Wheat Watch: Benefiber

Popular fiber supplement, Benefiber, produced by pharmaceutical company, Novartis, is sourced from wheat.

It is a fiber in the form of wheat dextrin and should therefore not be consumed by anyone wishing to be wheat/gluten-free.

Are there better sources of fiber than wheat dextrin if you are interested in regular and effortless bowel function? There certainly are:

Vegetables, nuts, seeds, chia, flaxseed, chicory inulin, fruit, i.e., real foods rich in natural fibers and mimicking the way humans have eaten for millennia. The dextrin fiber and bran from wheat are most definitely NOT necessary for perfect and regular bowel health.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Ha! I spent many years incorrectly diagnosed with IBS, and encouraged to ‘get more fiber’. Every time I tried one of these fiber powders, my condition would worsen immediately. And now, once again, mystery solved! Thanks for posting :) Vicki, a happy wheat-leaver

    • Dr. Davis

      Ah, Vicki: the power of one little tweak to your understanding and, ouila! Perfect health!

        • scientist

          As far as I understand, psyllium husks are the husks of the psyllium seed plant (also known as Plantago ovate) and therefore not related to wheat in anyway. HOWEVER, be careful when buying commercial brands that use psyllium fibre, since they might add other stuff to the product. For example, a no-name product on my drugstore shelf beside the Metamucil had silica (silicon dioxide) added to it (i.e. sand). The unflavored Metamucil has either sugar or maltodextrin (for the sugar free). Because of these, I went to my health food store and just bought straight-up psyllium husk (you can usually get the whole husk or in powder form). Exactly the same active ingredient at Metamucil, just no additions. Also it was cheaper than Metamucil!

          • fudgecake

            Actually it’s more fun to say viola. But to be relevant, I find chia seeds to be effective sources of fiber. I make microwave muffins with 1/4 cup chia seeds, an egg, some oil and baking soda, some flavoring such as unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, a little sweetener, etc. Stir it together and microwave for 45-90 seconds and … viola … it’s a fluffy cake.

  2. Paul B.

    Dr. Davis,
    I have a follow-up question: Do we NEED fiber? If there are no essential carbohydrates, do we actually need to ingest fiber?

    • Paul…..I’ve been through pub-med several times and to date, there are no studies that I can find that indicate that fiber is essential to our diet and/or our well being…..but I’m not a doctor or a scientist so please don’t quote me! ;-) I personally believe fiber might be overrated and not essential….but that’s just me.

    • James

      Paul and Jan,

      You yourselves don’t need fibers (soluble ones) nor do you need resistant starches. BUT! You are NOT alone, you are hosting trillions of bacteria in your colons, some VERy benefitial. They need the fibers and resistant starch, they ferment it and crap out very useful short chain fatty acids, including butyrate, which feeds your colon cells and have a lot of benefits (better blood sugar control, better sleep, etc). So don’t think that because you cannot directly digest it that it is not benefitial since you definitely feed others than you :D

      The bacterial population of your colon is really an important factor to good health. I regularly eat shirataki noodles made from the konjac root. It has no nutritional value but feeds the good bacteria (the fiber called glucomanna does the magic). I also eat resistant starch in the form of unmodified raw potatoe starch (don’t heat it or it is destroyed), something like 40g which I can add in a smoothie or just water a little while before going to bed. Good sleep guarantied and you may experience vivid dreams … If your microbiome is not populated with the right bacteria, you will experience some discomfort at the beginning …

      By the way, that is why it is also good to eat xylitol, it is a very decent prebiotic. The best is to ingest the prebiotic with a good kefir as the prObiotic will enjoy the ride to your colon by attaching to the prEbiotic like resistant starch.

    • Stephanie

      The label says the only active ingredient is Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (is that plastic?) and works by an osmotic effect. It seems to me that you could get similar relief by using magnesium and not consuming Polyethylene.

    • Paula

      my then 5 year old was told by her pediatrician to take mirolax since she was always constipated and was causing accidents. after meeting maria emmerich and reading wheat belly we stopped the drug and went with probiatics. made a world of difference and fixed the same problems the miralax did.

  3. OT, but I’m reading a book called “Why Isn’t my Brain Working?” by Datis Kharrazian. There’s a chapter on gluten and “leaky brain” and all the problems it can cause. The book also hammers on blood sugar levels and the brain–I thought this would be up Dr. Davis’s ally.

  4. Patricia Varga

    Just wanted to say I am now longer having problems with elimination due to my addition of my homemade fermented sauerkraut, digestive enzymes and Mag07 AND a diet full of veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, green smoothies of kale,spinach daily. In other words a complete overhaul to my previous diet.

  5. I’m beginning to think fiber is highly over-rated…..I’ve personally cut way back…..added daily amounts of pure bone broth and I’ve had more energy than a 25 yr. old….go figure!

      • Tony,
        Although one can buy it online, it’s very expensive so I make my own…..I use a large slow cooker, a variety of pastured bones, knuckles, cartilage, etc.(which I roast first) then add organic unpasturized vinegar, filtered water, and simmer for 72 hours…..cool, skim the fat off….then freeze in 1/2 cup increments for later consumption. Lots of information online…..Weston Price for one. My energy level increased ten fold.

        • Cindy

          Thanks for providing the info re: bone broth. Although I am wheat free, my energy hasn’t increased. I am 64 y/o and walk/bicycle regularly. Weston Price is a site I am somewhat familiar with so will check it out. Also, almost four months into this wheat-free lifestyle, and I am noticing it’s not as easy to follow as it was in the beginning. Experiencing more hunger between meals. Maybe I’m not eating enough fat?

          • Barbara in New Jersey

            Not enough fat, not enough water among many things.
            The probiotics replenish the intestinal flora to help digest the foods you do eat and gain nutrients from. As a grain eater, your intestines need some help adjusting, even if you don’t have the bowel issues other people describe. Next step is to make sure you are getting enough magnesium and other vitamins Dr. D. suggests you take. See the nutritional deficiencies and supplements archive on this blog (left side) for the discussion. And, as Jan from KeyWest is saying, many people rave about bone broth for energy! Any or all implementation of these suggestions should increase your energy levels significantly.

            It worked for me. I haven’t made bone broth yet due to lack of freezer space. All the other items helped me significantly and worth every penny.

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      Anne Z,

      Bone broth is actually another name for soup stock. There are slight differences, but basically the same. Endless recipes on internet sites. Check it out. It is full of minerals and collagen leached from the bones used. No comparison to the canned, dried or cartoned stuff.

      Seems this is another area that Americans have succumbed to laziness. I remember my Grandma ALWAYS using any meat or fish or chicken bones to make a soup base. Sometimes she actually bought bones or fish heads! As a small child, I thought she was very strange to spend precious money on bones or on smelly fish heads! That big pot simmering on the stovetop? Yuck! Only when i learned to cook did I appreciate the effort and the delicious soup or gravy base this was used for.

      It is important to try to get grass-fed, anti-biotic and hormone free bones because trace amounts might leach into the soup.

    • Bone broth differs from beef broth in that the bones are slow cooked (low heat) for at least 72 hours in order to extract all the available nutrients. Chicken bone broth takes less time…..24 hours. I use a representation of beef/lamb bones/cartilage (and whatever else he saves for me) obtained from a local pastured supplier…..roast them, add to cooker, cover with filtered watr, add apple cider vinegar and let it simmer for the next three days. I freeeze the end (skimed) product and freeze in small containers. The first time I made it, I savd the bones for the neighbors dog but he wouldn’t touch them…..nothing left I guess!

  6. jclive

    All you need to know about the deleterious affects of fibre. Spelling will tell you I am from ‘down under”. The site’s author published “Fiber Menace” in 2005 and that finally got me off grains long before WB. Nevertheless I have spread several copies of WB and an avid follower of WBB.

    • Barbara in New Jersey

      I am wondering just how long we need to take the probiotics when a grain-free diet is adopted? While everyone is different and their intestinal health varies, is there a general rule of thumb to consider? Is is important to change brands to get different strains?

      • Cindy

        I haven’t taken any probiotics since becoming wheat free? Is it a necessity? I thought probiotics were only needed if a person experienced digestive issues from the withdrawal of wheat.

      • Cindy

        Thanks, Barbara, for the advice. I believe I am drinking enough water but I think I will keep track for a few days. As for fat, I thought eating some cheese just about every day was enough. I also sauté vegetables in coconut oil and fry my eggs in it. Maybe I requiremore? I don’t want to fail at this new way of eating. Will check into probiotics.

        • Suzanne

          An easy way to increase your fatintake is to put some coconutoil and butter in your tea or coffee and mix it – voila – a perfect cafe-au-lait. I usually add some Cream too…

      • stephen ottridge

        I have taken no probiotics. I have just let the body adjust its own levels now that I’m wheat free. Lots of energy for me and I’m 71.

      • Dr. Davis, in his missive on supplements, suggests adding a probiotic for 4-6 weeks. I took one for a little longer (12 weeks) and once I discontinued, I was fine.

  7. Pamela

    Equate Fiber Therapy cannot be guaranteed to be gluten free, eithre, according to Walmart.com. Brian Peskin at http://www.brianpeskin.com goes into some info on Fiber and how unnecessary it actually is and how damaging it can be to the tender mucosa of the intestines (splinters, slivers, etc…). HTH

  8. Years ago when I was told I had IBS they said “add fiber” (ie Metamucil etc) and keep taking it if you’re having “the urge”. I told that to my doctor at the time so she did a food sensitivity test—I found through that I was “sensitive” to yeast and soy. But my IBS wasn’t necessarily all gone. Fast foreward to the Wheat Belly which I’ve been on now for nearly 6 months. Those symptoms have disappeared BUT my stools aren’t very “loose” anymore (without giving TMI). I’m regular but they’re quite firm!! Is this normal?? I’m eating nuts, veggies, some fruit etc with my protein. Should I be adding more “fat” to my food-plan?? Or shouldn’t I be concerned at all?? Oh…I’m drinking water all day long so thinking my fluid intake is just fine.

    • Dr. Davis

      The most common explanation is that you have failed to fully transition to normal bowel flora minus the disruptive effects of wheat.

      So most people find relief by supplementing a high-potency probiotic, e.g., 50 billion CFUs per day, for 4-8 weeks.

  9. Kimberly E.

    I bought Benefiber as it said “Gluten Free’ but now I read that it is not???????????? What is the story??????