Fiber supplements are often recommended when a person cannot get enough fiber through a healthy diet, or when one suffers from chronic intestinal conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s Disease. It is strongly recommended by physicians that people add fiber to their diet through natural sources found in food. In some cases however, additional fiber supplements may be required.
Natural dietary fibers from food are most easily obtained from whole grains, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables. Two natural supplements that can be added through diet are cooked split peas and kidney beans. The suggested recommended daily intake of fiber in the US is over 30 grams for men, and 25 grams for women under 50. Split peas give a hefty 16 grams per cup, and kidney beans offer a little over 13 grams per cup. These two are some of the best sources of dietary fiber.
Other excellent natural sources are raspberries, which offer nine grams of dietary fiber per cup. Whole-wheat spaghetti is another excellent choice, offering six grams per cup. Both broccoli and oat bran offer a little over five grams per cup.
Fiber from legumes may be indigestible to some and cause unwanted gassiness. Many fiber supplements will also do the same thing, although it may not be as significant as that caused by food sources.
There are essentially three types of fiber supplements on the market that can help those who have dietary restrictions and/or cannot get the necessary dietary fiber through food. These are supplements made from psyllium, methylcellulose and polycarbophil.
Psyllium husk supplements are probably the most recognizable and are found in products like Metamucil®. This type of fiber does soften and also bulks up stool, so it may be helpful in calming chronic diarrhea and also helping to ease constipation. A teaspoon or so of Metamucil® is usually taken in powdered form with juice or water.
Psyllium can cause excessive gas and bloating. Thus some prefer supplements that are less gas producing, like Citrucel® made from methylcellulose. Methylcellulose is derived from the completely non-digestible parts of plants like the cell walls. This aids in bulking up the stool, since it passes unchanged through the digestive tract.
Recent additions to fiber supplements are those containing guar gum or acacia. These are natural thickening agents one often sees added to other products. Guar gum has the advantage of being completely tasteless. Many prefer it because it completely mixes with liquid, and thus its presence cannot usually be detected. Benefiber® is one product that formerly used guar gum but now uses wheat dextrin instead.
Supplements for fiber used to be available only in powdered form, but now the top three all come in pill form as well. This has aided many, since taking chunky fiber in water is often considered unpleasant. Pills tend to be easier to swallow and may provide a more convenient way to take these supplements.