More than a constipation preventive, fiber consists of plant foods that the body can neither absorb nor digest. Instead, fiber passes through your body, but not before it performs a number of healthy functions. Increasing your fiber intake is simple, whether with pills or high-fiber foods. Find out which methods are most suitable for you.
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Recommended Daily Intake
Most Americans lack the recommended daily amount of fiber in their diets, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. To ensure you have all the fiber you need to maintain healthy digestion, read nutrition labels on packaged products and select those with the highest content of dietary fiber. Women should consume around 21 to 25 g daily, while men need slightly more -- around 30 to 38 g daily, according to MayoClinic.com. If you have trouble consuming enough fiber or have certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or chronic constipation, you may require the additional fiber a supplement provides.
Pills Vs. Food
A wide selection of foods, both fresh and prepackaged, contain valuable fiber for health. Among the many high-fiber food options are whole-grain breads, cereal and oatmeal. Fruits and vegetables are obvious choices, as are beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. If your diet lacks these foods, you may opt for a fiber supplement, such as a fiber pill or powder. These products should not be your first choice, however, as they lack the essential vitamins and minerals found in high-fiber food sources. When in doubt, discuss the best option with your doctor. If you choose to use pills rather than high-fiber foods, be prepared for the additional expense of acquiring most of your fiber through supplements.
Choosing a Pill
Fiber exists in two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water; insoluble fiber does not. Both are beneficial in different ways. For example, insoluble fiber helps move waste through your digestive system. It also increases stool mass, which benefits those who experience regular constipation. Soluble fiber forms a gellike substance as it dissolves in water. It may also help reduce blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels. When choosing a fiber product, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America recommends capsules over tablets because they are generally better tolerated. Additionally, fiber pills that contain a high level of soluble fiber are best, as are those that don't contain unhealthy additives.
Potential Side Effects
Regular use of fiber pills and powders can create dependency on such products, which might cause your bowels to slow. Additionally, fiber pills can interact with medications, causing delayed absorption of certain drugs. Some people also experience bloating and excessive gas with fiber pills. Rarely, long-time users develop allergic reactions. Talk to your doctor about the safety of fiber pills before using them regularly.
- MayoClinic.com; Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 2009
- MayoClinic.com; High-Fiber Foods; November 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Fiber; David Zieve, MD, MHA, et al., February 2010
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America; Fiber; Kim Dalzell, PhD, RD, LD
- The Diet Channel; What's The Best Source of Fiber: Pill or Food; Donna Feldman, MS, RD; October 2006