Swallow each dose with a glassful of water. Do not chew the granules.
It may take a day or so before you feel the full benefit from sterculia.
Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and getting regular gentle exercise can all help prevent constipation.
|Type of medicine||A bulk-forming laxative|
|Used for||Constipation and to manage bowel movement|
|Also called||Normacol®; Normacol Plus® (this brand also contains a natural laxative called frangula)|
|Available as||Granules and sachets|
Sterculia is a natural dietary fibre which is taken to treat constipation or to help regulate the passage of food through the digestive system in people with certain long-term bowel disorders. It is available in packs of granules and also as sachets which contain a measured amount of the granules. Sterculia is available on prescription, and it can also be bought without a prescription at pharmacies and other retail outlets.
Constipation is a common problem. It means either going to the toilet less often than usual to empty your bowels, or passing hard or painful stools. Constipation can be caused by a number of things. Not eating enough fibre or not drinking enough fluid can cause constipation. Some conditions (such as pregnancy) can cause constipation, as can a lack of exercise or movement (such as being ill in bed) and some medicines.
Often, increasing the amount of bran in your diet and drinking plenty of water each day can effectively prevent or relieve constipation. You will have been recommended sterculia to help relieve constipation if you cannot increase the amount of bran in your diet, or if this is insufficient. It works by increasing the bulk of your stools, which encourages your bowels to move the stools through your digestive system.
The bulking action of sterculia also helps to regulate the passage of food through the digestive systems in people with certain long-term bowel disorders. It is sometimes prescribed for people with irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis and after some types of bowel surgery.
Before taking sterculia
To make sure this is the right treatment for you, ask for advice from a doctor or pharmacist before you start using sterculia if any of the following apply to you:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If it is intended for a child. This is because laxatives should only be given to children on the advice of a doctor or healthcare professional.
- If you have any difficulty in swallowing.
- If you are so constipated that you think you may have a blockage.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take sterculia
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack. It will give you more information about sterculia and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience.
- Take sterculia exactly as your doctor tells you to, or as directed on the pack. The usual dose for an adult is 1-2 sachets (or 1-2 heaped 5 ml spoonfuls) taken once or twice a day. Place the dry granules on your tongue and then wash them down with a large glassful of water. Do not chew the granules as you swallow. Alternatively if you prefer, you can swallow the granules mixed with some soft food that doesn't require chewing, such as yoghurt.
- It is best if you take your doses just after a meal. Do not take sterculia just before bedtime, or if you are lying down.
- If a doctor or healthcare professional has recommended sterculia for your child, check the label on the pack carefully to make sure that you give the correct dose for the age of your child.
- If you forget to take a dose, do not worry, just take the next dose when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Sometimes it may take a few days before you feel the full benefit from a bulk-forming laxative such as sterculia. However, if after four days you do not feel that your symptoms are improving, or if they get any worse, you should stop taking sterculia and speak with a doctor for further advice.
- It is important for you to drink plenty while you are taking sterculia. This is to stop the granules from causing a blockage. Adults should aim to drink at least two litres (about 8-10 cups) of fluid per day. Most sorts of drink will do, but as a start, try just drinking a glass of water 3-4 times a day in addition to what you normally drink.
- While you are taking sterculia, your stools may appear paler in colour than usual. This is nothing to be concerned about.
- Try to eat a balanced diet containing high-fibre foods such as wholemeal and wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables, brown rice and wholemeal pasta. If you are not used to a high-fibre diet, it may be best to increase the amount of fibre you eat gradually.
- Keeping your body active will help you to keep your digestive system moving, so try to take some regular daily exercise.
- You may wish to include some foods that contain sorbitol in your diet. Sorbitol is a naturally occurring sugar. It is not digested very well and draws water into your bowel which has an effect of softening stools. Fruits (and their juices) that have a high sorbitol content include apples, apricots, gooseberries, grapes (and raisins), peaches, pears, plums, prunes, raspberries and strawberries.
- Food such as pastries, puddings, sweets, cheese and cake can make constipation worse and are probably best avoided.
- You can read more about how to prevent or treat constipation in the separate condition leaflets called Constipation in adults and Constipation in children.
Can sterculia cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the ones which can occur with sterculia. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Sterculia side-effects||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Excess wind (flatulence), bloating, tummy (abdominal) discomfort||These effects should soon settle down as your body adjusts but if they continue or become troublesome, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice|
|Mild allergic-type reactions such as feeling short of breath or an itchy skin||Stop taking the granules and speak with your doctor or pharmacist for advice|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the granules, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store sterculia
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.
If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Normacol® Granules; Norgine Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated October 2013.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Normacol Plus®; Norgine Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated November 2012.
- British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Helen Huins