Diarrhea is a condition characterized by the production of at least three loose, watery stools in the span of a single day. Depending on the cause and severity of your diarrhea, you can potentially ease your symptoms by taking preparations of a fiber-containing plant called psyllium. Psyllium is the active ingredient in the commercial product Metamucil.
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Most adults in the United States experience one bout of acute, or short-term, diarrhea in a single year, while most children experience two bouts, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, or NDDIC. Typically, acute diarrhea lasts for anywhere from one to two days and disappears without treatment. Bouts of diarrhea that last for more than two days may be an indication of more serious health problems, while ongoing diarrhea may indicate the presence of a chronic disease. Common causes of acute diarrhea include parasitic, viral and bacterial infections. Common causes of chronic diarrhea include Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
When you take Metamucil, its psyllium content absorbs liquid from your intestines and makes your stool bulkier. If you have mild or moderate diarrhea, these changes can potentially ease your symptoms by making your stool firmer and slowing its passage through your colon. Typically, an effective adult dose of Metamucil and other psyllium products ranges anywhere from 1/2 tsp. to 2 tsp. mixed in an 8-oz. glass of water. Consult your doctor and the included instructions in Metamucil to determine an appropriate dose for your circumstances. Don't give Metamucil to your child without a doctor's consent.
Seeking Medical Assistance
The NDDIC advises a visit to your doctor if your diarrhea lasts for more than two days or is accompanied by severe rectal or abdominal pain, stools with a black or tarry appearance, stools that contain pus or blood or a fever that equals or exceeds 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Also speak to your doctor if you have diarrhea accompanied by symptoms of dehydration, such as fatigue, thirst, dark-colored urine, dizziness, lightheadedness, dry skin and reduced urine output. Potential diarrhea-related dehydration symptoms in young children and infants include lack of tears when crying, irritability, listlessness, high fever, dry mouth and tongue and failure to produce a wet diaper in a three-hour period.
Considerations and Side Effects
If you have constipation, Metamucil can potentially ease your symptoms by softening rather than firming your stools. Potential minor side effects of Metamucil use include slight changes in your normal bowel habits and bloating. More serious potential symptoms include nausea, vomiting, choking, swallowing difficulties, severe stomach pain, skin rash, rectal bleeding and constipation that lasts for extended periods of time. You also can potentially experience allergic reactions that include breathing problems, hives and swelling in your throat, face, tongue or lips. Seek medical assistance immediately if you have an allergic reaction to Metamucil. Contact your doctor if you experience a serious side effect.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.