Psyllium fiber is a natural product derived from the seeds of a plant called Plantago. It’s used as an over-the-counter remedy for constipation. It’s available as a powder, which, when dissolved in water, is taken orally.
How does psyllium (Metamucil) work?
Psyllium has two main functions; it’s a both a bulk-forming laxative and a soluble fiber.
At higher doses (i.e. 30g/day), psyllium is a laxative. At such doses, it makes stool bulkier. Bulkier stool is able to touch (and stimulate) the muscles of your colon more readily than thinner stool. Psyllium may take 2-3 days to start working. Consider taking a different laxative (like Sennokot) if it’s entirely ineffective after 3 days. Please see your doctor if you remain constipated after 1 week of using psyllium.
At lower doses, (i.e. 10g/day), psyllium is less likely to relieve constipation. It does have another benefit, however; it lowers cholesterol. Studies show that soluble fibers, like low-dose psyllium, lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) by making you feel less hungry for high cholesterol foods. Psyllium may also prevent the absorption of cholesterol from your gut. Nevertheless, drugs like Crestor are preferred in patients with high cholesterol.
What are the side effects of psyllium (Metamucil)?
Psyllium is may cause choking and bowel obstruction. Please take psyllium in divided doses and with plenty of water to prevent these serious side effects. Also, do not inhale the powder. Psyllium powder, when inhaled, can cause serious breathing problems.
Psyllium may also alter the effect of certain drugs. Be sure the separate psyllium doses from doses of other medications by at least 2 hours.
Is it safe for pregnant and/or breast-feeding women?
Psyllium is the drug-of-choice to relieve constipation in pregnant and breast-feeding women. The medication is not absorbed from the colon, so it cannot reach the fetus or contaminate breast-milk.
- Adding docusate sodium (Colace) to a course of psyllium is a great way to remedy painful constipation
- You must take high doses (30g/day) of psyllium to use it as a bulk-forming laxative
- You must take psyllium is divided doses and with lots of water to prevent serious side effects
- The drug can be used long-term. But, see your doctor if you remain constipated after 1 week’s worth of psyllium.