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The Role of Fiber in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Therapeutic Recommendations

Zuckerman, Marc J MD

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: February 2006 - Volume 40 - Issue 2 - p 104-108
doi: 10.1097/01.mcg.0000196405.15110.bb
Alimentary Tract: Clinical Review

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common clinical condition that often presents a therapeutic challenge. There is no standard therapy and a multilevel approach is recommended. A high-fiber diet is often one of these components. Many investigators have studied the effectiveness of either fiber supplementation or bulking agents in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current literature on the use of fiber in irritable bowel syndrome and to provide some specific recommendations. Systematic reviews of these trials have generally not found fiber to be significantly more effective than placebo at relieving global irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. There may be differences between results obtained with soluble and insoluble fiber. Adverse effects of fiber use may include abdominal discomfort and bloating. Although dietary fiber or bulking agents do not appear to be useful as sole treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, they may have a limited role in empiric therapy depending upon the patient's symptom complex, especially if constipation is the most significant symptom. The basic principles for using fiber therapy are to start with a low dose and increase slowly, to give an adequate trial and to evaluate the results early and periodically.

Received for publication July 22, 2005; accepted September 1, 2005.

From Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, TX.

Reprints: Marc J. Zuckerman, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 4800 Alberta Avenue, El Paso, TX 79905 (e-mail: Marc.Zuckerman@ttuhsc.edu).

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.