When To Take Fiber Supplements

Aug 05, 2022 Digestion

When To Take Fiber Supplements

Quick Health Scoop

  • Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, can be categorized as either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber.
  • Eating a fiber-rich diet helps feed your gut microbes and support a healthy digestive tract.
  • Include high-fiber foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
  • Fiber supplementation can help increase your total fiber

Did you know that fiber, found naturally in plants, plays a vital role in your bodily functions? In fact, it helps support a healthy digestive tract and gut environment. As a form of carbohydrate, dietary fibers in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are resistant to digestion in the small intestine and arrive intact in the large intestine, where they exert most of their benefits. [2] A fiber-rich diet also helps you stay fuller longer and may help you lower cholesterol and improve glycemic control. [1]  

You may have heard of both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. But what’s the difference? Soluble fiber absorbs in water and forms a gel, helping with stool regularity. Soluble, readily fermentable fibers (as used in Nature Made® Fiber Gummies) such as inulin are also called prebiotic fibers because they stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. Soluble, viscous, fermentable fibers have been shown to help support blood cholesterol levels, which are already in the normal range. Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water, provide bulk to stool and may help with stool regularity.  [2] †

Studies show that U.S. adults are consuming an average of about 16 grams of fiber per day, which is less than half the recommended amount of daily fiber. [4] Fiber is one of the shortfall nutrients of public health concern in the latest 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans because low intakes are associated with health concerns. [3]

What happens when you don’t get adequate fiber intake? Eating a low-fiber diet can have a variety of health consequences, outlined below.

Are you looking for ways to increase fiber intake? It starts with eating a fiber-rich diet, but you might also be considering fiber supplementation. How do you know when to take fiber supplements? And how much fiber should you take every day? Read on to find out.

Fiber Supplement Benefits

Because both soluble and insoluble fiber provide health benefits, it’s important to eat a wide variety of fiber-rich foods. As mentioned above, some types of fiber are considered prebiotic (which means they support the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria) and this also supports digestive health. [5]

All dietary fiber offers a variety of health benefits, including the following: [1,6,7]

  • Aids in stool regularity †
  • Supports a healthy digestive tract †
  • Helps keeps you feeling full †
  • Helps support blood sugar levels (a.k.a. blood glucose) which are already within the normal range †
  • Helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol †

As always, it's best to get nutrients—including fiber—from food. (See section below on fiber-rich food sources.)

How to Maximize Fiber Intake

Rather than focusing on a particular type of fiber, make sure you’re eating a wide variety of fiber-rich foods. Dietary sources of fiber include the following: [2,6,7]

Foods with soluble fiber

apples

barley

blueberries

beans

carrots

chia seeds

citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit)

lentils

nuts

oats

oat bran

peas

psyllium

Foods with insoluble fiber

beans

bran

brown rice

buckwheat

bulgur wheat

cereals

fruits with edible peels or seeds (apples, pears)

leafy greens

legumes

nuts (almonds, walnuts)

quinoa

rolled oats

seeds

stone ground corn meal

vegetables (cauliflower, green beans, potatoes)

whole wheat products (flour, bran)

To boost your fiber intake, follow these tips:

  • Start with simply eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds in terms of both quantity and variety.
  • Eat whole fruits and vegetables instead of juices or processed foods. (Think apples instead of apple juice or applesauce.)
  • Ditch refined grains (like white bread, pasta, and rice) in favor of whole grains like barley, brown rice, and quinoa.
  • Add fiber-rich foods to meals and snacks you’re already making. For instance, top your yogurt with almond slivers. Sprinkle chia seeds on salads. Add diced veggies to casseroles and stir-fries. Mix some beans into your soups.
  • Eat air-popped popcorn minus the butter and salt. As a whole grain, popcorn delivers plenty of fiber. Experiment with different herbs (like sprinkling on cayenne pepper or cinnamon) to boost the flavor.

Signs Of Low Fiber Intake

Health experts recommend that adults between 19-50 years old need 25 grams of fiber per day for females and 38 grams of fiber per day for males and adults over 50 need 21 grams of fiber per day for females and 30 grams of fiber per day for males, but most Americans get only about 15 grams a day. [7]

Those who have a diet with a low fiber content may face possible health issues, most notably with digestion.

When you don’t get enough dietary fiber, this commonly causes infrequent bowel movements. It can also lead to stools that are difficult to pass, too firm, or too small. For many people, a daily bowel movement is normal; for others, it can be normal to have a bowel movement anywhere from three times a week to three times a day. [8]

While you should always look to food as your best source of nutrients, fiber supplements can contribute to your recommended daily intake—especially if you don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods. Fiber supplements may contain different types of fiber choices such as acacia fiber, cellulose, guar gum, glucomannan, inulin, methylcellulose, polydextrose, and psyllium. [8,9] There’s no evidence that taking daily fiber supplements is harmful. [10]

Wondering how to take fiber supplements? It depends on whether your supplement comes in the form of a pill (which you take with a glass of water) or powder (which you stir into in a glass of water and drink once it dissolves). Either way, drink plenty of water or non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day to avoid any digestive discomfort.

Fiber Supplements In The Morning Or At Night?

If you need to increase your fiber intake beyond eating fiber-rich foods, you might be wondering when to take fiber supplements. Initially, even the best fiber supplements can cause gas and abdominal bloating until your body gets used to them, so you’ll want to ease into them. To minimize these issues, start with small amounts of the fiber supplement and drink plenty of fluids every day. [10] Then, slowly increase the doses of fiber daily or weekly, paying attention to any digestive issues that crop up. Take cues from your body—if you’re experiencing gas, bloating, or cramps, your body probably still needs to get used to that amount of fiber.  Always make time to talk with your physician about your concerns and to determine exactly what your body needs.

Also, know that fiber can interfere with absorption, so you’ll want to take a fiber supplement separately from any medications or other supplements. Your best bet? Take fiber supplements before bed if you take medications or other supplements in the morning or take fiber supplements in the morning if you take medications or other supplements before bed.

Bottom Line

Most people need between 25 to 38 grams of daily fiber. As a form of carbohydrate, fiber can be categorized as either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber. Consuming a diet of fiber-rich foods helps support bowel health and a healthy digestive system. A high-fiber diet includes foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Fiber supplementation can help increase your total fiber intake. What’s the best way to take fiber supplements? Knowing when to take fiber supplements  especially since fiber can affect the absorption of medications and other supplements. It’s best to take fiber supplements at a different time than you take any medications or other supplements. As always, talk to your healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

References 

  1. Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute. “Fiber.” June 2019. Accessed on: July 5, 2022. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/fiber
  2. University of California San Francisco. “Increasing Fiber intake.” 2022. Accessed on: July 7, 2022. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake
  3. S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov
  4. NIH News in Health. “Rough Up Your Diet: Fit More Fiber Into Your Day.” August 2010. Accessed on: July 7, 2022. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2010/08/rough-up-your-diet
  5. Current Developments in Nutrition. “Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary fiber.” March 2018. Accessed on: July 7, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041804/
  6. Mayo Clinic. “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.” January 6, 2021. Accessed on: July 6, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
  7. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Fiber.” Accessed on: July 5, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
  8. Cornell University. “Fiber, Digestion, and Health.” November 2012. Accessed on: July 7, 2022. https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/fiber-digestion-health.pdf
  9. “16 Easy Ways to Eat More Fiber.” August 16, 2021. Accessed on: July 7, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-to-eat-more-fiber
  10. Mayo Clinic. “I find it difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables. Is there any harm in taking a fiber supplement every day?” December 22, 2020. Accessed on: July 7, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/fiber-supplements/faq-20058513

Authors

Lisa Beach

NatureMade Contributor

Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.

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Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

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