- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: chitosan
Brand and Other Names: chitin, chitosan ascorbate, deacetylated chitin biopolymer, N,O-sulfated chitosan, N-carboxybutyl chitosan, O-sulfated N-acetylchitosan, sulfated N-carboxymethylchitosan, sulfated O-carboxymethylchitosan
Drug Class: Herbals
What is chitosan, and what is it used for?
Chitosan is a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide) derived from chitin, a major component of the shells of crabs, shrimps and clams, and also found in insects and cell wall of reishi mushrooms. Chitosan is orally taken as a supplement to aid weight loss and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Topical use of chitosan in products such as bandages and gels, includes wound healing and gum inflammation. There are inadequate scientific studies, however, to back the efficacy of chitosan for most of its uses.
Studies indicate that chitosan may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and wound healing properties. Chitosan is an insoluble fiber and may reduce cholesterol levels and assist weight loss by promoting satiety and reducing food intake. Some animal studies suggest chitosan influences appetite and feeding behavior, and also reduces fat absorption in the intestines, but there are no scientific human studies to back these claims. Chitosan adheres to wet tissues, stops bleeding and promotes the growth of new tissue when applied to wounds.
Suggested uses of chitosan include:
- High blood cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia)
- Weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Surgical and other wound healing
- Gum inflammation (periodontitis)
- Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune inflammatory bowel condition
- To reduce cholesterol, increase hemoglobin and improve appetite, sleep and health in kidney failure patients undergoing hemodialysis
What are the side effects of chitosan?
- Use chitosan with caution if you have shellfish or mushroom allergy.
Common side effects of chitosan include:
- Flatulence (gas)
- Abdominal cramping
- Allergic reaction in people with shellfish or mushroom allergy
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of chitosan?
There isn’t an established standard dosage for chitosan.
Renal Failure with Chronic Hemodialysis
- 1.35 g orally three times daily
- Dosage varies
- Chitosan overdose may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, but is unlikely to cause serious adverse reactions.
- Overdose symptoms should resolve with discontinuation of chitosan and adequate fluid intake.
What drugs interact with chitosan?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Chitosan has no known severe or serious interactions with other drugs.
- Moderate interactions of chitosan include:
- Mild interactions of chitosan include:
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
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Pregnancy and breastfeeding
What else should I know about chitosan?
- Chitosan is likely safe for most adults if taken orally in recommended doses for up to three months.
- Use chitosan exactly as per label instructions. Natural products are not necessarily safe always and following suggested dosing is important.
- Check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement, including chitosan, particularly if you have any health conditions or if you are on any regular medication.
- Herbal products often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the chitosan product you choose.
- Chitosan is marketed as a dietary supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
- Store chitosan safely out of reach of children.
- In case of overdose, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.
Chitosan is a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide) derived from chitin, a major component of the shells of crabs, shrimps and clams, and also found in insects and cell wall of reishi mushrooms. Chitosan is orally taken as a supplement to aid weight loss and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Common side effects of chitosan include constipation, flatulence (gas), bloating, nausea, and abdominal cramping. Allergic reaction in people with shellfish or mushroom allergy. Avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Chitosan is likely safe for most adults if taken orally in recommended doses for up to three months.
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