To Your Good Health – Psyllium allergy rare but possible

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DEAR DR. ROACH: I would like to know if you have ever heard of a person being allergic to psyllium fiber? My doctor suggested I take Metamucil for constipation, as opposed to stool softeners. However, when I took it, my face and eyes began to itch, I began to wheeze and I coughed until I vomited it up. My doctor stated he had never heard of anyone being allergic to it. As a side note, my husband has used Metamucil for years, and I have had a couple of episodes of wheezing and shortness of breath that could be attributed to inhaling some of the powder when he mixed it. – P.G.

ANSWER: I haven’t seen any cases either, but it can happen, rarely – most often to people who have allergies to grasses or dust. It is possible that inhaling some of the powder started the allergy. I would be careful to stay away from the area where your husband is mixing his, as allergies sometimes worsen over time.

Unfortunately, you will have to find another source for fiber. Good dietary sources include wheat bran, prunes and prune juice. If you need a supplement, you may try methylcellulose (such as Citrucel), wheat dextrin (like Benefiber), and calcium polycarbophil (Fibercon). Be sure to get enough fluid, and start with a low dose and then slowly increase.

The booklet on constipation explains this common disorder and its treatments. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Roach – No. 504W, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$5 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. ROACH: My father is 86 years old and in generally good health. He has been falling for no apparent reason for the past three years. He has had MRIs and X-rays, been to neurologists and ENTs – no one has an explanation. He has walkers and an electric wheelchair, but there are times when he has to stand and/or walk a little.

My parents’ apartment looks like a war zone. Almost all of the furniture has been broken, not to mention the cuts and bruises on my dad. Is there anything you can think of that might cause this? – J.G.

ANSWER: If multiple doctors haven’t helped with the benefit of a complete history, exam and labs, I’m not likely to. However, vitamin D supplements have been shown to improve strength and reduce falls in the large number of people who have low levels.

There are two ways to find out. You either can have the vitamin D level checked by a doctor, and use vitamin D if it is low; or, you can try a daily dose of vitamin D for a month or so and see if it helps. Most authorities recommend 400-800 IU daily. Personally, I have found that 1,000-2,000 IU often is needed. This dose is unlikely to do harm if taken for only a month trial, and may be necessary for those whose levels are deficient and have symptoms.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to To view and order health pamphlets, visit, or write to Good Health, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.

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