There’s no disputing that most of us can use more fiber. On average, fewer than 10 percent of adults get the daily recommended amount. The good news? If you decide to up your fiber intake with a supplement, there’s no need to be picky about which one you choose.
Your gut will get a heap of benefits from any source of fiber you consume, recent research from Duke University shows. And if you are among those who haven’t been including much fiber in their diets to begin with, you’ll get an even bigger boost from a fiber upgrade.
Consuming more fiber is a good plan. Biologically-speaking, when your so-called “gut bugs” are getting a high-fiber diet, they create more of the short-chain fatty acids that not only protect you from diseases of the gut like diverticulitis and acid reflux (also known as GERD) but they also defend against colorectal cancers and obesity. For example, an especially helpful fatty acid fiber is called “butyrate.” It not only offers good health anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, but butyrate also stimulates the absorption of fluids and electrolytes — and it strengthens the intestinal barrier.
Fiber supplements are easy to find. They’re sold in health food stores and in the aisles of small and large chain pharmacies, as well as in grocery stores.
“If you’re a low fiber consumer, it’s probably not worth it to stress so much about which kind of fiber to add. It’s just important that you find something that works for you in a sustainable way.”
Because of the large array of fiber supplements on the market, Lawrence David, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University wanted to know if one product might be better than another. His team set out to see if it was necessary to “personalize” fiber supplements.
Duke’s researchers tested three main types of fermentable fiber supplements: inulin, dextrin (Benefiber) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS), which is sold as Bimuno. Twenty-eight participants of the study were separated into groups and each was given three supplements for one week, but in different orders. They also had a week off between taking supplements to get their guts back to their original baseline.
“We didn’t see a lot of difference between the fiber supplements we tested. Rather, they looked interchangeable,” David said in a press release. There was another notable finding. Participants who consumed the most fiber before the study showed fewer changes in their microbes, while those participants who had been consuming the least fiber before the study saw the greatest increase in butyrate, regardless of which supplements they took.
Improvements in gut health are rapid. A second study by the David lab and conducted with support from the U.S. Office of Naval Research found that gut microbes were primed by the very first dose of fiber and then digested it quickly on the second dose.
“These findings are encouraging,” said the lead author of the second study, graduate student Jeffrey Letourneau. “If you’re a low fiber consumer, it’s probably not worth it to stress so much about which kind of fiber to add. It’s just important that you find something that works for you in a sustainable way.”
You don’t have to get your fiber in supplements. Adding more fiber to your daily diet gives your gut the same benefits and added nutrients for your entire body.
These are foods rich in fiber:
- Sunflower seeds
- Sweet potatoes
- Split peas
- Brussel sprouts
- Black beans
Scheduling routine colonoscopies is also part of gut health. The American College of Gastroenterology strongly recommends screening between 50 and 75 years of age; starting screening at 45 years of age is conditionally recommended.