How Does Benefiber Work?

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Close up of wheat.
Close up of wheat. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Fiber is essential for lowering cholesterol and maintaining a healthy digestive tract, yet most Americans barely get half their recommended intake. Benefiber is an over-the-counter fiber supplement made by Novartis that may help bridge the gap. It works as a laxative and can boost daily fiber consumption, but it can also have some drawbacks if taken incorrectly -- talk to your health care provider before taking fiber supplements to be sure they're safe for you.

Wheat Dextrin Benefits

Benefiber is made from wheat dextrin, which is a natural soluble fiber produced by breaking down the starches found in wheat. Like soluble fiber obtained from whole foods, wheat dextrin helps you feel full, so it can help you eat less. A typical serving of Benefiber provides about 3 grams of soluble fiber.

In the large intestine, some wheat dextrin is fermented by bacteria, which produces energy and supports the growth of good bacteria. Fermentation also produces gas, but wheat dextrin from Benefiber produce less gas than other soluble fibers, such as inulin and guar gum, reported a study in “Nutrients” in May 2013. As a result, Benefiber may be more tolerable than other fiber supplements.

How Benefiber Works

Some types of soluble fiber, such as wheat dextrin, have a laxative effect. Benefiber is a bulk-forming laxative because wheat dextrin absorbs water as it travels through your digestive tract, and the extra water creates larger, softer stool. When stool bulk increases, it stimulates muscles in the intestine to contract, which pushes waste out. Softer stool is also easier and more comfortable to eliminate. Overall, that means Benefiber helps keep you regular and fights constipation.

General Directions for Use

Benefiber is available in powders, caplets and chewable tablets, so it’s important to read and follow the directions on the label. Never exceed the dose recommended by your physician.

Soluble fiber absorbs a significant amount of water. To ensure Benefiber works properly and doesn’t get stuck in your intestine, it’s important to drink at least 8 cups of decaffeinated fluids daily, reports the Linus Pauling Institute. Water is your best bet, since it's naturally sugar- and calorie-free, but decaf tea or coffee, or 100 percent juice, also count toward your fluid intake.

Benefiber is sugar-free and dissolves easily in water and some foods. It can be mixed into most beverages and soft food, such as yogurt and soup, and it won't affect the food's flavor or consistency. Do not mix Benefiber with carbonated beverages, however.

Recommendations and Side Effects

Even though Benefiber qualifies to be called gluten-free, it contains a trace amount of gluten. Talk to your health care provider before taking it if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Benefiber is generally safe and well tolerated, but suddenly increasing your fiber intake can result in gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. You can prevent these side effects by beginning with a small amount and gradually adding fiber to your diet.

If you take any medications, don't take Benefiber until you check with your physician because it may interfere with the drug's effect, reports PDR Health.

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