Everyone needs fiber in their diet. Insoluble fiber keeps your gastrointestinal system “regular,” while soluble fiber slows digestion, which in turn slows the release of blood sugars into the body, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and lower bad cholesterol. Women should be consuming 25 grams of fiber per day, whereas men should be consuming 38 grams of fiber per day (for those 50 years old and younger).
The best way to increase fiber in your diet is to consciously eat more fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains. The alternative is to add “functional” fiber to your diet. Functional fiber is created by extracting fiber from plants or animals, and comes in many forms like powder, oil, wafers, capsules and chewable tablets.
Best Fiber Supplement Types
Psyllium Supplements. Psyllium is a soluble fiber and is noted for its efficacy in treating constipation. Due to its effectiveness, lack of side effects and low cost, it has been rated as the best type of fiber supplement on the market. Metamucil is a popular brand that contains psyllium, which is first in pharmacist rankings according to US News and World Report.
Wheat Dextrin Supplements. Wheat dextrin is soluble fiber and is made from wheat flour. Benefiber is a popular brand that is made with wheat dextrin, which is second in pharmacist rankings according to US News and World Report.
Methylcellulose Supplements. Methylcellulose is an insoluble fiber, adding mass to stool while also softening it, both of which helps move the stool along its natural path to elimination. Methylcellulose supplements do not cause excess gas or bloating, common characteristics of other fiber supplements. Citrucel is a popular brand that contains methylcellulose.
Polycarbophil Supplements. Polycarbophil is an insoluble fiber, so it adds bulk but softens stools, like methylcellulose. As such, polycarbophil is a laxative, but can also relieve diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber Con is a popular brand that is made with polycarbophil, which is fourth in pharmacist rankings according to US News and World Report. Side effects may include gas or bloating.
Inulin and Oligofructose Supplements. These supplements help “good” bacteria flourish in your gastrointestinal system and is made from a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains. Side effects may include gas or bloating.
Best Fiber Supplement Brands
Besides the brands noted above, here are a few more top-rated fiber supplement brands:
Garden of Life. Garden of Life Superseed Fiber Powder is made from chia and flax seeds, which have loads of soluble and insoluble fiber. What’s great about Garden of Life is that it’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids and gluten-free. Easily add fiber to your diet by adding this powder to your yogurt, smoothie, cereal and juice.
Equate Fiber Powder. Equate is popular because it is effective, low-cost, flavor-free and gentle. This fiber supplement is made from soluble fiber and can be used in cooking. It doesn’t leave a gritty aftertaste and dissolves well in liquids.
Be careful of your fiber intake. Negative side effects may occur with overconsumption like:
- Loose stools
- Abdominal discomfort (gas and bloating)
- Lowers your body’s ability to absorb iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, carotenoids, beta-carotein, lycopene and lutein
Drug interactions may also occur:
- Psyllium reduces your body’s ability to absorb digoxin, Coumadin, lithium and carbamazepine.
- Other drug interactions may occur according to the type of fiber supplement you choose to take. Please consult with a doctor before using.
- Slowly increase your fiber supplement intake each day until you reach your desired dosage.
- Drink lots of water (64 ounces a day).
- Don’t take your allotted dosage of fiber all at once, spread it out throughout the day.
- If you are also taking medications, take your medications one to two hours before ingesting your fiber supplement.