Of course, it’s best to get your fiber from your diet as much as possible. But many people find it difficult to consume the recommended amount of dietary fiber each day (20-30 grams) and may need to take fiber supplements. But how do you know which one is best for you?
There are many different fiber supplements, and they come in several forms, from capsules to powders to chewable tablets to syrups. Most contain “functional fiber,” which is extracted from natural sources or made in a lab. These include compounds such as lignin, cellulose, pectin, gum and psyllium, which is the supplemental fiber that lowers “bad” cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Some manufactured fiber include polydextrose and polyols and maltodextrins.
It’s best to talk to your doctor about which type of fiber supplement they recommend for you, since it depends on your reason for taking fiber supplements as well as overall health.
Are fiber supplements effective?
There is concrete evidence that fiber found in supplements or fortified foods provides the same health benefits as naturally occurring food sources of fiber.
However, fiber supplements are usually aimed at preventing or treating constipation and typically not for reaping the other health benefits of fiber. Eating unhealthy foods and taking fiber supplements would not benefit your overall health because fiber supplements cannot and should not replace a healthy diet.
How to take fiber supplements safely
Your doctor can recommend both the type of fiber supplement to take for your condition, as well as how much you need to take each day. Adding 50 or more grams of fiber per day to your diet may affect the way your body absorbs nutrients.
In general, it’s best to go slow and gradually build up your fiber intake. If fiber is added to your diet suddenly and in excessive amounts, it can cause discomfort such as bloating, cramping and gas.
Since fiber supplements can interact with some medications or reduce their absorption, you should talk to your doctor if you are using:
- Heart medications
- Drugs used to treat:
- Aspirin, ibuprofen and penicillin
If you are already taking fiber supplements, make sure to inform your doctor whenever they prescribe a new medication. Most medications should be taken at least one hour before or two hours after eating fiber.
What foods are rich in fiber?
As mentioned above, it’s best to try to get your daily fiber intake from foods if possible. Examples of fiber-rich foods include:
- Wholegrain cereals, whole wheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye
- Berries, pears, melon and oranges, strawberries and avocados
- Beets, broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn
- Peas and beans
- Nuts and seeds
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