You must have seen Metamucil at the store many times by now. It’s a popular fiber supplement that acts as a laxative. There are countless positive reviews, with people finding that Metamucil helps them to feel better and relieves constipation. But still, is Metamucil good for you?
On one hand, Metamucil is a source of soluble fiber – and we know that fiber is crucial for health, particularly for our digestion. This is why fiber rich foods are so vital.
Metamucil seems like a simple shortcut for getting fiber, one that’s perfect when you’re busy. Yet, Metamucil has its limits too, as it is highly processed and doesn’t offer the same nutrients that you get with real food. So, let’s look at whether Metamucil is a good idea or whether it’s something you should skip entirely.
Is Metamucil Good For You?
- What Is Metamucil?
- Metamucil And Digestion
- Other Benefits Of Metamucil
- Can Metamucil Help You Lose Weight?
- The Problems With Metamucil
- Alternatives To Metamucil
- Should You Use Metamucil?
What Is Metamucil?
Metamucil is a branded fiber supplement. It’s made from psyllium husk, which is an interesting type of fiber. In particularly, psyllium husk is made from soluble fiber (much like the soluble fiber found in oatmeal).
Soluble fiber absorbs water as it passes through your body. This makes it gel-like and means that the fiber often makes you feel full.
The company now offers a variety of products, including powders, capsules, fiber thins, and gummies. The different styles are useful, as some people find capsules easier to take than powder or vice versa.
There are other differences too. For example, some of the products use artificial sweeteners, some use sugar, and some use no sweeteners. A few use flavors as well.
Interestingly, few of the products contain just fiber. Most have some added ingredients. The ingredients improve the flavor, texture, or mixability of the fiber, making it easier to use.
Metamucil And Digestion
Metamucil is promoted as a tool for improving digestive health – and this is the main benefit. Our bodies need fiber for good digestion. If we’re not getting enough fiber, then we start to have problems.
In fact, only around 5% of Americans get the fiber they need. How’s that for a serious issue?
There are also times when you need more fiber than normal. If you’re constipated, for example, products like Metamucil can work wonders. You just need to look at the reviews for Metamucil to see how many success stories there are.
And interestingly, getting more fiber could help in the other direction too. Some people with diarrhea find that fiber supplements make life much better as well.
The Role Of Psyllium Husk
The psyllium husk used in Metamucil may be particularly relevant for digestion. It’s a type of soluble fiber, so creates extra bulk in your stool and makes it softer – features that help to quickly remedy constipation.
This gel can improve your digestion and bowel health in other ways as well.
The effects are so powerful that many people simply take fiber supplements as a first option whenever they experience digestion issues. After all, Metamucil is an over-the-counter product, one that you can easily find in stores.
What could be simpler than that?
Other Benefits Of Metamucil
May Improve Heart Health
Soluble fiber, like psyllium husk, is very important for your heart, as it can lower blood cholesterol levels. This is also why oatmeal is often recommended for heart health, as it contains soluble fiber as well.
The effect isn’t just theoretical either. Studies reinforce the link between soluble fiber, cholesterol levels, and other heart disease risk factors. Some have even focused on psyllium fiber supplements specifically.
Better Blood Sugar Control
Fiber also helps to decrease your blood sugar levels. This is often an important effect, one that can decrease your risk of diabetes.
The effect can be relevant for people with diabetes too, helping to improve their blood sugar control and glycemic response.
Can Promote Gut Health
Fiber supplements are often linked to improved gut health. This isn’t just because they keep you regular, but because the fiber helps to feed the bacteria in your gut.
This effect could be more significant than it first seems. These days we’re learning more and more about how our gut bacteria might influence our health on many different levels. Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria might even lower disease risk or help you to live longer.
May Reduce Disease Risk
Getting enough fiber regularly can help to reduce the chance of some serious diseases too, perhaps even decreasing your cancer risk. This isn’t a surprising effect, as the fiber keeps your digestion working as it should, which means that your body is eliminating toxins well.
While you’ll still get more benefits from fiber rich foods than from Metamucil itself, the supplement is still relevant if your dietary fiber is limited.
Can Metamucil Help You Lose Weight?
Metamucil is designed as a fiber supplement, one that helps to keep you regular and treats constipation. It’s effective in that role, but many people hope to use it for weight loss instead.
It’s easy to see why too, as the soluble fiber in Metamucil can help you to feel full, an effect that keeps your appetite at bay. This effect could stop you from overeating and make it easier to cut down your calorie intake. Some studies have highlighted this effect too.
Even so, using a fiber supplement for weight loss is a poor idea. You’re artificially making yourself feel full, without increasing your nutrient intake at all.
A much more powerful approach is to increase your intake of fiber rich foods, including vegetables and legumes. Doing so gives you the fiber you need, along with plenty of nutrients and antioxidants.
Besides, as we’ll discuss shortly, Metamucil does come with side effects and concerning features. These make it a poor choice for everyday health.
The Problems With Metamucil
Metamucil Is Processed
Getting many components all together like this is always much more powerful than supplements that just have one or two.
Besides, do we really need more processed food? Modern diets already have far too much of the stuff.
There Are Some Additives
Metamucil mostly consists of psyllium husk, but this isn’t the only ingredient. Most of the products have at least a few extra ingredients, including some concerning ones.
For example, Metamucil Sugar-Free Orange Smooth Powder also contains maltodextrin, orange flavor (natural and artificial), citric acid, aspartame, and yellow 6.
Maltodextrin is a common additive, one that some people are concerned about. Aspartame is potentially worse, as this is an artificial sweetener. Then there’s the use of artificial orange flavor and yellow 6, which is an artificial food dye.
While those ingredients are technically seen as safe, there are concerns about all of them. Why use a product that relies on ingredients like these when there are so many natural alternatives?
Metamucil Side Effects
Metamucil can also cause side effects, including bloating and gas. Some people report major stomach pain after taking fiber supplements, especially if they do so suddenly.
Thankfully, you can easily minimize the side effects of Metamucil by starting slowly. Never go from no fiber supplements to a high dose, as doing so can be a very uncomfortable experience.
Be sure to drink plenty of water too. You often need more than you expect to make sure the fiber flushes through your system well.
Most Metamucil side effects aren’t severe or surprising, but you should still monitor your experience. Do what you can to minimize side effects and if they persist it may be time to find a different product.
The Supplement Interacts With Medications
Fiber supplements like Metamucil can also interact with some medications, decreasing their absorption. This can make your medication less effective, which could put your health at risk.
This type of interaction makes it critical to talk to your doctor before taking fiber supplements regularly. He or she will be able to tell you whether the supplement is a good idea or not.
The final issue with Metamucil is the price. Given that Metamucil is a branded and a highly processed product, it’s not surprising that it’s on the pricy side. This is always frustrating, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Besides, you can find psyllium husk elsewhere, often at a much lower price.
It Can Be Habit Forming
Here’s a surprising problem to watch out for. Fiber supplements like Metamucil can be habit-forming, partly because they have a laxative effect.
They may be a particular problem for people trying to lose weight and anyone with significant body image issues. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the more your body expels the healthier you are – which isn’t how things work at all.
This habit forming aspect of Metamucil can even be dangerous, as long-term use of any laxative can cause damage to your intestines, along with other medical issues.
Alternatives To Metamucil
In most situations, you’ll see more benefits from fiber rich foods than from Metamucil. This isn’t surprising, as whole foods are almost always a wiser choice than supplements.
However, if you’re constipated or struggle to eat solid food, a fiber supplement could be essential.
If this is the case, you could try other fiber supplements, like Benefiber and Citrucel. Benefiber is made from wheat dextrin, while Citrucel uses methylcellulose instead. These are types of soluble fiber, much like the psyllium husk in Metamucil.
Citrucel is interesting, as it often comes with fewer side effects and causes less gas buildup than Metamucil.
Another option is to look for products that just contain fiber with no additions. For example, you can buy psyllium husk on its own, as powder, supplements, or even seeds. Doing so allows you to skip the additives found in many Metamucil products.
Should You Use Metamucil?
Metamucil is useful for improving digestion, especially if you’re dealing with constipation or you’re not getting enough fiber regularly.
However, it is highly processed and uses a few concerning additives. Those factors make Metamucil best as something that you rely on every so often, rather than a regular part of your diet.
If you do want to use Metamucil or a similar supplement regularly, look for one that has as few additives as possible. This way your risk is much lower.
Finally, pay attention to your Metamucil dose and how long you take it for. While fiber is important, you can easily have too much of a good thing. Side effects of too much fiber include abdominal pain, bloating, and gas, problems that can get worse as your fiber intake increases. Stick to the recommended serving on the label and if you have any concerns, stop taking Metamucil and talk to your doctor.