What Is Acacia Fiber?
Acacia fiber has recently entered the spotlight of the gut health world and appears to have a lot of potential. It comes from the sap in the stems and branches of the Acacia Senegal tree and, interestingly, was recently approved by the FDA to be categorized as a ‘fiber.’ 12Who knew that fibers had to go through a screening process to be called a ‘fiber?!’
Acacia is a soluble fiber that is non-viscous, slowly fermenting, and as far as we can tell is non-bulking. With that said, it has shown some ability to hold onto water in stool. 34(If you need a refresher on functional properties of fiber, click here).
Does Acacia Fiber Help With IBS?
The ACG recommends soluble fibers like Acacia for IBS
The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) recommends soluble fiber for treating global IBS symptoms. Since acacia is classified as a soluble fiber, technically, this means acacia may be an option for relieving IBS symptoms. With that said, we know that solubility isn’t the most important factor in how fibers function in the body.
Acacia fiber is slow fermenting, low FODMAP & has prebiotic properties
- In addition to being a soluble fiber, acacia is a slowly fermenting fiber. The slow fermentation process helps to prevent excessive bloating and gas while stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.4
- It’s also low FODMAP certified, meaning that people who suffer from IBS or who have sensitive guts should be able to tolerate it well6.
- Acacia fiber has also been shown to have a prebiotic effect, meaning that it can stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
2012 study - IBS patients
So far, only one study has looked at the effects of acacia fiber in IBS patients. This study gave their test group yogurt with several probiotic strains, a “Bifidobacterium enhancer,” and acacia fiber, while their control group had some probiotic strains and no “enhancer” or fiber. The results showed that the test group had significant improvements in bowel habit satisfaction and overall IBS symptoms.6
When the researchers did a subgroup analysis of each subtype of IBS, they found that IBS-C patients showed significantly greater improvement in overall IBS symptoms, and IBS-D patients showed improvement in bowel habit satisfaction.6
It’s impossible to say if the positive effects that reached statistical significance happened because of acacia fiber, the “Bifidobacterium enhancer,” different probiotic doses, or a combination of everything together. Unfortunately, this study had some shortcomings. For example, the study never explained what “Bifidobacterium enhancer” was. Was it a prebiotic fiber? If so, which one? It also didn’t list how much acacia fiber was used. Lastly, it didn’t include a placebo group (which we know is especially important when studying IBS patients due to the high rate of a placebo effect in this population6.
Given the design flaws, there aren’t many practical takeaways to be made from this study; however, it’s worth mentioning that there were no adverse events reported in the test group. This suggests that acacia fiber may be well-tolerated and safe in IBS, but more well-designed studies with dosing information are needed.6
2015 study - in-vitro
An in-vitro study on acacia fiber showed beneficial results. In this study, researchers used something called the Simulator of Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME). The SHIME simulates all compartments of the GI tract, from the stomach to the distal colon7, and in this particular study, they used the stool from an IBS patient to better mimic the GI system of someone with IBS.8
This study found that acacia was able to increase gut integrity (aka improve leaky gut), specifically in the distal colon (the last portion of the colon). It also increased butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid known to be important in gut health.8
While these study results are interesting, we can’t make recommendations based on in-vitro studies.
2012 study - children with constipation
The takeaway from the studies
Acacia fiber may be a good option if you have IBS and are looking for fiber sources to add to your diet, considering its high tolerability, slow fermentation, and preliminary study results.
Even though there isn’t enough evidence to say it helps relieve IBS symptoms, it hasn’t been shown to cause adverse events and may boost the good bacteria in your gut. Hopefully, the gut health researchers are planning more studies on symptom relief in IBS patients and assessing gut permeability.
How To Take Acacia Fiber Supplement For IBS
How much to take (dosing)
When it comes to dosing acacia fiber, studies have used varying amounts. A study that showed that acacia fiber had glucose-lowering effects used a dose of 5 g/day, while the studies showing a bump in fecal Bifidobacteria used 10 g/day.
Surprisingly, acacia has shown to be well tolerated in people without IBS at up to 50 g/day, which is way more fiber than I’d personally want to try out in one sitting.41011