My 6 Favorite Fiber Supplements To Support Vibrant Health
In today's busy society, where convenience often takes priority over nutrition, it's shocking to realize that most people fall far short of meeting their daily fiber requirements. In fact, most people only consume half (1) of the recommended 15 grams of fiber per day.
As a vital component to maintaining everything from gut health to blood sugar balance, as a functional medicine practitioner, I have seen firsthand the far-reaching consequences fiber deficiency can have on a person’s health. I’ve also seen the profound impact fiber supplements can have in improving your overall health. Read on to learn more about fiber, my favorite fiber-rich foods, and my go-to fiber supplements for when you need a little extra boost for your digestive health.
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What is fiber?
Fiber is a crucial component of our diet derived from plant-based foods that our bodies cannot fully digest. Dietary fiber acts as a prebiotic to provide fuel for the beneficial bacteria in our gut so they can multiply and thrive. These beneficial bacteria ferment the fiber, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) as a byproduct to further maintain a healthy gut by supporting immune function and healthy inflammation levels.
Benefits of using a fiber supplement
Due to fiber’s impact on our overall health, fiber supplements can offer several benefits:
1. Enhances digestive health
Fiber and fiber supplements - especially those with insoluble fiber - promote regular bowel movements and help prevent constipation by softening and adding bulk to your stool.
2. Supports healthy cholesterol
Certain types of fiber like psyllium husk contain soluble fiber that can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol particles and removing them from the body.
3. Balances blood sugar levels
Soluble fiber can slow down the absorption of sugar, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent the development of metabolic health problems.
4. Encourages healthy weight
Fiber can increase your feelings of fullness and satiety which will help keep cravings at bay.
5. Promotes gut health
Fiber acts as a prebiotic which feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut so they can multiply and thrive.
6. Reduces chronic disease risk
Studies have found that adequate fiber intake is linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
While I believe food is foundational, fiber supplements offer a convenient way to boost daily fiber intake, especially for those struggling with chronic gut dysfunctions and need an extra boost of daily fiber beyond what they can get through food alone.
Soluble vs. insoluble fiber
Now when it comes to fiber you may have heard the words “soluble” and “insoluble” tossed around - but what exactly is the difference? These two distinct types of dietary fiber each have their own unique characteristics and health benefits, but are both equally necessary for optimal health. As the name suggests, soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance during digestion. It's known for its ability to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and support a healthy gut microbiome. On the other hand, insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water and retains its structural integrity throughout digestion. It primarily contributes to bowel regularity by adding bulk to stool and preventing constipation.
While both types of fiber play essential roles in promoting digestive health and overall well-being, soluble fiber is often more celebrated for its cardiovascular and blood sugar benefits, while insoluble fiber excels at maintaining healthy and regular bowel movements. To optimize your overall health, it's best to include both types of fiber in your diet through a variety of different foods.
How to know if you need fiber supplements
Ultimately, whether or not you need to take a fiber supplement depends on your current diet, if you have any underlying health problems, and your health goals. If your diet already includes enough fiber-rich foods, but you are still experiencing certain symptoms it might be time to consider supplementation:
- Irregular bowel movements
- Food sensitivities
You may also consider fiber supplements if you are dealing with high cholesterol or blood sugar imbalances as we have learned that fiber can help improve markers of both of these conditions.
However, it's necessary to remember that clean, whole foods should always be your main source of dietary fiber and supplements should only be used to complement your diet when necessary. That’s why it is so important to talk with a functional medicine practitioner who can help assess your symptoms alongside your current diet and fiber intake to determine if a fiber supplement would be helpful for your particular health case.
Dietary vs. functional fiber supplements
Dietary fiber and functional fiber are two categories of fiber supplements that differ in their origin and how they contribute to your daily fiber intake. Dietary fiber supplements are derived from natural food sources, such as psyllium husk, oat bran, or acacia fiber. Since they contain fiber from real food sources they often come with additional nutrients and compounds naturally found in these sources.
These supplements are intended to complement one's diet by providing a convenient means to increase fiber intake from whole foods. They offer a broad spectrum of health benefits linked to the specific type of fiber they contain, such as digestive support and cholesterol reduction.
On the other hand, functional fiber supplements are typically made from synthetic or isolated fibers that are not naturally occurring in foods such as inulin, maltodextrin, and polydextrose. These are most commonly used as food additives, often by manufacturers to enhance the fiber content of processed and packaged foods like cereal.
While functional fiber supplements may offer some of the benefits associated with dietary fiber, they are usually more processed and refined than dietary fiber supplements, and can possibly negate the positive benefits of taking fiber in the first place. Therefore, if you are going to take a fiber supplement, it is best to choose dietary fiber supplements over functional fiber supplements as they provide more of the same advantages of whole foods but in supplement form.
The best fiber supplements
If you have determined that a fiber supplement would benefit your health, the next step is to determine what type of fiber supplement is best. Instead of spending hours researching, these are my top favorite fiber supplements on the market right now.
If you are looking for a fiber supplement that is easily digested, FiberMend by Thorne is a great choice. Just add one scoop to a smoothie or 8oz of water for an added boost of bioavailable fiber. It is gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free and doesn’t contain any added sweeteners so this unflavored powder won’t change the flavor of whatever you are adding it to.
Dosage: 7 grams fiber per serving
A go-to brand of mine, these delicious papaya-flavored gummies make it super easy to get more fiber into your diet. These are great if you have trouble swallowing pills and for children since they are recommended for ages 4 and up. Plus, they are vegan, GMO, gluten, soy, nut, and pectin-free, and are made in a GMP facility.
Dosage: 3 grams fiber per serving
Pure Encapsulations is a brand that I have trusted for years due to its transparency around their manufacturing. In fact, due to their “open plant” policy they allow people to visit their manufacturing facility in the USA at any time while they are open without prior notice. Their PureLean Fiber contains some of the higher amounts of fiber per serving from natural sources of fiber including flaxseeds, prunes, apple pectin, and guar gum.
Dosage: 6 grams fiber per serving
4. NOW Fiber-3
If you aren’t ready to invest in a fiber supplement, NOW Fiber-3 is a budget-friendly option. These capsules contain fiber derived from organic flax, acacia, and inulin and are vegan, gluten, soy, nut, and dairy-free. NOW also has a variety of other fiber sources including apple fiber powder, acacia powder, apple pectin, inulin, and psyllium husk.
Dosage: 4 grams per serving
Even though PectaSol is lower in fiber than others on this list, this patented modified citrus pectin supplement is backed by 65+ published studies and clinical trials. With a variety of benefits at the cellular level including cardiovascular health, immune support, tissue repair, and oncology support, this supplement is one I recommend time and time again to my patients.
Dosage: 3 grams fiber per serving
I love this fiber as it also contains beneficial probiotics in addition to prebiotic fiber for a well-rounded gut health supplement. It is also USDA certified organic and NSF content tested and certified. It contains fiber derived from 15 different superfoods, but just be aware that it does contain fiber from garbanzo beans that can possibly lead to digestive distress for some people who are sensitive to legumes.
Dosage: 9 grams fiber per serving
Possible side effects of fiber supplements
Although there are many pros to fiber supplements, there are also certain factors that you should take into consideration before going out and purchasing a fiber supplement.
1. Digestive distress
Wait, I thought fiber supplements were supposed to help ease my digestive distress? Side effects like gas, bloating, cramps, constipation, and diarrhea are some of the most common side effects of fiber supplements, but they usually only occur if you increase your daily fiber intake too quickly or don’t drink enough water.
Since fiber supplements can absorb water in your digestive system, this can potentially lead to dehydration if you don’t drink enough water to stay hydrated.
3. Inhibited nutrient absorption
Studies have shown (2) that some fiber supplements can interfere with the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc due to their mineral-binding abilities. This is especially important to note if you are already deficient in these nutrients.
As always, talk with your doctor before adding in any new supplements to make sure that you have the correct dosage for your particular needs and that there are no possible interactions with any medications you are taking.
Foods to boost fiber intake
As a functional medicine practitioner, I believe food is foundational. So before you start taking a fiber supplement, I recommend first upping your intake of fiber-rich foods to see how that benefits your gut and overall health. These are some of my favorite sources of fiber:
- Almonds: 17.9 grams per 1 cup (3)
- Apples: 4.3 grams per 1 whole (4)
- Artichokes: 6.91 grams per 1 whole (5)
- Avocados: 13.5 grams per 1 whole (6)
- Bananas: 3.07 grams per 1 whole (7)
- Brussels sprouts: 3.34 grams per 1 cup (8)
- Chia seeds: 9.75 grams per 1 oz. (9)
- Oats: 10.1 grams per 1 cup (10)
- Raspberries: 8 grams per 1 cup (11)
- Sweet potatoes: 3.78 per 1 medium (12)
Importance of balancing fiber with fluids
As we briefly mentioned when talking about the possible side effects of fiber supplements, making sure you are adequately hydrated is vital. Due to the fact that fiber absorbs water as it moves through your digestive system, dehydration can lead to symptoms of digestive distress like bloating, gas, and cramps. Also, fiber supplements, particularly those high in soluble fiber, rely on water to form a gel-like substance that aids in its health benefits like regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
By ensuring you drink enough water when taking fiber supplements, you not only minimize the risk of discomfort but also maximize the health benefits of taking fiber. I recommend aiming for at least 64 ounces of water per day, but you might need more depending on the weather, your weight, and your activity level.
Choosing the right supplement for you
As we can see, fiber plays a crucial role in supporting digestive health, regulating blood sugar, managing weight, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Choosing the right fiber supplement depends on your current symptoms, diet, and goals, but with the right guidance from your doctor in conjunction with eating more fiber-rich foods, you can find the right fiber supplement for you and your health case.
In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we specialize in helping you optimize your diet, lifestyle, and supplement routine to tackle your health problems at the root. If you are ready to learn more about how we can help you overcome your chronic health problems with functional medicine, schedule a telehealth consultation today.
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- Akbar A, Shreenath AP. High Fiber Diet. [Updated 2023 May 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559033/
- Coudray, Charles et al. “Effects of dietary fibers on magnesium absorption in animals and humans.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 133,1 (2003): 1-4. doi:10.1093/jn/133.1.1
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Nuts, almonds" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170567/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Apples, raw with skin" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171688/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Artichokes, (globe or french), raw" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169205/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171705/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Bananas, raw" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173944/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Brussels sprouts, raw" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170383/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Seeds, chia seeds, dried" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170554/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Oats, raw" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1101825/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Raspberries, raw" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167755/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture "Sweet potatoes, cooked, boiled, without skin" Accessed September 2023. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168484/nutrients
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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