Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of having sufficient fiber in the diet. However many of us find that getting enough fiber from food only is not possible or practical. For this reason many of us turn to fiber supplements. So, how and when should we use them; and how safe are they to be used over a long period of time? Fiber is obtained from eating foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains. However it is not always possible to obtain the amount of fiber required from one’s diet. Hence functional fibers that are isolated and extracted from plant and animals are used to make these supplements which can be added to the diet to fulfill the fiber deficit. These supplements may be made from psyllium, pectin, gaur gum, acacia fibers, cellulose and many other ingredients. They are available in the form of wafers, capsules, chewable tablets, powders and oils.
Who Needs Fiber Supplements?
Eating more fruit, veggies, nuts and whole grains is the best way to get the requisite amount of fiber. However our lifestyle, food preferences or even food intolerances make is impossible or impractical for us to include sufficient amount s of fiber in our diet. One option is to eat foods that are manufactured by adding fiber – many processed foods are now being made with added fiber. Those who have high cholesterol or diabetes can also opt to take supplements since fiber can help in controlling these diseases. Dietary fiber is also seen to help protect against colorectal cancer. Those who have conditions such as Diverticular disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) could also benefit from taking more dietary fiber and perhaps may also benefit from fiber in supplement form.
Are They Safe?
While there is no evidence to show that fiber supplements are harmful in any way, they are less effective than fiber derived from the diet. And some people could have side effects such as bloating, gas, loose stools and cramping, especially if they take these supplements in excess. Also if you have any preexisting health conditions, speak to your doctor before starting supplements. If you are on any medication you should make sure that these supplements are not contraindicated. Even if you do take them, remember to drink plenty of water so as to minimize any discomfort caused by them.