Fiber Supplements FAQ
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What is Fiber and Where Does it Come From?
Fiber, or more specifically, dietary fiber (also known as roughage) is the portion of plant material that we as humans are unable to digest.
There are two main forms of fiber that we will discuss below, each serving its own purpose in the promotion and maintenance of general health and wellbeing.
Production of Fiber
Fiber supplements are produced from a range of plants, resulting in products such as psyllium husk, ground flaxseed, Bentonite clay, oat bran, and wheat bran.
All of these food and supplemental sources of fiber still fall within the two primary categories of fiber that we will discuss below.
What Types of Fiber are There?
The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber, as the name suggests, is soluble in water. This means that it absorbs water and ferments in the gut to produce byproducts such as gases as bacterial compounds which aid in the digestion of food.
Soluble fiber actually helps to slow the transit of food through the digestive tract, which can help with enhancing nutrient absorption and reducing softness in one’s stools.
Psyllium husk, flaxseed, and oat bran are examples of soluble fibers.
Insoluble fiber is just that, a type of fiber that is not soluble in water. This means that they are able to pass through the digestive tract relatively intact, and bulking fibers can absorb water during their journey through the gut.
This can help to speed up the movement of food through the digestive tract, thereby facilitating the excretion of waste and improving bowel regularity for people who may suffer from constipation due to a lack of dietary fiber.
Wheat bran is an example of an insoluble fiber.
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Who Can Benefit from Using Fiber and How?
Different types of fiber can benefit sufferers of constipation and loose stools, as well as helping the intestinal tract to rid itself of foreign materials and toxins.
What’s more, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that insoluble fiber such as the resistant starch found in maize may help to improve the insulin sensitivity of muscle and fat cells in sufferers of type II diabetes.
The research in this field is still preliminary but we can see from this how supplementing with fiber can help to improve overall body composition by enhancing nutrient absorption and leaving our bodies better equipped to handle carbohydrates.
This is great news for bodybuilders and athletes concerned with training hard and improving their physiques.
Do Any Foods Contain Fiber? Which Ones are the best?
Fiber is found extensively throughout most species of fruits and vegetables.
Food sources of soluble fiber include:
- Sweet potatoes
Food sources of insoluble fiber include:
Many plant foods contain fiber in both soluble and insoluble forms.
Examples of this include items like tomatoes which contain insoluble fiber in the skin while holding soluble fiber within the internal pulp.
Does Fiber Have any Side Effects?
There are generally no side effects associated with the use of dietary fiber supplements providing they are used responsibly and according to the manufacturer’s usage guidelines.
When using a soluble or bulking fiber it is important that you drink plenty of water to compensate for the moisture that the fibers will absorb.
Incorrect usage of fiber supplements can cause constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain, and extra caution should be exercised by sufferers of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
As with any dietary supplement, we recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consult their doctor or physician prior to use. This also applies to people under the age of 18 and individuals who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions or who are taking any kind of prescription medication.
Note: We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
How and When Should I Use Fiber?
First and foremost it is recommended that you do your utmost to source adequate amounts of dietary fiber from the foods you eat.
This does not mean that fiber supplements have no place in an already high-quality diet, but it should not form the basis or the majority of your fiber consumption.
Fiber supplements are usually available in capsule form or as loose powders; either way, they should be consumed with plenty of water. Even if you are already consuming a lot of water each day you are still advised to add extra water to ensure proper utilization of your fiber supplement.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s usage guidelines.
How Much Fiber Should I Use?
It is recommended that you refer to the manufacturer’s usage guidelines because the fibers you use and your own medical history and requirements will largely determine how much fiber you should use.
Choosing the Right Fiber Supplement
Fibers such as psyllium husk and flaxseed are highly popular in the general population while also playing a role in bodybuilding and athleticism in general.
If you are unsure of which fiber to choose then you can’t go wrong with either of these as a starting point.
Flaxseed is best used in ground form, so if you purchase whole seeds then we highly recommend that you process them in a blender or food processer so that they will be correctly utilized in your digestive tract.
Another benefit of flaxseed is that it contains the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. This is not as readily absorbed as the EPA or DHA found in fish oil because it must be converted first; leaving less for the body to use, but it is still a healthy addition to anyone’s diet.
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Choosing a Good Fiber Supplement
The best fiber supplement is the one that is most suited to your personal needs, so if you are suffering from constipation then you may want to use an insoluble fiber such as wheat bran.
On the other hand, if you are suffering from diarrhea or loose stools then you may want to consider using a soluble fiber such as flaxseed.
If you are looking for a fiber supplement that is suitable for general everyday use then something such as psyllium husk will be ideal in small amounts as it is convenient to use and can help to improve bowel regularity over the long haul.
If you need more information before making your final decision then be sure to check out some of our supplement reviews where we look at fiber supplements and other products that contain fiber so that you can see which one is going to be most suitable for you.
Choosing a fiber supplement needn’t be a complicated process, and the most important thing is that you are adding some kind of roughage to your diet.
Be sure to consume plenty of fibrous vegetables on a daily basis (no excuses!) and there should very little difference between the various fiber supplements on the market in terms of the benefits they will offer you.
Please note: This FAQ has not been written or reviewed by a doctor or medical professional and is therefore not to be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or illness. Nor should it be used as medical reference.