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How does Metamucil work?

For those struggling with constipation, a doctor may suggest Metamucil, but how does Metamucil work?

Summary

What is Metamucil?

Metamucil is an FDA-approved gluten-free fiber supplement and laxative that comes in different forms, such as powders and capsules.

What’s Metamucil intended for?

Metamucil Has bowel movement boosting powers.

How Does Metamucil work?

The psyllium fiber in Metamucil works to help maintain bowel regularity and proper digestive functioning.

How long does it take for Metamucil to work?

The recommended dose for Metamucil powders is one serving per day. One serving is 1-2 spoons of powder in a glass with 8 ounces of liquid.

Side effects of Metamucil

Changes in bowel habits may occur when you first begin to take Metamucil.

What else can psyllium do?

Now You’ve got the bird’s eye view, keep reading for the full explainer.

First off, what is Metamucil?

Metamucil is an FDA-approved gluten-free fiber supplement and laxative that comes in different forms, such as powders and capsules.

One of the main ingredients of Metamucil is psyllium fiber, also referred to as ispaghula.4

In short, it’s powdered fiber.

Dietary fiber is important for maintaining overall health. It plays a role in controlling diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Canada and the United States recommend a fiber dietary reference intake (DRI) of about 14 grams to protect the health of the heart and other organs.1 

So far, so good. But what’s that got to do with constipation?

What’s Metamucil supposed to do?

Metamucil Has bowel movement boosting powers.

That’s right, the dietry fiber in metamucil is intended to assist your intestines in digesting and moving food through your system at a quick clip. It does this in a few different ways.

Assisting Intestinal Motitlity

Fiber helps the intestine move better and faster during digestion. Having a bit of bulk can help the action of the intestinal muscles (peristalsis), having something to push against. For example, whole grain foods rich in fiber, will quickly move through the intestines. This allows for an easy digestion process, and it acts as an appetite suppressant because it can make you feel full more quickly.2

Colon cleansering

The colon, also known as the large intestine, is the final part of the digestive system. It can accumulate bacteria and buildup of impaceted feces (poop).

Fiber acts like a “brush” to naturally scrub the insides of the intestines, preventing buildup of older feces that can cause constipation if allowed to sit for too long.2

Regulating stool water content

Fiber draws in water, so it helps to keep the stool hydrated. The softer stool can then pass through the intestines much more easily. This relieves constipation and the feelings of stomach pain or discomfort that come from it.

Studies have shown that high-fiber diets and moderate exercise can greatly reduce constipation.3

How Does Metamucil work?

For those who struggle with constipation or getting their daily recommended fiber intake, a healthcare provider may suggest Metamucil.

It comes from the husk seeds of the plant Plantago Ova. Psyllium has a gel-like nature, and it is a well-known laxative, meaning that it loosens stool and helps with bowel movement.5

When metamucil is combined with water it forms a thick fiber gel. When this fiber rich concotion gets into your stomach or small intestine, it will continue to absorb water and get more bulky. As it makes it’s way down towards the rectum for its exit point, the bulky goop will mix in with whatever other food is in the stomach or intestine bringing water and bulk to any feces that has been slow to travel through. Much easier for your muscles to squeeze on. Voila! Relief from constipation

The psyllium fiber in Metamucil works to help maintain bowel regularity and proper digestive functioning.

How long does it take for Metamucil to work?

Metamucil can be taken by adults or children over the age of 12 – you should consult with your healthcare provider to make sure it is appropriate for you.

Dosage

Metamucil dietary supplement can be taken as a powder, capsule, thins, or gummies.

Depending on your fiber needs, the different forms will have different instructions and doses.4

The recommended dose for Metamucil powders is one serving per day. One serving is 1-2 spoons of powder in a glass with 8 ounces of liquid.

Five Metamucil capsules can be taken for one Metamucil serving. It is recommended to take the capsules one at a time.

For those struggling with dietary fiber intake and digestive problems, it is recommended to take Metamucil every day to get the best results.

Metamucil can be taken up to three times a day.

Side effects of Metamucil

Changes in bowel habits may occur when you first begin to take Metamucil.

Symptoms, such as bloating, may happen while the body adjusts to the increased fiber intake.7

Other side effects can include allergic reactions, stomach cramping, gas, or more serious symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

Metamucil is not recommended for those with stomach conditions: appendicitis, ulcers, or gastrointestinal obstruction.

Always consult a doctor before taking supplements.

What else can psyllium do?

Psyllium can also act as a prebiotic. It allows good bacteria to grow in the gut, which is important for the healthy functioning of both the digestive and immune systems.

The body can fight infections better and keep cells and tissues healthy.

Heart disease is usually correlated with high cholesterol levels. Regulating cholesterol is important for people of all ages, but it is especially important for people over 50 years old.

Researchers have found that psyllium fiber can be beneficial in lowering the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood.5

One published article found that adding 3.4 grams of psyllium to the diet three times a day for eight weeks, reduced cholesterol levels by about 5%. No negative side effects were reported by any of the participants.

Fiber acts to slow down the amount of sugar that is absorbed into the blood.

Having a fiber-rich meal when eating sugary foods, will help lower blood glucose (sugar) levels.6 This controls appetite by making you feel fuller and by preventing overeating.

When combined with liquid, Metamucil forms a thick gel, which is said to trap some sugars taken into the body.4

In this way, sugars are absorbed into the body more slowly, reducing blood sugar levels.  

References:

  1. Korczak, R., & Slavin, J. L. (2020). Definitions, regulations, and new frontiers for dietary fiber and whole grains. Nutrition reviews78(Suppl 1), 6–12. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuz061
  2. Shah, B. R., Li, B., Al Sabbah, H., Xu, W., & Mráz, J. (2020). Effects of prebiotic dietary fibers and probiotics on human health: With special focus on recent advancement in their encapsulated formulations. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 102, 178–192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2020.06.010
  3. Macêdo, M. I. P., Albuquerque, M. F. M., Tahan, S., & Morais, M. B. (2020). Is there any association between overweight, physical activity, fat and fiber intake with functional constipation in adolescents? Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 55(4), 414–420. https://doi.org/10.1080/00365521.2020.1749878
  4. Metamucil. (n.d.). Metamucil Fiber Supplements & Meta Appetite Control | Metamucil®. Retrieved March 3, 2021, from https://www.metamucil.com/en-us
  5. Bell, L. P. (1989). Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid. Adjunct therapy to a prudent diet for patients with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 261(23), 3419–3423.https://doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420230073029
  6. SINGH, B. (2007). Psyllium as therapeutic and drug delivery agent. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 334(1–2), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpharm.2007.01.028
  7. Psyllium: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 4, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601104.html
Melody Sayrany MSc
Melody Sayrany MSc
Melody Sayrany is a seasoned science writer with a host of experiences in cancer, neuroscience, aging, and metabolism research. She completed her BSc at The University of California, San Diego, and her MSc in biology, focusing on metabolic diseases during aging, at the University of British Columbia. Melody is passionate about science communication, and she aims to bridge the gap between complex scientific concepts and the broader community through compelling storytelling.
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