Is Taking Fiber Supplements Risky?

If you’re healthy, taking a daily fiber supplement isn’t risky. Fiber supplements are only dangerous if you are on medication or if you have intestinal problems. Some doctors also believe that fiber supplements can be harmful if you have diabetes. Fiber supplements can aggravate intestinal conditions, they can decrease the absorption of medications, and according to some doctors, they can reduce blood sugar levels. For healthy individuals, however, a daily fiber supplement has a number of benefits.

It is estimated that only 5 percent of Americans get enough fiber in their diets. Although fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes are the best sources of fiber, in some cases, access to these foods is limited. Food deserts are a reality and thanks a shaky economy, many families just can’t afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. In these cases, an inexpensive alternative such as fiber supplements may be the only option.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a daily fiber supplement can help normalize bowel function, maintain bowel integrity and health, lower blood cholesterol levels, help control blood sugar levels, and aid in weight loss. Some studies show that fiber may also help prevent colorectal cancer.

If you don’t think you’re getting enough fiber through healthy foods, consider taking a supplement. Before you choose a supplement, it is important to understand the different types of fiber.

Fiber is commonly classified into two categories: those that don’t dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and those that do (soluble fiber).

Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

When purchasing a fiber supplement, be sure to read the labels to make sure you’re taking the right kind for your individual needs. The three types of supplements are psyllium, methylcellulose, and polycarbophil.

Psyllium bulks up the stool by breaking down in the gut. Here, it becomes a food source for the bodies beneficial “good bacteria.” This process makes the stool easier to pass. Psyllium can be taken every day. Brand names include Metamucil, Fiberall, Hydrocil, Konsyl, Perdiem, and Serutan.

Methylcellulose is made from plants and it is non-fermentable. This type of fiber creates a softer stool. Brand names include Citrucel, Citrucel Clear Mix, Citrucel Food Pack, Citrucel Lax, and Citrucel SF. This type of fiber can be taken every day.

Polycarbophil is also plant-based and it absorbs water in the intestinal tract. This helps create a bulkier and softer stool. Brand names include Equalactin, Fiber Lax, FiberCon, Fiberlax, Fibernorm, Konsyl Fiber, Perdiem Fiber Caplet, Mitrolan, Fiber Laxative, Fibertab, Polycarb, and Fiberall Tablets. This type of fiber is usually used to treat IBS, constipation, and diverticulosis. If used long-term, it may cause bloating.

For more information about fiber, visit MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH).

  

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