This particular type of fibre is best for your digestion, according to new research

Struggling to find a solution for chronic constipation? A new study has found a specific type of fibre could be the key to relieving symptoms.

Fibre is one of the most important nutrients our body needs for good digestion. It plays a key role in keeping our gut healthy, which, in turn, can play a role in a number of additional health benefits including improved immunity and better sleep.

One of the key reasons to eat a high-fibre diet is to keep you regular. Although you might not hear people talking about it very often, constipation is something many people deal with on a daily basis. In fact, according to the NHS, it’s estimated that around one in every seven adults has constipation at any given time. The digestive issue is also thought to affect twice as many women as men.

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But a new study has found that certain types of fibre might be better for chronic constipation than others, meaning there might be ways to target the digestion issue even more closely.

The research, published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition in July 2022, found that psyllium fibre was the most effective in relieving symptoms of chronic constipation, helping participants in the study regulate their toilet trips.

What is psyllium fibre?

Psyllium fibre is a name used to describe members of the plant genus plantago. The plant-based, naturally occurring fibre is thought to soak up water in your gut, making bowel movements more frequent without producing excess gas.

The majority of fibre in psyllium is soluble and is thought to form a gel-like substance after entering the stomach, helping to improve digestion. It’s also made up of some insoluble fibre that draws water into your stool, making it easier to pass through and promoting regular bowel movements.

Is psyllium fibre better for treating constipation?

In the new study, 1,251 people took two types of fibre supplements – psyllium and pectin – to treat symptoms of constipation.

The results suggested that both fibre supplements are effective in improving constipation, with 48% of participants benefiting from taking them. But, overall, researchers found that psyllium fibre, in particular, could be more beneficial for people who struggle with constipation. According to the study, taking psyllium supplements for at least four weeks was very effective at improving symptoms.

Interestingly, participants who took a placebo dosage of the fibre supplement also found that their symptoms of constipation improved. 41% of people who took the placebo supplement reported more regular bowel habits on the placebo, with researchers noting that our brains might play a bigger part in digestive issues than we think.

Some participants in the study also noted increased flatulence and abdominal pain from taking fibre supplements, a reminder that it’s important to gradually increase your fibre intake in order to avoid overwhelming your body.

You can take psyllium fibre as a supplement, which usually comes in powder form. Dosage will depend on the type of psyllium fibre you take and it’s best to speak to your GP to figure out if psyllium is right for you and how often you should supplement with it. And, as dietitian Sophie Medlin previously told Stylist, we shouldn’t rely on supplements over simply eating our nutrients: “Choosing wholegrain carbohydrates and packing your diet with fruit and vegetables is a better way to get more fibre into your diet. As I always say, spend your money in the fruit and veg aisle rather than the pharmaceutical aisle where you can.” 

Fortunately, psyllium is a naturally occurring fibre, found in foods such as high-fibre cereals, baked breads and even ice cream. NHS guidelines advise that healthy adults should eat 30g of fibre per day.

If you have been suffering from severe constipation for an extended period of time, you should speak to your GP about your symptoms.

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If you do choose to take psyllium supplements, remember to drink plenty of water. One of the main ways in which psyllium improves digestion is by soaking up water from your lower intestine, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated if you incorporate it into your diet.

And remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment for digestive issues.

Images: Getty

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