High Fiber Supplements

A widespread interest and need for dietary fiber has resulted in manufactured fiber supplements. Eating a variety of high fiber foods is the best way to maximize the benefits of fiber available in whole foods while getting the necessary nutrients.

However, some people find it hard to get the recommended 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day from their diet. Most Americans consume only 11 to 13 grams of dietary fiber each day, not exactly a substantial high fiber diet.

It's hard to believe some people don't like high fiber foods, but maybe they avoid such foods since high fiber foods can sometimes cause cramping, bloating or gas (high fiber foods need to be slowly introduced when one is adjusting to a larger intake). The supplements range from bran tablets to purified cellulose. They are essentially bulk-forming substances available as powders, tablets, biscuits or granules. Ground up psyllium seeds and water absorbing particles are the main ingredients in fiber supplements. Guar is another fiber supplement and works the same way psyllium does. (Caution, do not take psyllium and guar together.)

Psyllium comes from a shrublike herb called the plantain. Also known as psyllium seed, pysllium is composed of alkaloids, amino acids, oils, protein, tannins, flavonoids, and some sugars and carbohydrates. The oval-shaped seeds are basically tasteless and are covered with a gummy substance called mucilage. The seeds or husk are the sources of fiber.

Psyllium helps relieve constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and other intestinal disorders when used as a dietary fiber. Many studies have concluded that fiber relieves constipation by adding bulk to stool and speeding its journey through the gastrointestinal system.

Many laxatives sold as stool softeners are actually just fiber supplements.

Doctors may recommend the use of pysllium as a bulking agent for mild to moderate cases of diarrhea due to ulcerative colitis Crohn's disease. It can be effective in reducing recurrences of colitis.

Other supplemental sources of fiber include methylcellulose and polycarbophil as well as fiber from fruits, vegetables and grains. Polycarbophil and methylcellulose are chemically altered forms of cellulose (the cell wall of many plants).

Methylcellulose and polycarbophil are non-fermentable making them less likely to cause intestinal gas. They absorb water in the intestinal tract which helps form bulkier and softer stools. Both of these supplements can be helpful in treating constipation, diverticulosis, IBS and some cases of diarrhea.

Soluble fibers such as those in psyllium husk, guar gum and oat bran have a cholesterol-lowering effect when added to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Studies have shown psyllium to be quite effective in lowering overall as well as LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels.

Fiber supplement manufacturers state that insoluble fiber can reduce serum cholesterol, but maybe not in the most effective way. They claim that soluble fiber is the most efficient type of fiber because it is easily digested and helps to change the fiber into a gel. The gel assists in making the other nutrients in the fiber supplements remain in the body for an extended length of time. This process helps to prevent dehydration.

Manufacturers believe that soluble fiber creates a "full feeling" because the fiber expands in the stomach. Feel full. Eat less. Lose weight.

Fiber supplements help our bodies to make up fiber deficiencies when there is a poor amount of fiber in the digestive system. The supplements can maintain regularity. By creating roughage, supplements help rid the body of toxins and wastes in the digestive tract.


Fiber supplements should always be taken with a full 8 oz. glass of water. At least 6 to 8 full glasses of water should be taken throughout the day or constipation may occur. Taking fiber supplements without adequate liquids may cause swelling and, in extreme cases, cause choking. People with narrowing of the esophagus or any other blockage of the gastrointestinal tract should not take fiber supplements.

If you are currently being treated with certain antidepressants, diabetes or cholesterol-lowering drugs, you should not use fiber supplements without first talking to your doctor. Fiber supplements may reduce or delay the absorption of certain medications making them less effective.

Medications should be taken at least one hour before or between two and four hours after taking fiber. One should take fiber supplements early in the morning and just before going to bed. They are most effective when taken daily for at least one month. With regular usage, the bowel can eventually function in a consistent way.

Overall, fiber supplements assist in the maintenance of good health and remain integral in improving nutrition. Getting your dietary fiber from high fiber foods and not from supplements alone is the natural preference.

Supplement, don't substitute!

Supplements contain only part of the fiber you need daily. You want to do your best to get a healthy amount of fiber from the high fiber foods that you eat each and every day.