At one point in time, when you went to the health food store you usually only had choice of wheat bran, which is a good source of the insoluble fiber that helps your digestive system stay on track, or oat bran, which contains the soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol. Although both of these bran's are still popular, as they have good reason to be, remaining excellent sources of dietary fiber, these days store shelves are gathering more and more fiber supplements ranging from encapsulated forms to powders and specialized to deal with a variety of health concerns.
Insoluble fiber has the ability to draw water into the intestines, preventing constipation and keeping waste matter from decaying within the body. However, it is the many types of soluble fiber that science has recently started investigating for health benefits. Part of soluble fiber's value is closely related to its mechanical action, as it forms a thick gel within the digestive track that moves slowly to stop sugar from entering the body too quickly, therefore, helping to keep glucose levels down and carrying some fat and sugar out of the body completely. Additionally, when soluble fibers gel up it helps to reduce blood level cholesterol by trapping bile preventing the bile from doing its action (breaking down fats in the digestive tract so the body can absorb it). Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber undergoes fermentation inside the colon to produce fatty acids that do a little bit of everything, including: helping the body digest food, protecting against polyps, stimulating immunity, increasing mineral absorption, and helping to keep cholesterol and glucose levels in check.
Soluble fiber is getting large amounts of research reviews. One study concluded that people who ate the least fiber are 63% more likely to have high levels of CRP (C-reactive protein). CRP is an inflammation marker that is associated with cardiovascular risk. Another study proved that flax seed improved glucose control. Another fiber source, psyllium, has been shown to bring relief to people with Chron's disease, an inflammatory intestinal disorder.
Flax seed and psyllium are two of the best known types of soluble fiber available, but there are other types that aren't as well known. Others including arabinogalactan (AG) have been shown to have a special affinity for natural killer cells. Beta-glucans are another form of fiber that can help boost immunity. Lignans, which are found in flax, have been shown to cause lower breast-cancer rates. Fenugreek is a spice that is rich in galactomannan, a heart-healthy fiber. Some fiber formulations pair up different kinds of fiber with complementary herbs. An example of this is Garcinia cambogia and Gymnema sylvestre, which can be used for glucose control; or astragalus, Echinacea, olive leaf, and shiitake to assist the immune system. Some supplements even provide natural enzymes which help prevent bloating.
It is, of course, important to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. However, thanks to supplementation that is designed specifically for certain health concerns, it has become much easier to find the additional fiber that is needed by your body, no matter what kind of fiber that is. A large selection of fiber bran supplements can be found at your local or internet health food store.