What is psyllium?
Many people have never heard of psyllium. But you may have already taken it without realizing it. Psyllium is the active ingredient in some common over-the-counter constipation remedies, such as Metamucil. Psyllium is a type of plant whose ripe seeds—especially their husks, or coverings—can relieve constipation. back to top
What is it used for?
Many people who have a problem with constipation use psyllium to get their bowel movements back on track. Psyllium is a good source of fiber. Since your body can't digest fiber, it sends it out through the intestines
. Psyllium also soaks up many times its weight in water, which softens your stools and makes them easier to pass. As psyllium soaks up water, it increases in size, or bulk, which is why it's known as a "bulk laxative
." back to top
What's the best form to use?
The best way to get fiber is to eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables and whole-grain products. Still, you may sometimes need more fiber than you get from your diet. When constipation is a problem, many people buy psyllium in the form of commercial products such as Metamucil. If you'd rather use a more natural form of the herb, you can buy powdered psyllium seed husk that doesn't contain any artificial sweeteners, dyes, or flavors at a health-food store. back to top
How do I use it?
The main thing to remember when using psyllium is to drink plenty of water. If you don't, psyllium can swell up inside your body and even block your intestines. When you're using a commercial over-the-counter psyllium product such as Metamucil, follow package instructions carefully. If you're using powdered psyllium seed husk from a health-food store, a typical dose is one rounded tablespoon of the herb stirred well into a tall glass of water (or a glass of juice that you have diluted with water). Drink this down. And then drink another tall glass of water. Don't take psyllium more than once a day.
Psyllium is natural, and it tends to be more gentle than some other types of laxatives
. But it is still medicine. If you have a problem with constipation, it's a good idea to talk with your health care provider before using psyllium. back to top
It's crucial that you take psyllium with plenty of water (see above). If not, it can swell up and get stuck, possibly blocking your esophagus
. In rare cases, psyllium can cause an allergic reaction: if you notice such symptoms as a runny nose, eye irritation, wheezing, or hives after using psyllium, stop taking the herb and call a health care provider. Avoid using psyllium if you are taking any kind of medication because it can make it harder for your body to absorb the drug. Be sure to tell your doctor or health professional if you are taking any herb or supplement.
The use of herbs is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional. back to top