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7 Health Benefits of Psyllium

Psyllium is a type of fiber commonly used as a gentle,
bulk-forming laxative.

Being a soluble fiber, psyllium is able to pass through your
digestive system without being completely broken down or
absorbed.

Instead, it absorbs water and becomes a viscous compound that

benefits constipation
, diarrhea, blood sugar, blood
pressure, cholesterol and weight loss.

This article tells you all you need to know about psyllium,
including 7 ways it can benefit your health.

Psyllium Husk on a Wooden Spoon

What Is Psyllium?

Psyllium is a soluble fiber
derived from the seeds of Plantago ovata, an herb
mainly grown in India (1).

It’s used as a dietary supplement and is usually found in the
form of husk, granules, capsules or powder. However, it can
also be obtained through fortified breakfast cereals and baked
goods (2).

Psyllium husk is the main active ingredient in Metamucil, a fiber supplement often used to reduce
constipation.

Because of its excellent water solubility, psyllium can absorb
water and become a thick, viscous compound that resists
digestion in the small intestine.

Its resistance to digestion allows it to help regulate high
cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels. It can also
aid weight management and relieve diarrhea and constipation
(2, 3, 4).

Moreover, unlike some other potent sources of fiber, psyllium
is well tolerated (4).



Bottom Line: Psyllium is a fiber extracted
from an herb called Plantago ovata. It can be found
in various forms and has many health benefits.

1. Psyllium Relieves Constipation

Psyllium is used as a bulk-forming laxative. It works by
increasing stool size and therefore helps
relieve constipation
(5, 6).

Initially, it works by binding to partially digested food
that’s passing from the stomach into the small intestine.

It then helps with the absorption of water, which increases the
size and moisture of stools. The end product is bigger and more
easily passable stools (3, 7, 8).

One study found that psyllium had a greater effect than wheat
bran on the moisture, total weight and texture of stools
(9).

Another study showed that taking 5.1 grams twice a day for two
weeks significantly increased the water content and weight of
stools, as well as the total number of bowel movements, in 170
individuals with chronic constipation (10).

For these reasons, taking psyllium supplements promotes
regularity.

Bottom Line: Psyllium is known as a
bulk-forming laxative that helps relieve constipation and
promote regularity.

2. It May Help Treat Diarrhea

Herb Capsules

Psyllium has also been shown to relieve diarrhea (2, 11, 12, 13).

It does this by acting as a water-absorbing agent, which can
increase stool thickness and slow down its passage through the
colon.

One study showed psyllium husk significantly decreased diarrhea
in 30 cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy (14).

Another study treated eight people who had lactulose-induced
diarrhea with 3.5 grams, three times daily. Doing so increased
their stomach emptying time from 69 to 87 minutes, which meant
fewer bowel movements (15).

So psyllium can both prevent constipation and reduce diarrhea,
effectively helping to normalize your bowel movements if you
are having problems.

Bottom Line: Psyllium can help treat
diarrhea by increasing stool size and slowing its passage
through the intestinal tract.

3. It Can Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Fiber supplementation has been shown to control glycemic
response to a meal and reduce insulin and blood sugar levels.
This is particularly the case with water-soluble fibers like
psyllium (16, 17, 18, 19, 20).

In fact, psyllium works better than other fibers like bran.
This is because its gel-forming fibers can slow down the
digestion of food, which helps regulate blood sugar levels
(21, 22).

One study treated 56 diabetic men with 5.1 grams of psyllium
twice per day for eight weeks. It reduced their daily blood
sugar levels by 11% (23).

In another study in people with type 2 diabetes, a higher daily
dose (five grams consumed three times per day) for six weeks
resulted in a 29% reduction in blood sugar levels within the
first two weeks (19).

Because psyllium is able to slow down the digestion of food,
it’s recommended to take it with food, rather than on its own,
so it has a greater effect on your blood sugar levels (22).

It seems that a daily dose of at least 10.2 grams can promote
lower
blood sugar levels
(23, 24, 25).

Bottom Line: Psyllium is able to delay food
digestion, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. A daily
dose of 10.2 grams ingested with meals appears to
significantly affect blood sugar levels.

4. It May Boost Satiety and Aid Weight Loss

Scales, a Fork, a Knife and a Measuring Tape

Fibers like psyllium that form viscous compounds can help
control appetite and aid
weight loss
(20, 26, 27, 28).

One study had 12 healthy participants consume 10.8 grams of
psyllium immediately before a meal.

They experienced significantly delayed stomach emptying from
the third hour after the meal and prolonged sensations of
satiety six hours after the meal (29).

Another study explored the effects of two, 20-gram doses in 17
healthy participants. One dose was consumed three hours before
a meal, while the other dose was consumed immediately before a
meal.

The results indicated increased feelings of fullness one hour
after the meal and reduced total fat intake during the day,
compared to the placebo (30).

However, studies investigating a direct relationship between
psyllium and weight loss seem to show mixed results.

One study found that 16 weeks of a calorie-restricted diet
paired with three grams of psyllium either twice or three times
daily resulted in an average weight loss of 9.9 pounds (4.52
kg) and 10.12 pounds (4.60 kg), respectively (31).

Furthermore, another study showed that psyllium supplementation
on its own, as well as paired with a fiber-rich diet, resulted
in a significant reduction of weight, body mass index and
percentage of body fat (32).

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In contrast, other studies did not report significant effects
on body weight (19, 33).

Bottom Line: Psyllium aids appetite control
by slowing down stomach emptying and reducing appetite.
Decreased appetite and calorie intake may support weight
loss.

5. It Can Also Lower Cholesterol Levels

Psyllium is able to bind to fat and bile acids, which promotes
their excretion from your body.

In the process of replacing these lost bile acids, the liver
uses cholesterol to produce more. As a result, blood
cholesterol levels decrease (34).

One study reported an increase in bile acid synthesis and
lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in 20 individuals treated with
15 grams of psyllium daily for 40 days (34).

In another study, 47 healthy participants experienced a 6%
reduction in LDL cholesterol after taking 6 grams each day for
six weeks (33).

Furthermore, psyllium can help increase HDL (“good”)
cholesterol levels (18, 19).

For instance, taking 5.1 grams twice a day for eight weeks
resulted in a decrease in total and LDL cholesterol, as well as
an increase in HDL levels in 49 patients with type 2 diabetes
(18).

Lastly, one study treated 125 type 2 diabetics with 5-gram
doses of psyllium three times a day for six weeks. Participants
experienced increases in HDL cholesterol up to 45.7% (19).

Interestingly, a review of 21 studies reported that reductions
in total and LDL cholesterol are dose dependent. This means
greater results were observed with treatments of 20.4 grams of
psyllium per day than 3 grams per day (35).

Bottom Line: Psyllium can lower total
cholesterol levels by promoting the removal of bile acids
from the body. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and
increase HDL cholesterol significantly.

6. It Seems to Be Good for Your Heart

Teaspoon of Psyllium Husk

Adding water-soluble fibers like psyllium to your diet might
reduce blood triglycerides, blood pressure and the risk of
heart disease (36, 37).

One study confirmed that 5 grams of psyllium three times daily
for six weeks reduced triglycerides by 26%, compared to the
placebo (19).

Moreover, in 40 patients with type 2 diabetes, triglyceride
levels were significantly reduced after two months of treatment
with psyllium fiber (36).

Furthermore, a diet with an additional 12 grams of fiber from
psyllium supplementation reduced systolic blood pressure by 5.9
mmHg in 36 people with high blood pressure (38).

Lastly, another study in obese individuals showed that a 7-gram
daily dose for 12 weeks led to a seven percent decrease in
blood pressure in the first six weeks of treatment (39).

Bottom Line: Regular intake of psyllium
fiber has been linked to reduced blood pressure, lowered
triglycerides levels and reduced risk of heart disease.

7. It Has Prebiotic Effects

Prebiotics
are non-digestible compounds that nourish intestinal bacteria
and help them grow. Psyllium is considered to have prebiotic
effects (40, 41).

Although psyllium is somewhat resistant to fermentation, a
small portion of psyllium fibers can be fermented by intestinal
bacteria. This fermentation can produce short-chain
fatty acids
(SCFA), which have been linked to health
benefits (3, 42, 43, 44).

One study showed that 10 grams twice a day for 12 months
increased the production of the SCFA butyrate (45).

Also, because it ferments more slowly than other fibers, it
doesn’t increase gas and digestive discomfort.

In fact, treatment with psyllium for four months helped reduce
digestive symptoms by 69% in patients with ulcerative colitis
(UC) (46).

Furthermore, a combination of psyllium and probiotics seems to
be particularly effective at treating ulcerative colitis and
Crohn’s disease (47, 48).

Bottom Line: Psyllium is considered a
prebiotic fiber. It can promote short-chain fatty acid
production and decrease digestive discomfort in patients with
ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Safety and Side Effects

Open Green Bottle Filled with Capsules

Psyllium appears to be well tolerated by most people.

Doses of 5–10 grams taken three times per day are not linked to
serious side effects. However, some cramping, gas or bloating
may occur (19, 49, 50).

Also, psyllium could delay the absorption of certain
medications. Therefore, it’s not recommended to take it with
any other medicines.

Although uncommon, some allergic reactions like rashes, itching
or trouble breathing can result from ingesting or handling
psyllium (51, 52).

Bottom Line: Psyllium does not seem to have
many side effects and is well tolerated. However, some
allergic reactions may occur in those sensitive to fiber.

Dosage and How to Take

Psyllium can be consumed in doses of 5–10 grams with meals, at
lease once per day.

However, when it comes to fiber, more is not always better. The
benefits seen in most studies are linked with intakes of 3–20.4
grams per day, and taking more may cause digestive problems
(35).

It is important to take it with water and then
drink water
regularly throughout the day.

As a bulk laxative supplement, 5 grams with a glass of water
three times per day is often recommended as a starting point.
This can be gradually increased, as tolerated.

It depends on the product how many grams are contained in a
teaspoon or tablespoon, but a tablespoon is often recommended
as a serving for psyllium husk.

It is best if you follow the dosage instructions on the
packaging.

Bottom Line: It is recommended to start
psyllium supplementation with 5-gram doses three times a day.
Make sure to follow the dosage instructions.

Take Home Message

Psyllium is commonly used as a laxative. However, it can also
relieve diarrhea and help reduce triglycerides, cholesterol,
blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

This fiber supplement can be included in your nutrition regimen
and consumed regularly as part of a healthy diet.

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