If you have celiac disease, eliminating gluten from your diet is the single most important thing you can do for your health. However, when you eliminate gluten from your diet, you inadvertently eliminate beneficial elements of your diet as well.
When you adopt a gluten-free diet, it is also important to identify the key nutritional factors that existed in your gluten-containing diet. Ignoring key nutritional factors missing from your diet can be dangerous. Supplements to help curtail nutrient deficiencies are important, and fiber should be the next priority.
In past posts we’ve discussed some good sources of gluten-free fiber and the importance of fiber in preventing or remedying constipation. But what happens when you find yourself unable to get the required 25-30 grams of gluten-free foods with high fiber counts just by eating fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains? Let’s discuss a few safe ways to supplement your diet with fiber.
Flaxseed Meal & Chia Seeds
Some people find adding chia seeds or ground flaxseed to their food is an easier and more natural gluten-free alternative to fiber supplement powders. Ground flaxseed is a great way to add fiber to foods and baked goods, with a distinctive nutty flavor.
Flaxseed meal can be mixed with powder to make an egg replacer for baked goods. It can be sprinkled on hot and cold breakfast cereal, mixed in with steamed grains and added to salads, smoothies and soups. Chia seeds are so tiny they don’t need to be ground, and can be used whole in many of the same ways that ground flax seed is used. When mixed with liquids they become somewhat gelatinous, so they can be used to thicken soups, stews, and smoothies. They also add flavor, texture and fiber to any baked good.
If you choose to purchase pre-ground flaxseed, make sure it was not processed on equipment shared with wheat. To avoid rancidity and get all of the nutritional benefits the seed has to offer, it is recommended to buy whole seed and grind it as needed. Ground flax seed should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Both chia seeds and flax meal are known for being rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which make them a great choice for anyone trying to avoid or reduce inflammation. They are all-around excellent nutritional additions to the gluten-free diet.
Fiber Supplement Powders
Fiber supplement powders allow you to mix fiber into your hot and cold beverages or even your pancakes or baked goods. There are two general categories of fiber powders:
- Traditional fiber powders made of psyllium husk (the outer covering of a seed) often have a bit of a flavor and a slightly gritty texture. Psyllium husk powders are often sold as flavored products such as Citrucel or most of the Metamucil brand products. Flavored powders may have artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and/or artificial flavors and colors. You can also find unflavored psyllium husk powder. Studies have linked intake of psyllium fiber to lower blood cholesterol levels.
- Clear-dissolving powders made of inulin or wheat dextrin that dissolve completely in liquids with no flavor or color. Inulin is a naturally occurring vegetable fiber. The powder is versatile and easy to ingest.
Psyllium husk and inulin are naturally gluten-free as long as the products they are in do not contain added gluten-containing products and they are processed on gluten-free equipment.
Wheat dextrin is controversial for celiacs, as it is a part of the wheat plant that does not inherently contain gluten. For instance, Benefiber Powder is tested as containing less than 20 ppm of gluten which means that the FDA and the Codex Alimentarius Commission consider it “gluten-free.” Because it may contain some tiny amount of gluten, it’s recommended that people with celiac disease stay away from fiber supplements derived from wheat dextrin. There are many gluten-free brands of fiber powders, including some generic brands. Citrucel is gluten-free. Metamucil products are gluten-free except for their fiber wafers.
Fiber Caplets, Capsules & Gummies
Fiber sources as diverse as apple pectin, psyllium and inulin can be found in capsule or caplet form. Apple pectin is a special form of fiber that is often prescribed to reduce diarrhea. Psyllium is powerfully helpful in reducing constipation, and both psyllium and inulin can be useful in reducing diarrhea and regulating the gastrointestinal system.
Fiber gummy supplements (with an appearance and taste similar to gummy bear candies) are increasingly popular as well. These supplements should be checked to make sure all ingredients are gluten-free, and they are not made on shared equipment. PediaLax Fiber Gummies are a gluten-free option for kids. Vitafusion Fiber Gummies are a safe choice for adults.
Whichever form of fiber you decide is best for you, it is critically important that you increase your water intake when you begin to supplement your diet with fiber. In fact, taking a fiber supplement without adequate water can cause severe gastrointestinal discomfort that may mimic the celiac symptoms you felt before you were diagnosed.