We asked our in-house Nutritionist, Emily Rollason, to shed some light on fibre supplements, what they are, who might need them and more.
Q: What does fibre do?
Fibre is a complex carbohydrate which comes from plants. Unlike carbohydrates from starch or sugar, the body can’t digest fibre. Fibre has many functions like helping you have regular bowel movements, feeding the good bacteria in your gut and helping you stay a healthy weight.
Fibre also helps prevent bloating, constipation and over-eating. Without fibre, your gut would be seriously unhappy.
Q: What are fibre supplements?
Fibre supplements contain high amounts of fibre, usually in the form of a powder, tablet or capsule. You can sprinkle the powders onto meals or, depending on the type of tablet/ capsule, either chew them or swallow them with water.
Q: Might I need to take fibre supplements?
Anyone who is struggling to get their recommended 30g daily fibre might consider taking fibre supplements as a short-term helping hand.
A specific type of fibre known as beta glucan found in foods like oats may aid with reducing cholesterol levels if taking around 3g a day as part of a balanced diet.
Some types of fibre, such as inulin (found in chicory) and fructans (found in leeks, onions and garlic) are thought to aid with feeding the friendly bacteria in the gut, allowing them to populate and produce by-products that are thought to have a protective effect – such as butyrate and short chain fatty acids.
Q: Is there anything to beware of when using fibre supplements?
I wouldn’t recommend supplements for long term use. Natural sources of fibre are always preferable. However, fibre supplements can help top up your fibre if you are finding it difficult to meet your 30g daily target.
If possible, it would be more prudent to start trying to increase sources of dietary fibre by including a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet as well as wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
Increasing certain types of fibre without ensuring adequate hydration may lead to constipation and nausea, so make sure you’re getting your two litres a day or more if you are particularly active.
Fibre has absorptive properties, so if you do take medication try to ensure that any fibre supplements are taken at a different time of day from any medication. I always try to recommend two hours either side, although this is extra cautious and an hour is thought to be suitable.
Q: How long should I take them for?
This would be dependent on the individual and the circumstances, but I would probably recommend around a month whilst trying to improve natural dietary sources. You may find that they’re not required sooner than this!
Q: What is the expert’s choice?
I would always recommend different supplements dependant on the reason behind use. If you are looking to aid with feeding your gut, inulin would be recommended. If you are looking to improve stool frequency, then a psyllium husk supplement may be recommended, or you could add some milled flaxseed in to your breakfast, there are lots of ways to increase dietary fibre!
Last updated: 1 April 2020
Emily Rollason is a qualified Nutritional Therapist, achieving a Diploma from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition.
Emily has worked for Holland & Barrett for six years and has experience working on a one-to-one basis with clients with a variety of health concerns such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and aiding those looking to support certain dietary requirements, such as a vegan or vegetarian diet. Emily has a long history of working with customers to guide them on what products are best suited to help them with their ailments. Her particular interests in nutrition and wellness focus around digestive health, female health and allergies/intolerances.