Side Effects of Psyllium Husk Fiber

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A wooden spoon full of psyllium husks fiber.
A wooden spoon full of psyllium husks fiber. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

While perhaps best known as a common ingredient in fiber supplements and for their ability to improve both diarrhea and constipation, psyllium husks may also offer health benefits, including lower blood cholesterol levels and better blood sugar control for people with diabetes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, while psyllium husk fiber is a natural ingredient, it can have potentially dangerous side effects. Consult your doctor before adding psyllium husks to your daily regimen.

Mix It Right

When using psyllium husks, mix it according to package directions. According to UMMC, you need to take your psyllium with 8 ounces of water. Taking your psyllium without an adequate amount of water may cause the fiber supplement to swell up and lead to choking. While choking is very dangerous, it's an extreme situation and not a common concern, UMMC explains.

Interactions With Medication

Taking psyllium may also interact with how your medication works by affecting the amount of medication you absorb or how quickly you absorb it. To prevent the interactions, you should take your psyllium separately from your medication.

UMMC recommends you take your psyllium one hour before or two to four hours after you take medication. MedlinePlus says you should not take digoxin, salicylates or nitrofurantoin within three hours of taking psyllium. If you're on any medication, talk to your doctor before you start taking psyllium husk fiber.

Abdominal Distress

As a fiber supplement, psyllium may cause a variety of abdominal problems, including nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, gas or bloating. If you don't drink enough water when supplementing your diet with psyllium husk fiber, you may also experience constipation.

UMMC recommends you drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day when taking psyllium husk fiber. Exercise and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may also help prevent psyllium husk-related constipation.

Caution With Psyllium Husks

Psyllium husk fiber may not be an appropriate supplement for everyone. If you're pregnant or breast-feeding, you should not take psyllium unless directed to do so by your doctor. You should also be cautious about taking the supplement if you have kidney disease.

You should not take psyllium husk if you have bowel spasms or an obstruction, difficulty swallowing or esophageal strictures, warns UMMC.

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