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Psyllium Side Effects

Side Effects of Psyllium and The Precautions You Need to Take

Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative that is recommended for individuals affected by constipation. This Buzzle write-up provides information on the side effects of psyllium.
Suketu Mehta
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Plants from the Plantago genus are commonly referred to as psyllium. The seeds of P. ovata are commonly called Isabgol, white or blonde psyllium, or Indian plantago. Psyllium is available in the form of granules, capsule, powder, liquid, and wafer. The pills need to be taken along with a full glass of water, and the powder should be mixed with water. Wafers need to be chewed properly before they are swallowed. Generally, the dosage is 3 times a day for about a week. Basically, psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative, which means that it absorbs the liquids in the intestine, thereby forming bulky and softer stools that can easily pass out of the system.
It is recommended for individuals affected by constipation, which is a condition that is characterized by hard stools or incomplete evacuation of the bowel. A person affected by this condition passes two or fewer bowel movements in a week, and has to strain during bowel movements. When taken with the right type of diet, it helps in lowering cholesterol levels. Like most laxatives, overuse of psyllium should be avoided. It should be taken for the duration recommended by the doctor. You can refer to instructions provided on the label. Normally, doctors don't recommend the use of this laxative for more than 7 days in a row. The major problem in using psyllium is that it can be addictive, if used very often or for a long time. This may cause damage to muscle tissues or intestinal nerves.
Precautions While Taking Psyllium
When taking this supplement, inform your healthcare provider if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

Stomach pain
Change in regular bowel habits
Trouble in swallowing
Skin rashes with previous use

In such cases, the healthcare provider is not likely to recommend the use of psyllium, as it could worsen the condition.

The patient also needs to inform the doctor:

If he/she is allergic to psyllium or other drugs
If he/she is taking prescription or OTC drugs currently
If he/she is following a low-sugar or low-sodium diet
If he/she has diabetes mellitus, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, rectal bleeding, intestinal blockage, or difficulty swallowing.
If he/she has undergone ileostomy or colostomy
If she is pregnant, plans to become pregnant, or is breastfeeding

In such cases, the healthcare provider might change the dose or recommends certain safety tests before prescribing psyllium.
Side Effects Associated with the Use of Psyllium
Generally, psyllium is considered to be a safe supplement, but it could sometimes the following untoward effects:

Stomach cramps
Bloating of the stomach

Drinking lots of water or reducing the dosage can reduce the intensity of these side effects. However, medical assistance must be sought immediately in the event of an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction could cause the following side effects:

Skin rashes
Breathing difficulties
Chest pain
Trouble swallowing
Severe pain in the abdomen
Extreme nausea or dizziness
Swelling on the tongue, lips, or face

Formation of gas in the intestine is the most common side effect of psyllium and other soluble fibers. The gas is a result of the interaction between beneficial bacteria present in the intestine and soluble fiber. It is recommended to increase your intake of fluids while taking psyllium products so that the fiber does not swell and choke the esophagus.
Precautionary Measures
There are a few things to bear in mind while consuming psyllium:

No other medicines should be taken orally 2 hours before or after consuming it, as laxatives make it difficult for the body to absorb other medicines, which in turn reduces their effectiveness.
Care should be taken to avoid inhaling any dust particles while consuming the powder, as that could cause an allergic reaction.
Food items that are rich in fat and cholesterol should be avoided, especially when psyllium is consumed as a part of a low cholesterol diet plan.
In spite of the aforementioned side effects, psyllium is considered to be a very effective laxative. If consumed properly, side effects are less likely to occur. However, as with all medications, it is always advisable to consult a doctor regarding information on proper usage. Besides taking psyllium, one should follow a proper diet and exercise regimen to get the desired results.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.