Fiber Supplements – Pills, Powders, Drinks & More – The Ultimate Guide

Fiber supplements including pills, powders, and drinks, could help reach daily fiber recommendations.
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90% of Americans have trouble meeting the daily fiber recommendations. Fiber deficiencies can lead to serious health problems.

You’ve probably been told to include more fiber in your daily diet. But why?

Fiber is commonly known for its ability to relieve or reduce the risk of constipation. As the most reported gastrointestinal issue in the United States, constipation can be easily kept under control but over time can lead to more serious health issues.3

Many Americans do not consume the required amount of dietary fiber.5 According to the American Heart Association’s Eating Plan, adults should be consuming anywhere from 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. It’s estimated that the average American adult only consumes around 15 grams daily, half the recommended amount.2

For many, dietary fiber tablets may be the most convenient way to increase daily fiber levels and promote overall good health. Increasing daily intakes with fiber pills (frequently labeled as fiber capsules), fiber powder, or even a fiber drink is an easy and convenient way to include more fiber into your daily diet.

Fiber – Definition

Fiber is a carbohydrate derived from plant sources which cannot be completely broken down by enzymes in the digestive track. Also referred to as bulk or roughage, fiber isn’t absorbed like other nutrients in the body, but can still provide positive health effects. Fiber can be soluble or insoluble, both with their unique properties and benefits.2

Why is Fiber Good for You?

Maintaining a high fiber diet promotes overall good health, regular bowel movements and contributes to the maintenance of a healthy weight. Fiber primarily acts in the stomach, small intestine and large intestine (colon) to cause sensations of fullness, slow down the absorption of sugars, promote healthy bacteria and encase cholesterol and fats.

In 1986, a study of over 40,000 male health professionals aged 40 to 75 was conducted to establish if a link existed between high fiber diets and the risk of coronary heart disease. Researchers found that a higher amount of total dietary fiber was associated with a 40% reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease.3

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Best Source of Fiber

Fiber sources have different properties that may help speed up or slow down the time it takes for food to work its way through the digestive track.3 As well, particular fiber supplements may be more useful for specific digestion issues such as constipation or diarrhea.

While all types of dietary fiber supplements can be effective, if individuals have certain dietary requirements, such as gluten free, specific supplements may be more practical.

Types of Fiber

A common supplement myth is that all fiber acts the same, when in fact different types of fiber supplements carry various characteristics and health benefits.6 Characteristics such as solubility, gel-formation, viscosity and amount of fermentation are frequently linked to providing health benefits.26

Quick facts about fiber supplements psyllium husk, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin and inulin.
A breakdown of four different fiber supplements, psyllium husk, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin and inulin.

Below, we examine the five most common types of fiber supplements: psyllium, acacia fiber, methylcellulose fiber, wheat dextrin and inulin fiber and explain how they work to improve bowel health.

Psyllium

What is psyllium? Psyllium is a soluble fiber which is naturally found in in the husks of the Plantago ovata plant, commonly known as the Desert Indian Wheat.4 It functions as a bulk-forming laxative to help transport waste through the digestive track.7

When psyllium comes into contact with water, it creates a gel-like substance which slows down gastric emptying and has been used to treat patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, constipation and diarrhea.7

Acacia Fiber

Derived from acacia gum, acacia fiber is a soluble, slow-fermenting fiber that contains probiotic properties.9 Probiotics are live microorganisms found in food sources such as yogurt, milk and cheese which promote healthy bacteria in the digestive track. In individuals with gastrointestinal issues, probiotics may play a therapeutic role in reducing symptoms and increasing healthy bacteria in the gut.8

Read more: Probiotic Foods, Supplements, Pills & Probiotics for Women and Men – The Ultimate Guide.

In a 2012 study, researchers investigated the therapeutic properties of acacia fiber for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The fiber supplement was added to a yogurt base and compared to the consumption of regular yogurt in an eight-week treatment. The supplement group experienced reduced abdominal pain, reduced frequency of painful episodes and decreased abdominal bloating in patients prone to both constipation and diarrhea.8

Methylcellulose Fiber

Methylcellulose is a synthesized fiber which has been chemically transformed from cellulose (the cell wall found in plants). As a soluble fiber, methylcellulose acts as bulk-forming laxative which absorbs water in the intestines, increasing the softness, size and weight of feces. These increases signal the body to start contracting muscles that allow the mass to pass easily. Methylcellulose is often used for relieving constipation and maintaining regular gastrointestinal transit. 10,11

Wheat Dextrin

Wheat dextrin is a soluble and fermentable fiber, widely used inood industry. One of wheat dextrin’s characteristics is a low viscosity, which allows it to be easily added to food products and thicken the consistency.13 In 2013, a clinical study examined the fermentation properties of wheat dextrin, and its potentially beneficial impacts on human health. Bacteria in the gut has a large influence on the healthy interactions between several organs including the liver, brain, adipose tissues and muscles. Results of the in vitro study concluded that supplementingheat dextrin had valuable effects on the metabolic profile of the simulated human colon model.12

Daily Fiber supplements such as wheat dextrin improve dry fecal output by 70%.
A 70% increase in dry fecal output was experienced by patients who supplemented with wheat dextrin.

In a further clinical trial, researchers investigated the consumption of a wheat dextrin supplement on fecal output. Results indicated that a diet supplemented with wheat dextrin increased the amount of dry fecal output by 70 percent. This can be attributed to the fact that wheat dextrin does not actively hold water and is minimally digested in the intestines, leaving much of it to pass through the body.13

Inulin Fiber Supplement

As a soluble dietary fiber, inulin is naturally found in onions, leeks, bananas, chicory root, artichoke, wheat and several other fruits and vegetables. Inulin is also commonly added to food products and is considered by the FDA as a safe ingredient. There are multiple benefits of taking an inulin fiber supplement, these include increased numbers of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, increased satiety (feelings of fullness) and enhanced absorption of magnesium and calcium. Emerging research in animal clinical trials has linked increased levels of inulin fiber to reducing the risk of colon and breast cancer.14

Did you know: Some fiber supplements can contribute to good bone health. Inulin aids in the absorption of magnesium and calcium, two important elements that contribute to maintaining strong bones. 14

Soluble & Insoluble Dietary Fiber Supplements

Fiber can be classified into two different categories: soluble and insoluble. While both are derived from plant sources, they can act differently in the digestive track and produce uniquely positive outcomes. Whether insoluble or soluble, taking a fiber supplement can help promote bowel regularity and overall colon health.6

Soluble Fiber Supplements

Soluble fiber is the most widely researched type of fiber. When soluble fiber comes into contact with liquids, it forms a gummy, gel-like substance which slows the digestion of foods. This may aid in over-eating and weight control, as soluble fiber can make you feel full for a long time.6

Consuming soluble fiber has been repeatedly associated with reducing glucose and cholesterol levels.2,3 Soluble fiber has also been shown to reduce the risk of intestinal ulcers, diarrhea and some symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).15 Psyllium husks are the most common form of soluble fiber supplements available in the market today.

Insoluble Fiber Supplement

In contrast, insoluble fiber speeds up the time it takes for food to pass through the stomach and digestive track by adding bulk.16 Consuming insoluble fibers can help promote regularity in the digestive track.

Fiber Products – Natural, Gluten Free, & Organic Fiber Supplements

With an increasing amount of fiber products available in supermarkets and pharmacies today, companies have extended their product lines to assist individuals that are looking for all-natural, gluten-free or organic products. In recent years, low carb fiber supplement and paleo fiber supplement products have appeared on shelves, indicating that throughout a wide range of diets, most people still do not get enough daily fiber.

Natural Fiber Supplements

Natural fiber supplements are supplements that have not been chemically altered and are derived from natural sources. Users seeking natural fiber should take psyllium or inulin daily fiber supplements which are both widely available.

Gluten Free Fiber Supplement

If you follow a gluten free diet, which is the avoidance of the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale; you will need to take a specific supplement that’s gluten free.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, a host of nutritional deficiencies may occur in individuals with celiac disease, including nutrients such as fiber, iron, or calcium. This is due to damage in the small intestine which can cause difficulties with absorption.17 To reduce the chance of a fiber deficiency, a gluten free fiber supplement can be taken daily.

Psyllium husk fiber supplements are naturally gluten free and widely available in stores. For users looking for a strictly soluble fiber supplement, methylcellulose based supplements can also be considered a safe choice. Always make sure to check product labels that explicitly state “gluten free.”18

Organic Fiber Supplements

For individuals following an organic diet, there are several companies which commit to using organic ingredients to suit growing customer preferences. Organic fiber supplements are derived from natural food sources, as opposed to chemically altered supplements. While most supplements fall into the latter category, it’s thought that by consuming organic supplements certain enzymes and co-factors remain intact, which help the body process and absorb the nutrients more efficiently.19

Fiber Supplements, Psyllium Husk, and Weight Loss

Eating increased amounts of fiber has been linked to feeling fuller for longer and contributing to a healthy weight.15

While taking fiber pills for weight loss is not the original purpose of these supplements, it may reduce over-eating and the urge to snack. In a yearlong clinical trial of 240 obese individuals, researchers examined the effects of increasing fiber intake compared to a diet that adhered to every health recommendation, (for sugar, fat, cholesterol and alcohol consumption) as outlined by the American Heart Association.39

The group that focused solely on eating 30 grams of fiber a day, resulted in nearly the same amount of weight loss as those patients who adhered to the long, strict list of dietary guidelines.39

Interested in losing more than a couple pounds, but don’t know where to start? A weight loss supplement may be right for you. Learn more about weight loss supplements, fat burners and skinny pills here.

When to Take Fiber Supplements

Thinking of purchasing a fiber supplement? Make sure to read our latest Buying Guide first.

For readers wondering ‘should I take a fiber supplement?’ It may be beneficial to check in with your body to see if you’re experiencing any signs of poor fiber intake. Although symptoms of low-fiber intake may be attributed to several causes, they include:40

  • Straining to pass bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Gas or bloating after meals

Benefits of Fiber Supplements

There are numerous benefits of maintaining a fiber-rich diet. Fiber can help reduce risk of illnesses such as diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease and diverticular disease. Supplementing more fiber in your diet can work to regulate a healthy weight, reduce the risk constipation or diarrhea, improve blood sugar levels and strengthen the immune system.1,2,5

Does fiber help diarrhea? Psyllium fiber is best known to reduce mild to moderate forms of diarrhea. It absorbs water in the digestive track to increase bulk firmness and the amount of time it takes to move through the digestive track.21

Both psyllium and methylcellulose are often prescribed as fiber for constipation. As bulk-forming laxatives they help increase the amount of roughage and signal to the body that it’s time to go.

Psyllium fiber for constipation and fiber supplements for ibs
Constipation can cause major strain or inflammation in the bowels, as illustrated by MRI scans. If left untreated, severe constipation may lead to symptoms such as hemorrhoids, fecal incontinence, or anal fissures.39

Chronic dehydration, poor diet, obesity, genes and lack of exercise may all contribute to reoccurring constipation, which strains the digestive track. Chronic bowel stress may increase your risk of hemorrhoids, fissures or other rectal problems.1

If diagnosed, doctors may also recommend fiber supplements for hemorrhoids as a natural alternative to hemorrhoid prescriptions. As repeated constipation and dry stools contributes to an environment right for hemorrhoid development, psyllium can be taken to ease strain and promote regular bowel movements.27Additionally, taking fiber supplements for IBS has been a long recognized way to aid patients prone to either constipation or diarrhea.

Do fiber supplements work? In the last few decades, clinical studies have demonstrated that increased levels of soluble fibers such as psyllium can lower LDL, (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol, blood levels and regulate blood glucose. Maintaining these factors within healthy ranges can be a very effective preventative tool against heart disease and diabetes.2

In a recently published study, researchers discovered that fiber may play an important role in reducing the risk of diseases as we age. More than 1,600 Australian adults age 49 or older participated in the decade long study which examined their eating habits and consumption of fiber, sugar and carbohydrates. Participants were deemed to have ‘successfully aged’ if they remained free of any high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, chronic diseases, depression or breathing problems.20

Data suggests that the top fiber consumers were 80% more likely to remain disease-free and maintain functionality as they aged. Although researchers cannot currently pinpoint the link between fiber and serious diseases, they noted that fiber helps to regulate a healthy weight and reduce inflammation, two influential factors in disease development.20

Taking a daily fiber supplement may also be a useful tool in preventing common diseases associated with an inflamed digestive track. One such illness is diverticular disease – the development of small pouches throughout the walls of the large intestine (colon).31

Fiber therapy by consuming fiber tablets, chews and liquid fiber could prevent diverticular disease.
It’s estimated that 60% of Americans will develop diverticular disease by age 60, although many may not know they have it.

Diverticular disease is a modern disease that is associated with a lack of exercise, lack of dietary fiber, obesity and aging. A lack of fiber can produce hard, small stools which strain the colon and can be challenging to pass. Diverticular disease can be found through routine screening for colon cancer. Only a small number of individuals with diverticular disease will experience painful inflammation of the pouches in the wall lining, at which point it is classified as diverticulitis.31

For 75% of diverticulitis patients, the disease is considered mild and treatable. Precautions that promote a healthy colon are often the best medicine for uncomplicated cases. Increasing fiber through gradual fiber therapy, is a major factor which can resolve the inflammation and pain.31

Fiber Supplement Side Effects

Many supplement users wonder, does fiber cause gas?

Fiber supplements provide beneficial bacteria to the intestines and colon. As a result of this increase in bacteria, intestinal gas may be generated. This could also be provoked when combined with certain food sources.12

To reduce the likelihood of this side effect, increase the amount of dietary fiber slowly over time. Stick to insoluble fiber supplements which tend to not have as high number of bacteria as soluble fiber supplements. Make sure to consume more water when taking a daily fiber supplement to reduce the risk of gas, bloating or diarrhea.15

Side effects of fiber supplements may include:21,22

  • Appetite suppression
  • Bloating
  • Rumbling noises
  • Mild abdominal cramps
  • Gas
  • Nausea

Users who have food allergies to items such as bananas, wheat, artichokes, or chicory root may want to avoid inulin fiber supplements, as inulin is naturally found in these food sources.3

Fiber supplements may also mildly affect the absorption of some medications such as aspirin and carbamazepine.23 Taking medication one hour before a fiber supplement, or 2-4 hours after will reduce any delays in absorption.24

As soluble fiber supplements swell when they come into contact with water, a fiber overdose may be possible if not enough water is taken with the supplement. This would result in the supplement not being able to move properly through the digestive track and potentially become stuck in either the esophagus or abdominal region.25 Users with previous bowel surgeries or abnormalities may be at higher risk of obstructions.

If you experience symptoms such as reoccurring nausea or vomiting, difficulty swallowing or intense chest pain, seek emergency medical help.25

You can prevent any complications with fiber supplements by following the recommended instructions and consulting with your health care provider prior to taking fiber supplements.

High Fiber Supplements – Pills, Powders, Drinks, and Gummies

There are many types of fiber supplements available on the market today to suit a various individual tastes or dietary restrictions. High fiber supplements can play an important role in helping American adults meet the daily recommended amounts of fiber, which is 25 grams/day for women, and 30 grams/day for men.26

Fiber Pills

The most common form of daily fiber supplements are fiber capsules or fiber tablets. With 90% of Americans today not reaching the recommended daily fiber intake, portable fiber pills offer a solution to bridge the ‘fiber gap’.26 Fiber pills are affordably priced and frequently cost under $20 for 100 pills or more.28

Gummy Fiber

Gummy fiber supplements, or fiber chews may be an excellent option for individuals who don’t enjoy swallowing pills, and are looking for a quick and easy to take source of fiber. Available in several brands and flavors, two gummies can provide you with up to 5 grams of fiber, 20% of the daily recommended fiber intake.30

Fiber Powder

Fiber powder is another portable and affordable format which is widely available. Consumers should look for fiber supplements that are 100% soluble to ensure good mixability. Available in unflavored or flavored versions, powder can easily be added to water, yogurt, or smoothies and may include up to 50% of daily fiber intakes in one serving.28

Fiber Drink

Fiber doesn’t always come in solid forms. Liquid fiber, or fiber drinks are a convenient way to get fiber on the go and reach the daily recommended amounts.

In 2012, a clinical study examined the combined effect of an Actiglucane fiber drink, a dance program called Bellylationfit and a nutritionally balanced diet in 15 health, non-smoking women. At the end of the two-month intervention, significant reductions were seen in BMI (body mass index), body fat mass, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, total cholesterol and waist to hip ratio.29

Fiber Therapy Controversy

While fiber supplements are thought to be generally safe for most individuals, they should not be used as a complete replacement for dietary fiber. Fiber supplements are isolated forms of fiber that can help users reach the daily recommended amount. Individuals should still consume an array of fiber-rich food sources such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains to absorb important vitamins and minerals.41

To date, there is no evidence that taking a daily fiber supplement has serious adverse effects on healthy populations.41

Fiber Supplements for Kids

Currently, there are no daily fiber recommendations for toddlers or children. Fiber supplements for toddlers or healthy children are usually not recommended as the first course of action in solving gastrointestinal issues.

Children may experience temporary constipation due to inadequate fluid intake, toilet training, diets high in milk or simple carbohydrates, or significant changes in daily routines such as traveling.1 If children are experiencing issues with constipation, it’s advised to increase the amount of dietary fiber (found naturally in food), water and physical exercise.32,33

However, fiber supplements may be act as a useful tool in children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In a clinical trial, school-aged children (7-18 years old) with IBS were given a psyllium fiber supplement for a six-week period.34

Fiber supplements for children and kids with IBS reduces the frequency of pain.
Psyllium fiber supplements for children with IBS significantly reduces frequency of abdominal pain episodes.

Both clinical results and diary entries showed that children in the psyllium group experienced a significant decrease in the number of abdominal pain episodes, commonly associated with IBS.34

Fiber Supplements During Pregnancy

It’s estimated that 11-38% of all pregnant women experience constipation at some point during pregnancy. This is due to both the hormonal and physiological changes the body is going through.35,36

Before starting a fiber supplement, it is recommended to increase fluid intake, physical exercise or include more fiber-rich foods, although these methods may not work for all women. While a small number of fiber supplements have been clinically studied on their effectiveness in pregnant women, they have minimal systematic absorption and therefore are not expected to increase the risk of deformities. Taking fiber supplements such as psyllium will help increase bulk-forming agents and allow the constipation to pass.1

Fiber Supplement Reviews

For the most popular fiber reviews, read our Official Supplement Analyst reviews.

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