our top ten list of the best fiber supplements to find a quality product that suits your needs.The main types of fiber used in fiber supplements are:
- Psyllium - This is perhaps the most common type of fiber supplement and is used in popular brand-name products. It’s a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber that can treat IBS, constipation, and diverticulosis.
- Methylcellulose - This type is entirely soluble fiber, and it’s mainly used to help achieve healthy, regular stools by preventing constipation or diarrhea.
- Polycarbophil - This type also contains only soluble fiber, and it is primarily used to improve irregular bowel movements.
You can usually find these types of fiber as:
- Chewable tablets;
With all the potential combinations that these types allow, you should be able to figure out a version of fiber supplementation that works for you, whether that be the convenience of a capsule or a powder that can be dissolved in your favorite beverage to motivate you to remember it.
Food Sources of Fiber
Most whole plant foods contain a decent amount of fiber, although some have higher fiber content than others. Some of the foods that have the most fiber include:
- Legumes - Many legumes are high in fiber; chickpeas and soybeans, for example, each have about 4 grams of fiber in a 100-calorie serving.
- Whole grains - Whole grain products have more fiber than the refined versions of the same products. For instance, whole wheat spaghetti has about 3.5 grams of fiber in a 100-calorie serving, while white spaghetti has just 1 gram.
- Fruit - Pretty much any fruit makes a healthy addition to your diet, but fruits like blackberries and raspberries have the best fiber content, with nearly 10 grams of fiber in a 100-calorie serving.
We know that fiber is important for digestive health, but what exactly are the specific benefits?
The benefit that most people think of, and the one that applies to most people, is the regulation of bowel movement. Fiber makes stools easier to pass by increasing the weight and size. It also reduces the risks of digestive tract diseases and cancers. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps to control blood sugar and cholesterol, which can put you at lower risk for developing certain conditions and improve your cardiovascular health in general. Consuming enough fiber also makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight, by making you feel full and deterring you from overeating.
Side Effects of Fiber Supplements
Fiber itself isn’t associated with negative effects on the body, but when it is consumed as a supplement instead of in food, side effects are possible. They largely occur when a supplement is not taken according to recommendations. For instance, fiber supplements taken without a sufficient amount of water or other fluid can cause constipation, because fiber absorbs fluids. It expands as it takes on water, which can interfere with the digestive process or with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. This expansion may also cause gas or bloating.
Although fiber’s ability to regulate glucose and make you feel full are important, they can be taken too far with a supplement. Some people may experience unwanted or unexpected low blood sugar or weight loss when taking fiber supplements. Rare but severe side effects, including difficulty breathing and dizziness, are possible if one is allergic to a fiber supplement. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you are having an allergic reaction to the supplement, and consult your doctor about less severe side effects if they are causing problems.
Precautions and Warnings
Fiber supplements are generally regarded as safe, but you should keep your doctor up to date on your supplements, medications, and health issues so that they can tell you if something is potentially dangerous. Any other medical professionals who will be treating you or performing any procedure on you should also be aware of what you are taking.
Tell your doctor about any known allergies and past medical conditions or problems before starting a new supplement. They may have recommendations about what fiber supplements you should or should not take based on this information. Pay attention to any extra ingredients in the supplement, especially ingredients you are allergic to or sweeteners, as you may want to limit consumption of these things and choose a different type of fiber supplement.
How long do you take a fiber supplement?
The length of time that you’ll need a fiber supplement depends on your concerns and the conditions or symptoms you are trying to treat. When taking fiber to treat a single instance of constipation, you will likely only take it for a few days. If you have a more chronic issue, you may be advised to take a fiber supplement long-term. Do not take a fiber supplement for more than a week unless directed by your doctor, and do not exceed the recommended number of days without consulting them. If symptoms have not improved in the expected amount of time, your doctor may want to re-evaluate and modify the treatment.
Due to the way it absorbs water and expands in the stomach, fiber can interfere with the absorption of nutrients and medications, especially in large amounts. This may mean that you shouldn’t take the supplement, or it may simply mean that you need to carefully schedule the time between each thing you take. Consult your doctor before combining fiber supplements with any medication, especially:
- Cholesterol medication - Some types of fiber can work together with cholesterol medication to lower cholesterol to healthy levels, but other types can prevent absorption of the medication. Your doctor should advise you on what type of fiber would be safe and effective for you if you are taking cholesterol medication.
- Diabetes medication - Fiber supplements can interfere with the absorption of diabetes medication, so if you take both, they should not be taken at the same time. Consult a physician to figure out an appropriate schedule for these medications.
- Antidepressants - Both the absorption and the effectiveness of tricyclic antidepressants are reduced by fiber supplements. People taking antidepressants should consult a doctor when considering a fiber supplement.
Fiber supplements are very safe when they are taken according to a doctor’s recommendations. It’s important to avoid improper use and combination with certain other medications. If you think a fiber supplement could improve your health, bring it up with your primary physician to find the best treatment for you. When you have a recommendation of the type of fiber supplement that might help you, refer to our list of the best products to find the highest-quality option for that type of fiber supplement.
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