Can You Get Addicted To Fiber Supplements? A Doctor Weighs In

Physician By Bindiya Gandhi, M.D.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who completed her family medicine training at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia.

Image by Vera Lair / Stocksy

Compared to healing bone broths, adaptogenic herbs, and immune-boosting mushroom tonics, fiber isn't exactly the most exciting part of our wellness routine. Because of this, it's also something that is, unfortunately, forgotten in many diet plans. Especially when my patients go keto or paleo, they tend to increase their protein intake and inadvertently decrease their overall fiber intake. This can be bad news because fiber not only prevents constipation, but it's essential for safeguarding your overall health as well.

We know that too much fiber at one time can cause bloating and diarrhea, but can you become dependent on fiber supplements if you take them for too long? What happens if you start to rely on them for optimal digestion?

The do's and don'ts of fiber supplements.

Oftentimes people question whether taking fiber supplements can be problematic for your colon. And to that I would say that ideally, we should be getting fiber from our diet. Luckily, you can pretty easily achieve the recommended amount of plant-based fiber through veggies, fruit, and whole grains. When we are not able to achieve that, supplements can help. As we learned before, overdoing fiber supplements can cause diarrhea, and people often feel bloated and gassy when they first start out. Don't let this deter you from using fiber if you need more of it; my advice is to start out slowly and gradually increase your intake so your body can adjust.

So what about taking fiber supplements long term? It is possible that if you abuse fiber supplements, your body will become dependent on them. This can lead to you requiring them in order for your stools to move. When you use fiber supplements long term, your body gets used to having that additional source to help move your bowels, so oftentimes, when patients come off of fiber supplements, they tend to feel more constipated. Fiber supplements should be just that—a "supplement" to your diet, not a requirement for your bowels to move.

The take-home here is that fiber supplements should be used as needed when your diet has been off track, not as something you need to be taking daily. If you are constipated regularly and are requiring a fiber supplement long term, then I encourage seeking the help of a functional or integrative medicine doctor to do some additional testing and rule out celiac disease, food sensitivities, SIBO, and more.

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How to use fiber for better digestion and overall health.

I recommend that the average person get about 35 grams of plant-based fiber a day. This can keep you fuller longer, regulate your blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels, improve your heart health, and decrease your risk of colon cancer. And yes, it can also help keep your bowel movements regular and drama-free.

Insoluble fiber usually adds bulk to your stool, and you pass it in its whole form. It's found naturally in bran cereals and grains, and you can also get it from fiber supplements like flaxseeds and psyllium husk. Insoluble fiber helps you to stay regular and prevents constipation while keeping your digestive tract in check.

Soluble fiber is broken down and passed through your stool in a gel-like form. Examples of soluble fiber foods are whole grains, wheat, oatmeal, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), barley, and many fruits and vegetables. This type of fiber aids in blood glucose regulation and weight management.

I personally add fiber supplements to my baking for additive fiber benefits. It's easy to add; just be mindful to increase either water or fat intake; otherwise, it will dry your food out. I also easily add it to soups, shakes, and even my oatmeal.

Getting just the right amount of fiber for your body can be a dance, but once you do, you'll get the benefits of regular bowel movement, balanced blood sugar, and so much more.

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