Making The Best Use of Fiber Supplements

Like anything related to nutrition, the best way to get fiber is naturally from foods in your diet. Soluble fiber has been shown in studies to help lower cholesterol and control diabetes. Insoluble fiber helps the process of waste speed through the body to keep you regular. Thus, fiber-rich foods are the best way to get the nutrients you need. Foods that are rich in dietary fiber include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts.
Yet if you struggle to take in the recommended amount of fiber every day, it might be best to try taking a fiber supplement to help fill in whatever you’re missing. Fiber supplements can normalize bowel functions and make stool soft, easing the pain of constipation.
How Do Fiber Supplements Work?
The way fiber supplements work is twofold. Either they are made with prebiotic ingredients, which means that they can stimulate the growth of bacteria that improves gastrointestinal health, or they are made with psyllium, which has been proven to effectively treat constipation. There are plenty of other functional fibers that are used in supplements, such as cellulose, guar gum, pectin, and acacia fibers, to name a few. These fiber supplements are then sold as capsules, powders, chewable tables, or oils.
What are the Side Effects?
Although fiber supplements are a great way to boost fiber in your daily diet, if you take too much, they can cause side effects that are very uncomfortable for your digestive system. Too much fiber can do a number on your stomach, leading to gas and bloating, cramps, loose stools, diarrhea, and general abdominal discomfort. This is especially true if you take any kind of fiber supplement in excess.
Even more concerning are the side effects that fiber supplements can have on your body and its natural intake of nutrients. If you’re consuming the recommended amount of fiber each day – which is 25 grams for women and 30 to 35 for men – it’s unlikely that you’ll have issues absorbing nutrients. Yet if you’re taking fiber supplements to replace a lack of fiber, this can be a problem. An overdose of fiber can bind iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, thereby decreasing their absorption. Furthermore, fibers that include pectin or guar gum can reduce the absorption of carotenoids, lycopene, and beta-carotein when they are consumed at the same time as a meal.
If you are taking certain medications, fiber supplements can also affect the absorption of those drugs. Psyllium and guar gum in fiber supplements can reduce the absorption of digoxin, while psyllium can reduce the absorption of lithium, Coumadin, and carbamazepine, and guar gum can slow acetaminophen absorption. It can also decrease the absorption of penicillin and metformin. Pectin can decrease lovastatin absorption. Plus, these supplements can reduce blood sugar levels, which may mean if you have diabetes, you have to adjust your insulin dosage.
How to Take Fiber Supplements
To help avoid suffering from any serious side effects or adverse effects with drug and nutrient absorption, make sure that you check with your doctor before starting to take a fiber supplement. Always take your supplements at a different time from your other medications, either an hour before or after.
Take it slow at first, and gradually increase the amount of fiber you take, as opposed to believing that more fiber will make you more regular faster. Avoid discomfort in your abdomen by drinking plenty of liquids, especially eight glasses of water every day. Don’t take your fiber supplements all at the same time – spread out the intake throughout the day so that you don’t have cramps or other abdominal pain.

From time to time Alena Shelly writes for <a href=”“></a>. She is passionate about keeping healthy, fit and happy! She is a nutritional consultant and personal trainer in San Diego, CA.

Janet M. de Jesus

View posts by Janet M. de Jesus
Janet de Jesus is Nutrition Advisor at HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
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