Dietary fiber is important in maintaining a healthy digestive system and lifestyle, yet getting the recommended amount of daily fiber from diet alone can be difficult. Using high-fiber supplements is a common way to increase daily fiber intake. Fiber supplements are largely safe, yet their use does include a number of short-term side effects and could cause more serious problems in certain circumstances.
Dietary fiber comes mainly from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, especially the skins or hulls of these plant foods. It is suggested that adults consume between 20 grams and 35 grams of fiber daily, an amount that is sometimes difficult to achieve through diet alone. Fiber supplements come in the form of pills, powders, and oils, and may be taken daily. While fiber itself is indigestible to the human body, it still has significant health benefits, especially for the digestive system.
Supplementing daily fiber intake with high fiber-supplements may have numerous beneficial side effects. Fiber reduces constipation and diarrhea, and it is thought to have a positive effect on diverticulosis and colon cancer. Soluble fiber is also known to reduce blood cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels. High fiber foods are known to give a greater sensation of fullness and, therefore, are also known to aid in weight loss.
Adding high-fiber supplements to a diet is a good way to boost fiber intake and promote many of these health benefits. High-fiber supplements are generally safe, yet consuming too much fiber too quickly can lead to uncomfortable side effects. A sudden excess in fiber may result in intestinal gas, bloating or cramping. Although fiber is known for relieving constipation, this only occurs when fiber is consumed along with an adequate amount of water; fiber absorbs water while in the digestive tract and dehydration may cause constipation. A person can reduce these effects by gradually increasing fiber in a diet over the course of several weeks.
Consuming high-fiber supplements also may have some more dangerous side effects. Fiber slows down the digestive system, so it may also slow down the rate at which medications are absorbed into the body, reducing their potency or delaying their effect. Those who take regular medications should consult their doctor before beginning a high fiber regimen.
Some fiber also interferes with the absorption of certain nutrients, such as calcium, iron and magnesium. If fiber is consumed from food sources, this is not an issue because the nutrients in food replace any nutrients lost to fiber. Yet if high-fiber supplements are taken without an accompanying nutritional diet, malnutrition may occur over time.
High-fiber supplements are an easy way to achieve the recommended daily intake of fiber. Yet many experts agree that it is best to acquire fiber though eating high fiber foods rather than through supplements. Foods high in fiber are also high in nutrition, making them part of a healthy diet. Although high-fiber supplements are largely safe, it is best to consult a doctor before beginning to take daily high-fiber supplements.