The Pros and Cons of Benefiber

stomach ache, digestive problem of woman
Does this woman with stomach pain need more fiber in her diet, such as from a supplement like Benefiber? (Image: 9nong/iStock/Getty Images)

Americans generally need between 25 and 35 grams of fiber a day, but the average American is getting only half of the recommended amount, based on a 2014 U.S.D.A. report.

Increasing our fiber intake can decrease the amounts of chronic disease, cancer, heart disease, obesity and gastrointestinal issues suffered by Americans. The American Dietetics Association recommends trying to consume fiber in food; however fiber supplements are available to those who need additional resources to reach the recommended amount. Benefiber is a widely used fiber supplement.

Positive Effects of Benefiber

Benefiber can help the gastrointestinal tract of those suffering from pain, diarrhea, constipation and irregularity. Benefiber consists of a wheat dextrin formula which can add bulk to the stool for diarrhea sufferers. It can also make stools softer for those with constipation. Long term use has been shown to reduce the gastrointestinal problems of those suffering from symptoms, including those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Negative Effects of Benefiber

If not taken properly, Benefiber can cause constipation or dehydration. Because Benefiber works with water to create bulk in the colon, it will pull out water from other sources if not enough water is present in the digestive tract, which can cause constipation. It is recommended that at least four to eight ounces of water be taken with each dose. The powder form of Benefiber needs at least four ounces to completely dissolve, so those taking the powder are generally getting enough water. However, those taking the chewable form need to make sure they drink a full glass of water with each dose.

Possible Dependency

Some previous Benefiber consumers have reported a dependency from the product. Research is still being done to support this clam. The claim is that after an extensive period of time, the digestive tract becomes dependent on the amount of fiber consumed when taking Benefber. After some of that fiber is removed, symptoms reappear. The way to prevent this is to always consume the recommended amount of fiber.

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