Many adults have misunderstandings about fiber and how it works in the body. Most assume that it’s a substance that makes you regular in the bathroom, but it actually does much more for your body than just encourage healthy and regular bowel movements.
Here are some basics about this substance so you can determine if fiber supplements are right for you.
Fiber is an indigestible roughage that is found in plants only. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows down the absorption of food in the digestive system. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and provides bulk or roughage in the digestive system; this type of fiber actually absorbs water as it moves along the intestinal tract.
This roughage changes how food is absorbed in the digestive system. By slowing down the absorption of food, soluble fiber allows the blood to carry more nutrients to the body’s cells. The food is broken down more slowly so the blood can absorb more nutrients before they move with food through the intestines.
Insoluble fiber absorbs water which is then bound to your stools; the more water they have, the softer they are and elimination then becomes much easier.
It is recommended that women get 25 grams of fiber a day and men get 30 to 38 grams a day. If you don’t get this much by eating plant-based foods, you may want to consider a supplement.
For those concerned about their overall nutrition and health, soluble fiber supplements should be your first choice. These will help you to absorb nutrients from foods and be healthier overall.
For those who have problems with elimination, insoluble fiber is needed. These supplements provide bulk and can make you feel full, so they can also help with weight loss.
It’s typically recommended that you choose a powder rather than a pill, as a powder breaks down in your body faster and is more effective. A pill needs to be absorbed in your bloodstream before it can work in your digestive tract and this can compromise its overall effectiveness, and it may also take longer to work.
Most people who use fiber supplements report bloating, gas, and upset stomach, at least when first using them. This may wear off as the body adjusts.
These supplements may also interfere with the absorption of certain medications including aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin) and carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol). If prescribed any of these or if on an aspirin regimen, talk to your doctor before taking any type of supplement.
Many fiber supplements can also lower a person’s blood sugar, so if you’re diabetic or hyperglycemic, talk to your doctor before taking these. If you experience symptoms related to low blood sugar, see your doctor at once.
Because insoluble fiber absorbs water, be sure you drink plenty of water every day when taking this supplement. Eat hydrating foods including leafy greens and fruits. These will help the supplements to work and cut down on any risk factors involved with their use.
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