Commonly found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that's necessary for the movement of food through the digestive system. While supplements shouldn't be a replacement for all those fiber-rich foods, some people with irritable bowel syndrome (a.k.a. IBS) may find them to be helpful. In order to find the best fiber supplements for IBS, I got in touch with Niket Sonpal, M.D., a NYC-based internist and gastroenterologist, and Joel Totoro, R.D., the sports science director at Thorne. According to both experts, when determining which fiber supplement is best for you, there are a handful of different factors to consider.
"When asked about fiber supplements and IBS, the answer, unfortunately, is — it depends," Totoro tells Mic. "IBS is a multifactorial condition, and we need to consider the type of IBS (C, D, or M) if we are in an active flare-up or recovery mode." (IBS-C is the most common and means you primarily experience constipation; IBS-D manifests mostly as diarrhea; and IBS-M or IBS-A, involves both overly solid and overly loose stools.)
That said, the type of IBS you have could impact what kind of fiber you're looking for, and there are two types: either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fibers dissolve in water to create a gel-like consistency, which "slows down digestion and helps decrease diarrhea," according to Dr. Sonpal. Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, do not dissolve, so they create "a bulking function that [...] promotes the movement of digested food through the body," Totoro explains.
Both specialists primarily recommend soluble fiber over insoluble fiber. Dr. Sonpal writes, "Insoluble fiber is poorly fermented," and as a result, it "may make your pain and abdominal bloating worse." Totoro does note, however, that while insoluble fiber "tends to be a bit harsher and more likely to trigger symptoms," it may "move things along more quickly, which can be desirable for those managing IBS-C."
According to Totoro, the ideal fiber supplement will feature multiple soluble fiber sources, like guar gum, pectin, and psyllium.He adds that it's also important to take it slow and not massively up your fiber intake all at once. You may want to aim for supplements with less than 10 grams of total fiber to start. Of course, everyone is different, so what works for one person might not work for another — and it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor to make sure a supplement is the right fit for you.
With Totoro's and Dr. Sonpal's guidance in mind, these are some of the highest-reviewed supplements on Amazon for those with all types of IBS.
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