Dietary Fiber: Types, Benefits, Supplements & Side Effects

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the human body can’t digest.

It helps to maintain a healthy digestive system, and it may also help with weight loss.

Some people take dietary supplements to increase their fiber intake.

Talk to your doctor before taking dietary supplements or beginning a high-fiber diet.

You must have observed that whenever health experts talk about a healthy and well-balanced diet, one crucial nutrient they never forget to mention is dietary fiber. As per health authorities, our diet must contain at least 25-40 grams of fiber per day. But what is dietary fiber?

Dietary fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that is resistible to digestion in the stomach and small intestine with partial or complete fermentation in the large intestine. It is essential for our health, and diets rich in dietary fiber are associated with numerous health benefits. 

Whole grain cereals, nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are a few dietary fiber foods. Due to its potential health benefits, fiber supplements are pretty popular to improve the fiber content of the diet. 

Types of Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is of two types:

  1. Soluble Dietary Fiber: This type is soluble in water, making it excellent for our bowel movement as it softens our stool. When consumed, it forms a gel-like structure in the presence of water that helps control blood cholesterol and glucose levels. 
  2. Insoluble Dietary Fiber: It promotes regular bowel movement by adding bulk to stool. Insoluble dietary fiber is insoluble in water and helps pass food smoothly through our stomach and intestines. 
Soluble PectinApple, Citrus Fruit Peels, Potato, Beetroot, and Legumes.
GumsGuar Gum, Seaweed Extracts (Carrageenan) and Xanthan Gum.
MucilagesAloe Vera, Gum Acacia and Gum Karaya.
Insoluble CelluloseLegumes, Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, and Seeds.
HemicelluloseCereal Grains.
LigninWheat, Corn Bran, Green Beans, Peas, Cauliflower, and Zucchini.

Dietary Fiber Benefits

Let us talk about the health benefits of dietary fiber and why it must be a part of our daily diet.

  1. Weight Management: If you aim to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, make sure your diet is packed with fiber-rich foods. Dietary fiber provides fullness and keeps us full for a long. It prevents hunger cravings and reduces appetite. 
  2. Maintain Blood Sugar Levels: Fiber-rich diet is beneficial for people with diabetes as well. Dietary fiber prevents a sudden rise in blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar in the body and promoting a sustained and steady release of energy. Scientific evidence shows that people who consume fiber-rich diets are less prone to developing type 2 diabetes.
  3. Reduce Cholesterol: Dietary fiber protects against heart disease by forming a gel-like structure in the body that binds with the excess cholesterol and transports it for excretion to prevent its absorption.
  4. Promote Gut Health: If you suffer from indigestion issues, it could be inadequate fiber intake. When dietary fiber reaches our large intestine, it gets fermented by the bacterias present, resulting in short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) production. Studies have linked these SCFAs with reduced inflammation and overall a healthy gut. 
  5. Alleviate Constipation: Constipation is one of the widespread health issues. Dietary fiber helps speed up the transit of food in the digestive tract, add bulk to stool, make them soft and promote easy defecation, which helps prevent constipation. 

How can dietary fiber supplements help solve digestive problems?

Weight watchers, people allergic to high-fiber foods, or those suffering from renal issues can opt for dietary fibre supplements under a doctor’s supervision. They can help normalize bowel movements and ease constipation, diarrhoea or acidity. It is advisable to increase the water intake while taking high-fiber diets or supplements.

Dietary fiber supplements may contain varied ingredients, for example, wheat bran, psyllium husk, inulin, guar gum, beta-glucan, and resistant starch. They are available in powder, chewable, or tablet form. Hence it is essential to take expert advice to enjoy the maximum benefits and precisely address the health issue.

Diabetic people can also take dietary fibre supplements to stabilize their blood glucose levels but only after consulting a doctor as it may interfere with certain medications. 

Are there any side effects of dietary fiber supplements?

One should never take dietary fibre in excess. A person might experience mild symptoms like bloating, gas formation, constipation or diarrhoea. It is also advisable not to consume large doses at once. A person can start with a small amount and gradually increase the dosage. 

It is important to note that dietary fibre supplements are not a solution to all digestive issues; for example, they may worsen Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Hence, a person with any pre-existing condition should seek medical advice before trying a new supplement.

What are the side effects of taking fiber supplements?

Fiber supplements can cause abdominal bloating and gas, at least initially. If you have intestinal problems, such as a history of a bowel blockage or Crohn’s disease, talk to your doctor before adding a fiber supplement to your diet.

What are three problems fiber supplements?

Fiber supplements contain either psyllium, methylcellulose, or polycarbophil. Each works slightly differently from the others with different doses but, as a group, they are generally regarded as safe for daily use. Side effects include gas, bloating, and cramping.

What supplements should not be taken with fiber?

Digoxin: Fiber supplements may reduce the body’s ability to absorb digoxin (Lanoxin), a medication used to regulate heart function. DO NOT take fiber supplements at the same time as digoxin.

What are the benefits of fiber supplements?

It helps treat constipation and diverticular disease and may benefit people with some types of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Recent research has shown that increased fiber is also linked to increased survival in people with colon cancer. Soluble fiber seems to lower cholesterol levels.

What is the best time to take fiber supplements?

Fiber supplements are generally recommended to be taken before meals with a glass of water.

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