Differences of Citrucel vs Metamucil

Summary: Metamucil and Citrucel are both bulk forming laxatives. Some patients don’t tolerate Metamucil as well because it is a fermentable fiber and can cause gas. However, studies have been done that show Metamucil does NOT cause more gas than Citrucel. Metamucil is a natural fiber, whereas Citrucel is a man-made product.

Dear Curtis: As someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome I occasionally end up taking a fiber laxative to help with my bouts of diarrhea. Normally I’ve used Metamucil which seems to work OK but I do get occasional gas with it. Someone recommend Citrucel which isn’t suppose to cause gas. Is that true?

Both Citrucel and Metamucil are in the same class of drugs called bulk-forming laxatives.

Just like the name implies, they both are consumed and because of their own actions they get into your intestines and ‘attract’ water. That’s why it’s advised to take so much water with them because they can actually dehydrate you if you don’t. But both products can come in handy When you have diarrhea as well because they begin to ‘absorb’ the water and firm up the stool.

The Gas Debate

As you said, you didn’t respond well to Metamucil. It caused gas which, Citrucel is suppose to stop.

But there is a lot of debate about this.

First of all, double-blind studies have been performed with both Metamucil and Citrucel to see if one caused more gas than the other. These studies were done in both healthy patients as well as patients who had claimed problems before with other formulations causing gas.

Essentially, they found that neither Citrucel nor Metamucil caused more gas than the other (1,2).

Patient Preference

However, I will say that Metamucil is a natural (psyllium), but fermentable product. Meaning, it can cause gas and you aren’t the first person I’ve come across to make that claim. Citrucel, is methylcellulose which is a man-made product but is not fermentable.

I’ve found that when folks are looking at using one  of these bulk forming laxatives it comes down to a couple of choices:

  1. If you want an all-natural product then Metamucil is your best bet. And, while studies have shown that it really doesn’t seem to cause more gas than Citrucel there clearly are certain patients who don’t respond as well to it. You may be one of them.
  2. If gas is your biggest concern or complaint, then Citrucel would be a good option. While it is more expensive keep in mind that there are generic versions which  are less expensive. But it is a man-made product which some people aren’t comfortable taking when they know there are other, natural options.

A Sidenote on IBS

I harp a lot on how people eat. This is not only from my own experience but from other people who I’ve been around who made drastic changes in their diets and have all but eliminated many of their gastrointestinal complaints.

While it’s not a cureall, I’d encourage you to start experimenting with how you’re eating.

First and foremost, a lot of IBS patients respond well with a switch to an all natural diet. In other words, avoid any sort of processed foods (chips, breads, soda, etc.). Simply focusing on only eating foods which are all natural and have a definite shelf life is a good step in the right direction (meats and vegetables). Additionally, the intake in vegetable content is an excellent source of true, all natural fiber.

1. Levitt MD, Furne J, Olsson S. The relation of passage of gas and abdominal bloating to colonic gas production. Ann Intern Med. 1996;124:442:-424.
2. Zumarraga L., Levitt MD, Suarrez F. Absence of gaseous symptoms during ingestion of commercial fiber preparations. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1997;11:1067-1072