In a previous article, I had discussed how to get fermentable fiber out of your diet in order to feed your gut bacteria and promote a strong and healthy gut microbiome.
Let’s face it, sometimes you just cannot get enough of the good stuff in. Life gets in the way and you can’t eat the foods you know you should eat or maybe you just can’t manage to eat that much in any given day.
What do you do then?
Over the course of three articles, I’m going to take you through each of the three kind of supplemental fibers that you can use and at the end, you’ll find a handy cheat sheet that can help you decide which fiber to use and how much to use.
In this first article, we’ll talk about soluble fiber, as this is often the best tolerated of all supplemental fibers.
Why Soluble Fiber is a Great Starting Place
Soluble fibers tend to be the best tolerated type of supplemental fiber in patients with pre-existing gut issues because they are not FODMAPs.
Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) are a specific category of non-digestible carbohydrates that can cause severe gastric issues for patients with existing gut pathologies.
We could get into a day long discussion simply on FODMAPs but for the purposes of this article, just understand that they are a type of fermentable fiber that have the potential to cause gas, bloating, cramping, etc in patients that have existing gut pathologies.
An additional advantage is that soluble fibers tend to have a soothing effect on the GI tract.
Most soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance that can have benefit for diarrhea as well as constipation.
5 Soluble Fiber Solutions
Glucomannan (a.k.a. Konjac root) is a type of soluble fiber that can be taken in either capsule or powder form. Glucomannan is generally very well tolerated and if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, it can provide the extra benefit of helping stabilize blood sugar. The NOW brand of glucomannan is an economical choice and is the one that I offer to my patients that wish to utilize glucomannan.
Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG) is the fiber that I suggest all my patients start off with. I do this for a few reasons. The first of which is that, unlike other soluble fiber, it does form the gel when you mix it with water and it has minimal taste. Also, out of all the soluble fiber options, it seems to be the best tolerated, causing very minimal bloating and cramping. Even patients that have not done well with fiber in the past, are much more likely to tolerate PHGG. I suggest the Prebiotic from Perfect Pass, as it is one of the few pure PHGG formulations I can find.
Another good option is modified citrus pectin, which is found largely in the peel and pulp of citrus fruit. The long-branch chain polysaccharides are broken down into water-soluble shorter unbranched lengths of fiber molecules. Pectin has some unique properties that make it especially useful in some patients. Modified citrus pectin has been shown to prevent the formation and metastasis of certain types of cancer. It can also bind heavy metals, especially when combined with an alginate complex. It’s important to start modified citrus pectin slowly, as it can cause detox reactions if you have toxins present, such as heavy metals, mycotoxins, or endotoxins.
Other options include psyllium and acacia. Psyllium is what you’ll find in most over the counter fiber supplements like Metamucil. These products are cheap and readily available, however, they do have drawbacks. The forms that you’ll find in most drug stores and supermarkets are full of sugar and artificial flavoring. Plus, psyllium has a tendency to cause bloating in most people. If you decide to incorporate psyllium into your fiber rotation, you will want to seek out a pure organic psyllium from an online retailer or health food store.
Acacia is the last of the soluble fibers that we will talk about. It is generally well tolerated, causing less gas and bloating than other soluble fibers like psyllium. Once again, you will need to seek out pure organic acacia fiber if you want to add this to your rotation.
How to Use Soluble Fiber Supplementation to Improve Your Gut Health
Being that soluble fiber is inexpensive and readily available, it makes a great option for adding prebiotics into your diet.
You can use the chart above to determine which fiber might be the best one for you to start with. For example, if you’re a diabetic or pre-diabetic, it might be best for you to start with glucomannan, as it has the extra benefit of blood sugar control.
Regardless, of where you decide to start, it is important to keep two things in mind: start slow and rotate frequently.
Your gut is not going to be used to this level of fiber and if you start at too high of a dose, you may experience gas, bloating, cramping, etc. To avoid this type of reaction, you can start with very small amounts and increase slowly.
In order to promote a variety of beneficial bacteria in the gut, rotate your prebiotics regularly. You can choose to do a different one every day, or you can opt for a different one every week. There are no hard and fast rules on this, simply rotate the products you use periodically to encourage biodiversity of the gut flora.
In the next part of this series, I’ll break down the use of another type of prebiotic, non-starch polysaccharides.
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