Fiber Supplements Are Effective for Some People, Experts Say
MAYBE IT’S THE depths of winter, when fresh fruits and vegetables seems as far away as a beach vacation. Maybe it’s a recent trip to the doctor, who told you that your diet could use a lift. Maybe, in general, you just have a tough time eating enough fiber, for whatever reason.
You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the vast majority.
Only 5 percent of Americans eat the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber daily.
There are plenty of fiber supplements out there—so why not boost your intake with a capsule or powder? That way, as these products advertise, you’ll reduce your cholesterol, manage your blood-glucose level, and keep your heart healthy. And goodbye, constipation.
But you probably have questions.
We have answers.
Do fiber supplements work?
Research has shown that taking fiber supplements can improve your cholesterol, blood glucose, heart health, and, okay, yes, even the regularity of your bowel movements.
Supplements should never make up the majority of your fiber intake. No fiber product can replace the many benefits of eating fiber-rich foods, which also have disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—and are delicious.
Do fiber supplements have side effects?
Fiber supplements can lower the effectiveness of anti-depressants like tricyclics, diabetes meds like metformin, heart prescriptions like digoxin, and even seizure scripts. Always speak with your doctor before taking a supplement.
Should you take a fiber supplement?
Sure, if your doc clears you and you can’t hit your fiber goals through food. Start with half the recommended dose and then ramp up only after any digestion issues subside. And drink plenty of fluids to prevent constipation.
What’s the best fiber supplement?
Find a supplement that has been third-party tested (Informed Choice, NSF) so it’s free from harmful substances. And ensure there’s a mix of soluble (psyllium husk, inulin) and insoluble (psyllium husk, methylcellulose) fiber for the full range of benefits.
A version of this article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue of Men’s Health.
Dezi Abeyta, RDN, is a Men’s Health Nutrition Adviser, author of Lose Your Gut Guide, and founder of Foodtalk Nutrition LLC.