The following material is designed specifically for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It may be useful to people who have occasional constipation or diarrhea or non-specific tummy pain. As usual, this is not medical advice. It will be helpful to read the Fiber in IBS Glossary, posted two days ago, and you might want to reread the post titled Fiber for IBS 101a.
There are three points in this follow-up post. I will be talking about how the role of fiber in establishing a real comfort level with your tummy. The three points, as questions, are:
- What does fiber do in your body?
- What kind of fiber do you need to have that beneficial effect?
- How much of the right kind of fiber do you need each day?
What Does Fiber Do in Your Body?
As your background reading indicates, there are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
- First, insoluble fiber (IF) is bulk, or roughage. It increases the size of the stool as the stool is forming and passing through the large intestine (=large bowel). This is the kind of fiber that many doctors are suggesting you take when they say eat more fruits and vegetables, and take Metamucil ™ or another psyllium laxative/fiber. IF is also the kind of fiber that many many people with IBS have tried and given up on, because it makes things worse.
- Second, Soluble Fiber (SF). Soluble fiber in supplement form (SFS) dissolves completely in water, and when it reaches your large intestine it blends with the contents of your digestive system as it comes from the small intestine, and *there* it forms a gel. I will tell you that the following comparison may gross you out. Still, please read on.
- The gel that’s formed in your large bowel has somewhat the consistency of a tube of toothpaste, and your large bowel squeezes it along until the gel-like stool is eliminated. This is the result of taking a Soluble Fiber Supplement (SFS).
The effect of taking adequate amounts of SFS is very easy passage of formed stools, not too loose and not too hard, dry, or painful. The gel-forming effect of SFS works with the loose and watery stools of diarrhea (IBS-D) as well as with those of IBS-C.
What Kind of Fiber Do You Need to Have that Beneficial Effect?
In order to have the help of fiber to change the nature of the stools you pass, you need adequate amounts of a soluble fiber supplement (SFS) for your IBS-D or IBS-C. Right now in the U.S. the available supplements are FiberSure ™ and Heather’s Organic Acacia Tummy Fiber ™, and perhaps some store brands.
- FiberSure is pure powderedinulin, made from chicory root. It is also FDA approved for use in treating constipation.
- Heather’s Organic Acacia Tummy Fiber is pure powdered acacia. It may be classed by the FDA as a “medical food.”
- Store brands that are still in place that mimic the old form of Benefiber, ™ and have guar gum as their active ingredient. (I have tried to check out a report that Wal-Mart has such a store brand SFS, with no success.)
How much of the right kind of fiber do you need each day?
How much SFS do you need, and how do you get there? How do you change over from Metamucil ™ or FiberCon ™ or Konsyl ™? Do you also need Metamucil ™?
To my way of thinking, you need to gradually add an SFS to your daily routine, while also gradually reducing the amount of any IFS you have been taking. Carrots and apples and other vegetables and fruits that are sources of SF should be switched to steamed or blended forms, with no sugar added.
Basically, you are going for a daily intake of 30 to 45 grams of soluble fiber. That varies from individual to indivual according to size, weight, and age. To find the right amount, you gradually increase your SFS intake until your stools are the kind of softened and formed “gel” that I described above.
If you reach 40 or 45 grams of SF per day, without getting these results, please consult your doctor.
The bottom line is that in taking an SFS you take it every day, and build up until the amount is adequate for a comfortable, formed stool.