Constipation is defined by passing dry, hard stools or having difficulty when passing stools. The University of Maryland Medical Center states constipation is typically categorized by being acute or chronic, and constipation may also be a sign of an illness 1. Suffering from constipation, or irregular bowel movements, may be relieved by consuming high fiber supplements such as Metamucil or Citrucel. These two supplements are taken with a liquid and may help alleviate constipation. And while they work in a similar manner, these two products offer different benefits and drawbacks.
The primary active ingredient within Metamucil is psyllium fiber, which is derived from psyllium husks and psyllium seeds. When psyllium is mixed with water, it thickens and a substance similar to gelatin is formed. This gel-like compound absorbs water within the intestines, and adds bulk to fecal matter, which according to the University of Maryland Medical Center stimulates the intestines to promote a bowel movement 1. Along with constipation relief, psyllium fiber may help reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease and help lower cholesterol. Both benefits are advertised by Metamucil as beneficial side effects of their supplement.
The primary ingredient within Citrucel is methylcellulose fiber, which the company calls “SmartFiber.” This fiber is derived from the seeds, leaves and stems of plants and is noted as being a soluble fiber, which means it completely breaks down in water 3. Methylcellulose works in a similar manner as psyllium fiber, as it is capable of absorbing high quantities of water to bulk up fecal matter; however, Orthomolecular.org, a service from The Center For The Improvement Of Human Functioning International, states methylcellulose requires above-average fluid intake to become effective while psyllium fiber only requires the standard 8 to 16 oz 3. of water per serving. While methylcellulose is derived from natural products, it must be chemically altered to be effective 3.
Metamucil and Citrucel are both available in powder and capsule form. Both products require users to mix 1 scoop of powder in a minimum of 8 oz. of water; however, based on the information regarding methylcellulose fiber, higher quantities of water are recommended for Citrucel supplements 3. To take the capsules, users are instructed to take 1 packet with at least 8 oz. of water. Depending on your fiber needs, you may be required to consume more than one serving per day. While Citrucel powder is only available in orange flavoring, Metamucil is available in orange, berry, pink lemonade and original flavoring.
Potential side effects associated with Metamucil are similar to any product with psyllium fiber as its main ingredient. PubMed Health reports psyllium side effects may include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, difficulty in swallowing and skin rash. The side effects associated with methylcellulose products, including Citrucel, include:
- chest pain
- rectal bleeding
- allergic reactions
- severe nausea or abdominal pain 3
The caloric intake from Metamucil supplementation is directly related to the product type. For example, the Berry Burst! supplement contains 20 calories and 5 g of carbohydrates while the Smooth Texture Orange Flavor contains 45 calories and 12 g of carbohydrates per serving.
The Regular Orange Citrucel powder contains 60 calories and 17 g of carbohydrates while the Sugar Free Orange Citrucel powder contains 24 calories and 8 g of carbohydrates per serving.
Both manufacturers offer capsule supplements. The Citrucel Caplets feature 5 calories and 0 g of carbohydrates per serving while the Metamucil Capsules contain 10 calories and 3 g of carbohydrates per serving.
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