Constipation is relatively common, affecting over 20% of the population each year. The nature of a person's bowel movements is influenced by a variety of factors, including activity and eating habits, gender, age, and overall health status. There is no specific number of bowel movements that a person should have; what is normal for one person may be abnormal for another. Most people have their own routine, and deviating significantly from their regular pattern can indicate something is wrong.
The following are several tips that I would recommend to a client/patient suffering from constipation:
Metamucil (psyllium husk) vs. citrucel (methylcellulose):
Two of the most common fiber supplements are Citrucel and Metamucil. Both Citrucel and Metamucil are common bulk producing fiber laxatives that absorb liquid in the intestines to form a soft, bulky stool. The active ingredient in Citrucel is Methylcellulose, a chemical compound derived from cellulose and a gelling agent that increases the amount of water in stool making it softer and easier to pass. Metamucil is the only leading brand to contain a 100 percent plant-based natural fiber called Psyllium Fiber, which is derived from the seeds of an herb called Plantago ovate that is grown mainly in India5. Citrucel (methylcellulose) is mainly insoluble fibers that are nonfermentable, so it’s less likely to contribute to bloating and gas. Psyllium husk (Metamucil and Konsyl) is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber and can be gassier than other types of fiber supplements. Generally, fiber supplements with mainly insoluble fiber may be a better option for constipation.
What does the research say about magnesium?
Magnesium for constipation is simple, cost effective, time tested and efficient. Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that’s bound with citric acid and is found naturally in citrus fruits and gives them their tart, sour flavor. This supplement is an osmotic laxative, which means it relaxes your bowels and pulls water into your intestines. The water helps soften and bulk up your stool, which makes it easier to pass. Magnesium citrate is relatively gentle. It shouldn’t cause urgency or emergency bathroom trips, unless you take too much of it. You can find it at many drug stores, and you don’t need a prescription to purchase it. In addition, some research suggests that this type is among the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, meaning that it’s more easily absorbed in your digestive tract than other forms and therefore is often used to treat magnesium deficiency.
Another popular magnesium supplement is magnesium oxide which is a salt that combines magnesium and oxygen. This supplement is an osmotic laxative, and its key effect is the softening of hard stools. Magnesium oxide causes the intestines to release water into the stool, which softens the stool and relieves constipation and irregularity. In addition, this type isn’t typically used to prevent or treat magnesium deficiencies, as some studies report that it’s poorly absorbed by your digestive tract.