Everyone knows that fiber is a traditional remedy for those with chronic constipation, but how exactly does fiber work and what are the best kinds to relieve constipation? In this article we will look at the different types of fiber and offer some suggestions for the best ways to find relief.

Understanding the Two Types of Fiber

Fiber is typically either soluble or insoluble. Insoluble fiber is barely digested at all – its main function is to absorb water from the digestive system and help push waste through the system. It also lowers the ph of the intestines, which helps to protect against colon cancer and increase the absorption of minerals. Food sources of insoluble fiber include leafy greens, seeds & nuts, wheat bran, and fruit skins.

Soluble fiber differs from insoluble fiber in a few ways. Firstly, as it absorbs water it swells to become a gelatinous like substance that ferments in the intestines. This fermentation produces by-products (like short-chain fatty acids) that the cells of the colon need for proper nutrition. Soluble fibers also serve as a prebiotic, providing a readily available food source for the healthy bacteria in the stomach, particularly the type of beneficial bacteria called bifidobacteria. Typical sources of soluble fiber include beans, barley, citrus fruits, psyllium, flax seed, and glucomannan.

Which Fiber is Best for Chronic Constipation Relief?

Choosing which fiber is best for relief of chronic constipation can be complicated. Each fiber offers different benefits to consider. Insoluble fiber has long been the suggested fiber for constipation relief because the bulk it creates speeds the passage of waste through the colon and adds to the size of stools – making them easier to pass. Insoluble fiber also absorbs large amounts of water without turning into a gel – this can be wonderful for constipation relief as it “scrubs” the colon clean. But you must drink enough water! Without enough water the fiber can actually cause chronic constipation by backing up and drying out your system.

Soluble fiber has numerous benefits like lowering cholesterol levels (by binding to bile acids and forcing the body to use cholesterol to produce more) and lowering blood sugar (by slowing the absorption of glucose into the blood stream), but how does it stack up for ending chronic constipation? Firstly, it absorbs water from the body as well, so it helps to make stools soft, though not as bulky as insoluble fiber. By acting as a prebiotic, it also strengthens the native populations of bifidobacteria in the colon. This is important because these beneficial bacteria produce fuel for the colon’s cells and help induce healthy intestinal contractions.

The Final Verdict

With both types of fibers able to alleviate constipation, the opinion about which to use will vary with the situation. Eat more insoluble fiber for temporary constipation relief (remember to drink plenty of water) and eat more soluble fiber for long-term chronic constipation relief because it supports an environment in the intestines more conducive to ending constipation that has been on-going. With that said, eating a healthy array of fruits and vegetables will provide both types of fiber so these recommendations relate more to fiber supplementation than to dietary changes per say.