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What the Research Tells Us About The Benefits of Taking Fiber Supplements
Updated on January 31, 2024
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What the Research Tells Us About The Benefits of Taking Fiber Supplements
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Most of the foods we eat are broken down into sugar for energy. Except for fiber, that is. 

Fiber is a natural component of plant-based foods. You can find it in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as wheat and brown rice. Unlike many nutrients, it’s indigestible. 

Fiber can pass through your gut unchanged. It has many proven health benefits, such as:

  • Regular bowel movements
  • Better blood sugar control
  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Healthy digestion
  • Balanced gut flora
  • Weight loss
  • Prevent constipation
  • Relieve diarrhea

Some digestive supplements also contain fiber. But are they just as healthy as dietary fiber? What makes a good fiber supplement?

Let’s take a look at the science.

Summary

Fiber is a component of plant-based foods that isn't broken down in the body. Fiber is good for you because it can regulate your bowel movements, lower cholesterol, contribute to weight loss, and even balance your gut flora, among other things.

What the Research Tells Us About The Benefits of Taking Fiber Supplements 3

Photo from Pexels - Foodie Factor

Are Fiber Supplements Safe?

Yes. There’s no evidence that taking fiber supplements is harmful to your health. However, you might have digestive symptoms as initial reactions, especially if it's your first time taking a fiber supplement.

Soluble fibers can cause bloating, gas, cramping, and flatulence if you start at higher doses. This is because soluble fiber ferments in the gut to become short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and if there are too many, your gut microbiome may become imbalanced.

Insoluble fibers are less likely to cause discomfort because they don’t ferment in the gut. Still, it's wise to avoid too high a dose at first, even with insoluble fiber.

However, your fiber supplement shouldn't be causing you too much discomfort or negative side effects, so consult your doctor if you're experiencing any prolonged symptoms.

Some other common side effects include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation

These side effects should go away on their own eventually, or you can avoid them altogether if you don't start at too high a dose of either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber.

Talk to your doctor about taking fiber supplements. It may not be safe if you’re on certain medications. They can decrease the absorption of aspirin, carbamazepine, and other drugs to accommodate your fiber supplement.

If you're suffering from diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or any loose stools, try focusing on soluble fiber instead, as insoluble fiber cannot absorb water the same way.

Tip: Start with a low dose of fiber supplements to avoid these symptoms. You can gradually increase the amount of fiber you eat. But don’t go over 50 grams of fiber per day. That is enough fiber to be beneficial. Check how much is in your fiber supplement and consult with your doctor.

Summary

Fiber supplements are safe to consume. They may come with some side effects if you start at too high a dose at first, but these side effects should pass over time.

Consult your doctor if you're experiencing any negative side effects for much longer than expected and they may be able to adjust your dosage.

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Do Fiber Supplements Work?

Yes. Fiber supplements provide a safe and effective way to improve your gut health, given you take them properly and at the right dose. A fiber supplement can regulate your bowel movement, prevent constipation, and balance your gut flora, so increasing your fiber intake is beneficial all around.

Like foods rich in fiber, these supplements also provide additional health benefits. They can lower your cholesterol levels and keep your blood sugar under control.

Summary

Fiber supplements work as long as you take them properly. Fiber intake promises many health benefits.

How Much Fiber Do I Need A Day?

Adult women are advised to eat 21 to 25 grams of fiber each day to be considered enough fiber. Men should consume at least 30 to 38 grams daily. 

Doctors recommend getting most of your fiber from whole foods. If you don’t get enough from your diet, you can take a fiber supplement to replace them. 

When to Take Fiber Supplements

Different brands have their own suggestions on fiber intake. You must follow the instructions that come with your dietary supplements. Ideally, you want to space your intake throughout the day. 

You can take fiber supplements safely every day. Remember to drink them with a glass of water. Keeping yourself hydrated will help you avoid constipation.

Summary

Adult women can take 21 to 25 grams of fiber daily, while men can take 30 to 38 grams daily.

Your brand of supplements will dictate how much fiber to take and when. Always take fiber with lots of water to keep constipation at bay.

Types of Fiber Supplements

There are two kinds of fibers: soluble and insoluble fibers. Fiber supplements are mostly comprised of either of the two. Some brands have both in equal amounts. Fiber supplements are a great way to add more fiber into your diet if you don't normally eat as much of it.

Soluble Fiber Supplement

Soluble fibers attract and absorb water inside your gut. They form into a gel which helps slow digestion. Sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Barley
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Oat bran
  • Peas
  • Seeds

Certain fruits and vegetables may also contain these fibers. FiberCon and Benefiber are some brands of soluble fiber supplements.

Dietary fiber can also be found in cereals and grains.

Insoluble Fiber Supplement

Insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water. They add bulk to your diet and let you pass stool more quickly and comfortably. Dietary sources include vegetables, wheat bran, and whole grains.

You can also get them from fiber supplements like Citrucel. Others (like Metamucil and Colon Broom) contain Psyllium husk. It's rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Summary

There are two types of fiber supplements:

  1. Soluble fiber - They absorb water in the gut and slow down your digestion
  2. Insoluble fiber - They bulk up your stool so you can pass them easier and with less discomfort

7 Health Benefits of Fiber Supplements

Nutritionists recommend eating foods that are rich in fiber. Whole foods provide different fibers, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that supplements don’t.

But if you’re experiencing digestive symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, a high-fiber diet may not be enough. Fiber supplementation is a practical way to add fibers to your routine.


Here are the benefits of fiber supplements:

1. Prevent Constipation

Having at least three bowel movements each week is one of the signs of a healthy gut. Those who pass stool fewer than three times a week may be constipated.

Constipation causes dry and lumpy stools that are difficult to pass. Some may even feel like they haven’t passed all their stool after a bowel movement.

It can make trips to the bathroom painful and uncomfortable. People who are frequently constipated can benefit from supplements with insoluble fibers.

Fiber supplements bulk up stools and increase their size and weight. It also keeps them soft, making it easier for your digestive tract to pass stool.

Adding fibers to your diet regulates your bowel movements and prevents constipation.

2. Relieve Diarrhea

Loose, watery stools and frequent bowel movements (more than three times a day) may be signs of diarrhea. Diarrhea is usually short-lived and lasts no more than one or two days.

It tends to be more common in people with digestive conditions like food intolerances and leaky gut syndrome. Certain infections and antibiotics may also cause diarrhea.

Soluble fiber supplements can absorb the excess water and solidify your stool. They can decrease the frequency of your stools until you feel better.

The best probiotic supplements also relieve symptoms of diarrhea. Probiotics that contain Saccharomyces boulardii prevent diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics.

Taking fiber supplements along with probiotic supplements may also help and provide even better health benefits. Consult your healthcare provider first to be sure, as your fiber supplement may work best with certain probiotic strains.

Summary

The first two benefits of fiber supplements are:

  • Prevents constipation - Because fiber encourages regular bowel movements, you will be less "backed up"
  • Relieves diarrhea - Soluble fiber helps absorb excess water so your stools aren't too loose or watery and are more comfortable to pass

3. Lower Cholesterol Levels

There’s good cholesterol, and then there’s bad cholesterol. Studies show that a fiber supplement can decrease low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or unhealthy cholesterol.

A fiber supplement also doesn’t reduce high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol or increase triglycerides. Low LDL and high triglycerides are bad for your heart and overall health. Fiber intake can keep your cholesterol in check.

4. Control Blood Sugar

Fiber supplements have been shown to increase insulin production in type 2 diabetics. When eaten with foods that lower blood sugar, it can keep your diabetes under control.

Soluble fiber slows your digestion and the absorption of sugars from food. So a fiber supplement can stabilize your blood glucose and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Fiber rich foods do the same thing.

5. Balance Your Gut Flora

The gut is comprised of good and bad gut bacteria. A healthy digestive system requires a balance of both. Otherwise, you will show signs of an unhealthy gut.

Gut bacteria make it easy for your body to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Studies show that fiber supplements increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Consistent fiber intake is necessary to feed the good bacteria in your microbiome.

Prebiotic fiber can also nourish probiotic bacteria. A well-balanced gut flora lowers your risk for colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Summary

Benefits three, four, and five are:

  • Lower cholesterol levels - Fiber can decrease "bad cholesterol" (low-density lipoproteins)
  • Control blood sugar - Because soluble fiber slows down your sugar absorption, your blood glucose levels won't spike as much and will remain balanced and manageable
  • Balance your gut flora - Fiber feeds good bacteria in your gut, making sure your microbiome is balanced and healthy

6. Promote Digestive Health

Having regular bowel movements is important to your digestion and overall health. Health professionals say you should pass stools anywhere from three times a day to three times a week.

Fiber supplements can regulate your bowel movement and improve your digestion.

Fiber supplementation can prevent constipation and ensure you're properly passing waste.

7. Support Weight Loss

Maintaining a low-calorie diet is essential for weight loss. It decreases your calorie intake and prevents you from regaining any lost weight. 

Fiber promotes weight loss by making you feel full for longer periods. They reduce your appetite and the number of meals you eat in a day.

Research shows that fiber-rich foods can help you shed pounds and maintain a weight loss diet. Fiber supplements are proven to provide similar benefits.

One study links losing weight to a higher ratio of Bacteroides vs. Firmicutes gut bacteria. Fiber supplements have been shown to help.

What the Research Tells Us About The Benefits of Taking Fiber Supplements 4

Photo from Pexels - Ketut Subiyanto

Summary

Benefits six and seven are:

  • Promote digestive health - Consistent bowel movements mean your digestive system is healthy
  • Support weight loss - Fiber helps you feel fuller for longer, which will help you eat less and lead to losing weight

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Updated on January 31, 2024
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.
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