Dietary fibres and IBS: translating functional characteristics to clinical value in the era of personalised medicine

Gut. 2021 Dec;70(12):2383-2394. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-324891. Epub 2021 Aug 20.


Clinical guidelines in the use of fibre supplementation for patients with IBS provide one-size-fits-all advice, which has limited value. This narrative review addresses data and concepts around the functional characteristics of fibre and subsequent physiological responses induced in patients with IBS with a view to exploring the application of such knowledge to the precision use of fibre supplements. The key findings are that first, individual fibres elicit highly distinct physiological responses that are associated with their functional characteristics rather than solubility. Second, the current evidence has focused on the use of fibres as a monotherapy for IBS symptoms overall without attempting to exploit these functional characteristics to elicit specific, symptom-targeted effects, or to use fibre types as adjunctive therapies. Personalisation of fibre therapies can therefore target several therapeutic goals. Proposed goals include achieving normalisation of bowel habit, modulation of gut microbiota function towards health and correction of microbial effects of other dietary therapies. To put into perspective, bulking fibres that are minimally fermented can offer utility in modulating indices of bowel habit; slowly fermented fibres may enhance the activities of the gut microbiota; and the combination of both fibres may potentially offer both benefits while optimising the activities of the microbiota throughout the different regions of the colon. In conclusion, understanding the GI responses to specific fibres, particularly in relation to the physiology of the individual, will be the future for personalising fibre therapy for enhancing the personalised management of patients with IBS.

Keywords: colonic fermentation; diet; dietary fibre; irritable bowel syndrome; oligosaccharides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Precision Medicine*


  • Dietary Fiber