Psyllium: Uses & Side Effects

Psyllium (Metamucil) is a bulk-forming fiber laxative. It works by absorbing liquid and swelling in the intestines to create a softer, bulky stool that is easier to pass. Psyllium is used to treat occasional constipation or bowel irregularity. Psyllium may also help lower cholesterol when used together with a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat.


What should you know before taking this medicine?

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to take psyllium if you have other medical conditions, especially:

  • Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting;
  • Trouble swallowing; or
  • A sudden change in bowel habits lasting longer than 2 weeks.

Psyllium products may contain sugar, sodium, or artificial sweetener. These ingredients may be of concern if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or phenylketonuria (PKU). Check the product label if you have any of these conditions.

Ask a doctor before using psyllium if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Your dose needs may be different during pregnancy or while you are nursing.

Do not give psyllium to a child younger than 6 years old without medical advice.


What should you avoid while taking this medicine?

You should avoid:

  • Taking other oral (by mouth) medicines within 2 hours before or 2 hours after you take psyllium.
  • Breathing in the dust from psyllium powder when mixing.
  • Eating foods that are high in fat or cholesterol if you take psyllium as part of a cholesterol-lowering treatment plan.


Side effects

Stop using psyllium and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • Choking or trouble swallowing;
  • Severe stomach pain, cramping, nausea or vomiting;
  • Constipation that lasts longer than 7 days;
  • Rectal bleeding; or
  • Itchy skin

Common side effects may include:

  • Bloating; or
  • Minor change in your bowel habits.


Keywords: psyllium; Metamucil