Constipation is defined as 3 or fewer bowel movements per week. It is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the US. Constipation affects over 43 million Americans, that is about 15% of the population.

Those reporting constipation most frequently are women and seniors.

Causes

There are many triggers which can cause the symptoms and they can include:

  • ignoring the urge to clear the bowels;
  • a diet low in dietary fiber;
  • feeling upset can make your bowel speed up or slow down;
  • pregnancy;
  • conditions like Crohn’s disease (a chronic digestive disorder), colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome;
  • lack of fluids;
  • surgery around the anus can occasionally be a cause of constipation;
  • slow transit colon;
  • some individuals with neurological problems like Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease are prone to constipation;
  • some medicines, particularly painkillers;
  • lack of exercise (sedentarism).

Symptoms

Types of Poop Appearance, Color, Consistency chart constipation
Image credit – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bristol_stool_chart.svg

Some common symptoms of constipation include:

  • bloating;
  • having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week;
  • excessive intestinal gas;
  • hard, dry, and small stools, making them difficult to pass or painful;
  • abdominal discomfort;
  • feeling as though you haven’t completely evacuated the stool after a bowel movement;
  • straining to have a bowel movement.

When a child is having trouble with constipation, he/she may have:

  • small liquid stools or smears of stool in his/her underwear;
  • a decrease in how often he/she poops, may skip days between pooping;
  • abdominal cramping, bloating, or pain;
  • pain with pooping;
  • trouble pushing poop out of his/her rectum;
  • hard, dry poop.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for constipation include the following:

  • taking a large number of medications;
  • female sex;
  • low educational level;
  • low income;
  • older age;
  • low-fiber diet;
  • low caloric intake;
  • physical inactivity.

Treatment

Some of the following suggestions may help with constipation:

  • eat more foods rich in dietary fiber; some of the foods that can help in constipation are – kale, spinach, quinoa, sweet potatoes, red kidney beans, lentils, apples, pears, plums, prunes, mangoes, pineapples, papayas, radishes, garlic, onions, zucchini, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cabbage, Swiss chard, cauliflower, hazelnuts, broccoli, olives, sweet peppers, cayenne peppers, oatmeal, oat bran, carrots, turnips, flax seeds, chia seeds, and  tomatoes;
  • drink more liquids, especially water as water helps in digestion and helps maintain a healthy intestine. However, it is recommended to avoid beverages high in alcohol (beer, wine, vodka) or caffeine (coffee and energy drinks) that can cause dehydration;
  • ask your doctor about changing the medicines which cause constipation;
  • if possible, increase physical activity. Swimming, walking, cycling, or pregnancy exercise classes can all help;
  • drink more liquids.

If the above remedies don’t work, you can try a fiber supplement. Here is a comparison between two popular fiber supplements:

Reguloid

It is a bulk-forming fiber laxative whose main ingredient is psyllium, a type of soluble fiber used as a gentle, bulk-forming laxative. This fiber is made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds.

Inactive ingredients:

  • sucrose;
  • orange flavor;
  • FD&C yellow #6 lake;
  • FD&C yellow #6;
  • citric acid.

Metamucil

Image credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamiesrabbits/3972470581

It is an over-the-counter soluble fiber supplement whose main ingredient is psyllium husk powder.

Inactive ingredients: sucrose.

Uses

Both are used to treat constipation. Both products usually produce a bowel movement in 12 to 72 hours.

Mechanism of Action

Reguloid works by absorbing liquid and swelling in the intestines to create a bulky stool.

Metamucil works by adding bulk to your food as you eat, helping carry resulting waste through the intestinal tract.

Side Effects

Possible side effects of Reguloid are:

  • stomach cramps;
  • allergic reactions, like itching or hives, skin rash, swelling of the lips, face, or tongue;
  • headache;
  • breathing problems;
  • diarrhea;
  • chest pain;
  • bloated or ‘gassy’ feeling;
  • vomiting;
  • trouble swallowing;
  • rectal bleeding;
  • nausea.

Possible side effects of Metamucil are:metamucil psyllium supplement for constipation

  • vomiting;
  • stomach cramping;
  • nausea;
  • excessive intestinal gas;
  • skin rash;
  • itching;
  • stomach pain;
  • difficulty swallowing;
  • difficulty breathing.

Dosage

Reguloid

Take this medicine by mouth with a full glass of water. The recommended dosage for adults & children 12 years and over is 5 capsules with 8 ounces of liquid at the first sign of irregularity.

For children under 12 years: ask a healthcare provider. Do not give this medicine to a child younger than 6 years old without your doctor’s advice.

For adults, the recommended dosage for Metamucil is between 1 and 2 tbsp, dissolved in 8 ounces of liquid. For children ages 6 to 11, the recommended dosage is 1 tbsp. For children under 6, consult a doctor before giving this fiber supplement to your child.

Warnings & Precautions

Before taking Reguloid, tell your doctor if you have any of these conditions:

  • an unusual or allergic reaction to psyllium;
  • change in bowel habits for more than 2 weeks;
  • blocked intestines or bowels;
  • trouble swallowing;
  • vomiting;
  • nausea;
  • stomach pain.

Do not use it for longer than 1 week.

Before taking Metamucil, you should tell your healthcare professional if you have a history of:

  • bleeding from the rectum;
  • a change in bowel habits which lasts longer than 14 days;
  • symptoms of appendicitis;
  • difficulty swallowing;
  • stomach/intestinal blockage.

Drug Interactionsalcohol and fiber psyllium supplements

Avoid alcohol intake while taking these psyllium supplements since alcohol will worsen your symptoms by causing dehydration.

Is It Safe During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?pregnancy and fiber psyllium supplement

Ask a doctor before using these psyllium supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Bottom Line – Reguloid vs Metamucil

Both Reguloid and Metamucil are psyllium supplements used to treat occasional constipation. In addition, increasing fiber intake above the daily recommended amount has been shown to improve glycemic control.

In conclusion, both products are effective in treating constipation, but Metamucil Original Texture is healthier since Reguloid has food preservatives (such as – FD&C yellow #6) with questionable health effects.

When To Seek Medical Treatment For Constipation

If you have tried the solutions above and see no improvement in your symptoms within 15 to 30 days, talk to your healthcare professional.

More importantly, you should seek professional medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • severe abdominal pain, especially when eating;
  • iron deficiency anemia;
  • chronic constipation combined with a family history of bowel disease or colon cancer;
  • sudden weight loss of 10 pounds or more;
  • pencil-thin stool;
  • blood in the stool.
References

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa0707377
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/70/4/466/4729069
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/psyllium

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