Psyllium is a type of fibre that acts as a gentle, bulk forming laxative. Psyllium, similarly to other soluble fibres, passes through the small intestine without being completely broken down or absorbed. Instead, it absorbs water and becomes a viscous compound that benefits constipation, diarrhoea, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight loss.

What is Psyllium?

Psyllium is a soluble fibre derived from the seeds of Plantago ovata, a herb grown mainly in India.

People use psyllium as a dietary supplement. It is available in the form of husk, granules, capsules, or powder. Manufacturers may also fortify breakfast cereals and baked goods with psyllium.

Psyllium husk is the main active ingredient in Metamucil, a fibre supplement that reduces 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 mild diarrhoea as well as constipation.

Moreover, unlike some other potent sources of fibre, the body typically tolerates psyllium well.


Psyllium is available in various forms and has many health benefits:

1. Psyllium Relieves Constipation

Psyllium is a bulk forming laxative. It works by increasing stool size and helping to relieve constipation.

Initially, it works by binding to partially digested food that is 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 easier-to-pass stools.

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

Another study showed that taking 5.1 grams (g) of psyllium twice a day for 2 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.

2. Psyllium May Help Treat Diarrhoea

Research shows that psyllium can also relieve diarrhoea. It does this by acting as a water absorbing agent, so it can increase stool thickness and slow down its passage through the colon.

In one study psyllium husk significantly decreased diarrhoea in 30 people who were undergoing radiation therapy for cancer.

In another study, researchers treated eight people who had lactulose-induced diarrhoea with 3.5 g of psyllium three times daily. Doing so increased their stomach emptying time from 69 to 87 minutes, with accompanied slowing in the colon, which meant fewer bowel movements.

Psyllium can therefore, both prevent constipation and reduce diarrhoea, effectively helping to normalise bowel movements.

3. Psyllium Can Also Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Taking fibre supplements can help control the body’s glycaemic response to a meal, such as reducing insulin and blood sugar levels. This is particularly the case with water soluble fibres such as psyllium.

In fact, psyllium works better for this mechanism than other fibres such as bran. This is because the gel forming fibres in psyllium can slow down the digestion of food, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.

In one study, researchers gave 51 people with type 2 diabetes and constipation 10 g of psyllium twice per day. This resulted in reduced constipation, body weight, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.\Because psyllium slows down the digestion of food, people should take it with food, rather than on its own, so it has a greater effect on blood sugar levels. It seems that a daily dose of at least 10.2 g can promote lower blood sugar levels.

4. Psyllium May Boost Satiety and Aid Weight Loss

Fibres that form viscous compounds, including psyllium, can help control appetite and aid weight loss.

Psyllium may aid appetite control by slowing down stomach emptying and reducing appetite. Decreased appetite and calorie intake may support weight loss.

One study found that taking up to 10.2 g of psyllium before breakfast and lunch led to significant reductions in hunger, desire to eat, and increased fullness between meals compared to a placebo.

Another older study from 2011 showed that psyllium supplementation on its own, but also when paired with a fibre-rich diet, resulted in a significant reduction of weight, body mass index, and percentage of body fat.

That said, a 2020 review of 22 trials reported no overall effect of psyllium on body weight, BMI, or waist circumference? Researchers report they need to do more studies before knowing the true effects of psyllium on weight loss.

5. Psyllium Can Lower Cholesterol Levels

Psyllium binds to fat and bile acids, helping the body to excrete them. In the process of replacing these lost bile acids, the liver uses cholesterol to produce more and as a result, blood cholesterol levels decrease.

In one study, 47 healthy participants experienced a 6% reduction in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol after taking 6 g of psyllium each day for 6 weeks. Furthermore, psyllium can help increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

In one study, taking 5.1 g of psyllium twice a day for 8 weeks resulted in a decrease in total and LDL cholesterol, as well as an increase in HDL levels in 49 people with type 2 diabetes.

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 g of psyllium per day than 3.0 g per day.

6. Psyllium Seems To Be Good For The Heart

All types of fibre can be good for the heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) say that dietary fibre can improve cholesterol, and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

Water soluble fibres, including psyllium, could help reduce blood triglycerides, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease.

A review of 28 trials found that taking a median of 10.2 g psyllium per day could effectively improve markers of heart health, including lowering LDL cholesterol. This can helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

A 2020 review of 11 trials reported that psyllium could reduce systolic blood pressure by 2.04 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The authors recommend using psyllium to help treat hypertension.

7. Psyllium Has Prebiotic Effects

Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds that nourish intestinal bacteria and help them grow. Researchers believe that psyllium has prebiotic effects.

Although psyllium is somewhat resistant to fermentation, intestinal bacteria can ferment a small portion of psyllium fibre. This fermentation can produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), including butyrate. Research has linked SCFAs with health benefits.

Also, because it ferments more slowly than other fibre, psyllium does not increase gas and digestive discomfort.

In fact, treatment with psyllium for 4 months helped reduce digestive symptoms by a difference of 45% in people with ulcerative colitis compared to placebo.


Most people are able to tolerate psyllium well.

Doses of 5–10 g three times per day do not appear to have serious side effects. However, you may notice some cramping, gas, or bloating.

Also, psyllium could delay the absorption of certain medications, therefore, doctors often recommend that people avoid taking it with other medicines.

Although uncommon, some allergic reactions, such as rashes, itching, or trouble breathing, can result from ingesting or handling of psyllium.

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