Can Dietary Fiber Help you in IBS

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder. There are millions of people all over the world who suffer from IBS.  In many people IBS causes constipation while in other people it can cause loose motions.  Usually IBS is triggered when the patient comes in contact with certain kinds of foods.  Some of these may be specific to the patient.

It is widely believed that IBS is caused by a deficient intake of dietary fiber, and most physicians recommend that patients with IBS increase their intake of dietary fiber in order to relieve their symptoms.

Not All Types of Fiber is Good

However, different types of dietary fiber exhibit marked differences in physical and chemical properties, and the associated health benefits are specific for each fiber type.

Short-chain soluble and highly fermentable dietary fiber, such as oligosaccharides results in rapid gas production that can cause abdominal pain/discomfort, abdominal bloating/distension and flatulence in patients with IBS.

By contrast, long-chain, intermediate viscous, soluble and moderately fermentable dietary fiber, such as psyllium results in a low gas production and the absence of the symptoms related to excessive gas production.

In case you are wondering about the term “fermentable” it is related to the process in which the gut bacteria processes the dietary fiber.  By definition dietary fiber is part of food which cannot be digested by human body.

The effects of type of fiber have been documented in the management of IBS, and it is known to improve the overall symptoms in patients with IBS. Dietary fiber acts on the gastrointestinal tract through several mechanisms such as

  • Increased fecal mass
  • Mechanical stimulation/irritation of the colonic mucosa
  • Increasing secretion
  • Peristalsis
  • Actions of fermentation byproducts, particularly short-chain fatty acids, on the intestinal microbiota, immune system and the neuroendocrine system of the gastrointestinal tract.

Fiber supplementation, particularly psyllium, is both safe and effective in improving IBS symptoms globally. Dietary fiber also has other health benefits, such as lowering blood cholesterol levels, improving glycemic control and body weight management.  There are many dietary fiber product which use psyllium as its main ingredient such as Metamucil.

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