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Fiber Supplements as Good as the Real Thing

Experts say they're a safe alternative to high-fiber foods

FRIDAY, Oct. 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you have trouble getting enough fiber from the food you eat, supplements can be a safe alternative.

The Mayo Clinic Health Letter notes that such foods as oatmeal, cauliflower, broccoli, beans and peas are all good sources of fiber. In addition to helping your body's digestion and regularity, a high-fiber diet may reduce your risk of certain health problems such as diabetes, colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, high cholesterol and obesity.

But some people find it difficult to get the recommended 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day from their diet. That may be because they don't like high-fiber foods or because those foods cause cramping or flatulence.

Those people might consider fiber supplements, which are bulk-forming substances available as powders, tablets, wafers, biscuits or toasted granules.

Fiber supplements, which are labeled as "bulking agents" on over-the-counter products, are safe for long-term treatment of constipation.

The Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers the following advice for people using fiber supplements:

  • Go slow. Start with a small dose and progress gradually.
  • Be consistent. Fiber supplements are most effective when taken daily for at least a month.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you don't do that, fiber supplements can make you even more constipated.
  • Take fiber supplements before or after meals. They create a feeling of fullness. Take them before meals if you're overweight and take them after meals if you're underweight or normal weight.
  • Remember that supplements can't do it all. They contain only part of the required amount of daily fiber. You still need to include high-fiber foods in your diet.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about dietary fiber.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, October 2003
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