Fiber, also known as “roughage,” is a vital type of carbohydrate. Many food sources contain fiber. The outer skins of veggies and fruits, legumes, and cereal grains, for example, all contain fiber. Fiber is a crucial nutrient, and its health benefits are massive.
Health Benefits Of Fiber
Two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, provide health benefits. Fiber can also reduce the risk of some health issues. For instance, adequate intake of adequate dietary fiber can decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Fiber is important for digestive tract function. It helps relieve constipation and prevents hemorrhoids. Fiber might also reduce the risk of colon cancer. This is because fiber helps wastes travel through the intestines. Faster digestion reduces the exposure of carcinogens to the intestinal lining.
Digestible portions of fiber provide some caloric intake. Yet, even parts of fiber that are hard to digest move waste through the colon. For this reason, it can reduce the risk of diverticular disease.
A diet low in fiber may increase the risk for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, and other digestive tract issues. Studies suggest that increased intake of prebiotic fiber might prove beneficial. This is due to adequate levels of good bacteria and mucosal barrier function in the colon. The process protects against inflammation.
Soluble fibers help cardiovascular function and reduce the risk of arterial disease (atherosclerosis). Such fiber can lower levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Soluble fibers, including those found in oats and beans, can also reduce the risk of heart issues for the same reason.
Soluble fiber can also improve the body’s ability to regulate glucose. This is true even for individuals diagnosed with diabetes.
The CDC recommends certain intakes for carbs. For men, it’s approximately 46.4% of kcal consumed over the day. For women, that number is 48.2%. That is to say that approximately 30 g of fiber should be consumed on a daily basis. Average serving sizes of fruits, vegetables, or cereals contain between 2 g and 4 g of fiber.
Fiber Supplements – What To Look For
Dietary fiber intake depends on age, activity levels, and overall health and wellness. Too much fiber can lead to dehydration and gut discomfort. Excess fiber might prevent the absorption of iron and other minerals during the digestive process.
If you don’t like to eat veggies, you have options for other sources of fiber. Fiber supplements can be beneficial. These can improve colon function. This is due to good levels of bacterial flora in the colon. Poor intake of fiber intake has been linked to an overgrowth of types of bacteria and lower levels of good bacteria.
Choose fiber supplements that contain high levels of water-soluble fiber. Avoid those that add excess sugar or artificial sweeteners to hide the taste.
Follow dosage recommendations. The use of fiber supplements should always start at the lower end of the recommended dosage. Then, gradually increase it. Start a dietary fiber supplement with the dosage between 1 to 2 g before a meal and then at bedtime. Dosage can increase to approximately 5 g.
Follow instructions for use. Drink adequate amounts of water before, during, and after taking the supplement.
Possible Side Effects
Bacteria in the gut ferment water-soluble dietary fiber in the intestine. This process can produce a lot of gas, especially if you are not used to a high-fiber diet.
Some find that fiber supplements in capsule form may be better tolerated than a hard tablet. Some fiber supplements in tablet form interact with water. This causes the tablets to swell quickly and achieve a size greater than their original within a minute or so. This can cause a feeling of thickness or heaviness in the esophagus.
If you have abdominal discomfort, always discuss fiber supplements with your primary care provider. Some dietary fibers and fiber supplements cause excessive abdominal gas, bloating, and gut discomfort. This is especially true for those diagnosed with IBS.
If you have been diagnoses with a medical condition or take prescription medications, consult your doctor before taking fiber supplements. In some cases, fiber supplements can restrict the absorption of certain medications.
Not all fiber supplements are created equal. Read the ingredients. Talk to your pharmacist or your doctor about your needs and concerns. Dietary fiber is the best source for health, but fiber supplements can provide a boost as well.