Agar, herbal and pharmaceutical, is used as a laxative to enable the peristalsis in cases of chronic constipation (forms part of a group of so-called 'mass' laxatives). It can help normalize bowel movements and stool consistency, since drawing water in the intestines increases the volume of stool and makes them softer, and therefore easier to expel.
What is Agar?
Agar, in aqueous solution, forms an edible gel, which has a pleasant taste and that has a range of uses. In bacteriology it is used as a solidifying agent in the preparation for the cultivation of microorganisms, while in food it is used within various preparations (power thickener, preservative and stabilizer) and, in the pharmaceutical field, it is used as a laxative to enable the peristalsis in cases of chronic constipation (bulk laxative). Its satiating power makes it suitable also as an adjunct of low calorie diets. Agar is a mucilaginous polysaccharide substance in nature, similar to cellulose, which is derived from marine red algae of the family Geliciacee (Gracilaria lichenoides, Gelidium avansi, Pterocladia, Acanthopeltis). It consists of two main components: agarose gel (70%) and agaropectina (30%).
How should Agar be taken?
Agar is available as a powder, flakes or tablets to dissolve in water and can be used for the preparation of sweet and savory foods.
Side effects associated with Agar
Usually, the use of agar is very well tolerated and has no side effects. Excessive use of the substance, or a particular individual sensitivity can lead to:
- problems of absorption of vitamins and minerals in the intestine;
- excessive increase of the volume of stool;
- diarrhea or constipation (when the feces accumulate in the intestine may cause diarrhea or constipation depending on the amount of fiber in the diet).
Contraindications and warnings associated with the use of Agar
If you are taking agar it is important not to drink alcohol because the interaction between these two substances could lead to excessive dehydration.