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There are several ways to use psyllium for constipation, but the most common method usually involves swallowing a capsule that has been prepared specifically as a dietary supplement. Capsules should usually be taken every few hours with plenty of water, and will typically stimulate a bowel movement anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after ingestion. Loose psyllium powder can also be sprinkled on food or mixed into juice or other beverages, and many wheat-based products like cereals and breads feature it as an ingredient, often in an effort to boost the overall fiber count of the food at issue. The actual using of it is fairly straightforward — it needs to be swallowed — but timing and measuring doses is where things can get trickier. Results are typically slow, and impatience that leads to taking too much can cause gas and bloating. It’s also usually important to drink a lot of water with psyllium so that it is able to process properly through your bowels. If it isn’t sufficiently hydrated it might actually make your constipation worse
The term “psyllium” is usually used to describe the seed or husk of plants in the scientific genus Plantago, which includes a number of different species. The husk basically acts as a bulk fiber. It can’t be digested by humans and so passes through the intestinal tract and can add bulk to stools forming there. It is a common constipation remedy because it is all natural and, when used correctly, doesn’t cause irritation or other side effects.
Importance of Water
Psyllium for constipation works primarily because the fiber introduces water-holding bulk to the stool. The mucilage of the psyllium husk acts like a lubricant in the digestive tract while it swells to hold several times its own weight in water. For this reason, though, it is very important to drink a lot of water with each dose, usually a full glass or more. People who are dehydrated may find that the husk tries to rob water from already compacted stool, which can make constipation even worse.
Using the husk in moderation is key for the same reason. Psyllium isn’t usually considered a rapid cure for constipation, and it often takes a day or two to really kick in. It isn’t usually a good idea to boost your dosage if you aren’t getting results right away, because taking too much can overwhelm your bowels and can worsen the condition just as if you were taking the husks without adequate water.
Taken as a Supplement
Many over-the-counter and natural remedies for constipation rely on psyllium granules, either in whole or in part. One of the most common options comes in capsule form. In these cases it’s important to read the manufacturer’s directions and instructions for use; the labeling will usually tell you how much to take, at what intervals, and how much water to consume along the way.
Mixed Into Drinks
Loose psyllium powder can also be mixed into drinks. This is often a good option for people who can’t or who don’t like swallowing pills. Some loose powders are pre-made into drink mixes and are designed to dissolve as easily as possible, and these options are often easy to blend into juice or water. Chunkier, grainier mixes can be more difficult to prepare this way, but adding the flakes to smoothies or milkshakes can make them more palatable. Again, though, it’s important to pay close attention to dosing instructions so as get enough while not overdoing it. It can be tempting to load a drink with fiber supplementation, but this isn’t usually any more effective than simply taking the recommended amount.
Sprinkled on Food
Another way to use psyllium for constipation is to sprinkle the crushed husk over food; serving it over yogurt, mixed into a salad, or combined with breakfast cereal are some of the more popular preparations. It can also be baked into breads and cookies, though this is usually a tactic employed to increase bulk and improve dough consistency rather then relieve constipation. The amount of raw husk that would be required per cookie to ease intestinal distress would probably detract immensely from the confection’s expected taste and texture. When the additive is used in baking it’s more often because of the husk’s general health benefits — lower cholesterol and blood pressure among them — more than relief from immediate problems like constipation.