Psyllium: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosages, and Interactions


Psyllium is a form of soluble fiber obtained from the peel of the seeds of the banana ( Plantago ovata ). This plant is primarily native to India, as it is native to Asia, but it can be found all over the world, even in the wild in the southwestern United States. Banana is sold by many names, but it is probably better known as Metamucil® .

Some people may need fiber supplements like psyllium to increase their intake. Fiber is believed to help with a wide variety of health problems, including:

  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea and loose stools
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity

There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber attracts water and gel during digestion to slow down the process. Insoluble fiber increases stool bulk and appears to help food move faster through the stomach and intestines.

Get Medical Information / Cindy Chang

What is psyllium used for?

Here are some of the findings from the available research on the potential health benefits of psyllium:


Increasing your intake of soluble fiber can help keep your intestines regular. As psyllium enters the digestive tract, it absorbs water in the intestines, swells, and promotes the formation of gelatinous stools that are softer and easier to pass.

However, in a review published in the journal Nutritional Pharmacology and Therapy in 2014, researchers analyzed clinical trials on the effects of prunes on gastrointestinal function and found that prunes were superior to psyllium in improving the frequency and consistency of feces. Another study found that the fiber in banana and prunes is equally effective in improving constipation and improving quality of life, but the fiber in prunes is more effective in relieving flatulence and bloating .

High cholesterol

Adding soluble fiber to your diet can help lower your cholesterol levels. In fact, the FDA allows psyllium products to claim that they reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.

Soluble fiber interferes with the absorption of bile acids in the intestines, leading to their excretion in the stool. As the liver converts cholesterol to replace bile acids, the level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is lowered. An increase in soluble fiber intake of 5 to 10 grams per day generally results in a 5 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol.

In a study published in PLoS One in 2012, participants took either a psyllium supplement or a placebo. Psyllium supplements led to a six percent reduction in LDL cholesterol .

Psyllium has also been shown to be an effective concurrent treatment for statins and bile acid sequestrants. A three-month study of 68 patients with high cholesterol levels showed that low doses of simvastatin (10 milligrams per day) combined with psyllium (five grams three times a day before meals) were superior to low doses of simvastatin alone and equivalent to a higher dose. . simvastatin alone (20 milligrams per day). When combined with a bile acid sequestrant such as colestipol or cholestyramine, psyllium increases cholesterol-lowering efficacy and reduces symptoms associated with sequestrant therapy .

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

A 2014 meta-analysis evaluating fiber supplementation in 14 randomized controlled trials in 906 IBS patients found that fiber supplementation (especially psyllium) was effective in improving IBS symptoms compared to placebo. IBS is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder believed to be caused by too little fiber. In people with IBS, soluble fiber is believed to cause less abdominal pain / discomfort, bloating / bloating, and flatulence than insoluble fiber .


Some research suggests that soluble fiber like psyllium may help improve glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. For example, in a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015, researchers analyzed previously published studies and found that taking psyllium before meals led to significant improvements in fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) levels in people with type 2 diabetes. …


Soluble fiber is also believed to promote feelings of fullness or satiety, which can lead to better weight control. For example, in a study published in the journal Appetite in 2016, psyllium supplementation resulted in greater satiety and decreased hunger between meals compared to a placebo .

Possible side effects.

Side effects can include gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Allergic reactions have also been reported. To prevent constipation, drink plenty of fluids, exercise regularly, and eat a high-fiber diet that includes whole grains ( bran ), fruits, and vegetables.

Psyllium should not be taken by people with intestinal obstruction or spasms, difficulty swallowing, narrowing or obstruction in any part of the digestive tract. People with kidney disease and those taking certain medications may not be able to take psyllium supplements. Psyllium is not recommended for children unless recommended by your child's healthcare provider.

If you have new or persistent changes in bowel habits, be sure to check with your doctor. If you have a medical condition that requires treatment (such as diabetes or heart disease), talk to your doctor if you are interested in psyllium rather than abandoning or delaying standard treatment. Also, if you have been prescribed a medication, never stop taking it without first talking to your doctor.

Dosage and preparation  

Psyllium comes in many forms: powder, granules, capsules, liquid, and waffles, which are taken by mouth. It is usually taken one to three times a day. Psyllium should be taken in the recommended amount and mixed with a sufficient amount of water or other liquid (at least eight ounces or 240 milliliters), otherwise it can lead to constipation and possibly even cause a blockage of the small intestine. It is recommended to start slowly with a small dose, in particular, no more than five grams per day every week, so that the digestive system has time to adjust to the increase in fiber.

The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming about 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams per day for men (adults ages 21 to 50). Older people tend to consume fewer calories, so 21 grams and 30 grams per day are recommended for women and men over 50, respectively.

When used as a laxative, psyllium should only be used for one week. Psyllium can be used as a dietary supplement for longer periods of time, but only with the permission of your healthcare professional.

Psyllium can affect the absorption of many medications, so check with your healthcare professional before using psyllium if you are taking any medications. Don't take psyllium at the same time as medicine. Psyllium should be taken at least two hours before taking the medication or two to four hours after.

What to look for

Before adding fiber like psyllium, consider whether you can increase your fiber intake by changing your diet. For more soluble fiber each day, look for oats, barley, nuts, seeds, legumes (such as beans, lentils, and peas), fruits such as apples, oranges, and grapefruits, and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is found in fruits with edible skins or seeds, vegetables, whole grains (such as whole grain breads, pasta, and crackers), bulgur wheat, boneless cornmeal, cereals, bran, oats, brown buckwheat, and buckwheat. rice. While there are no dietary guidelines for soluble or insoluble fiber, many experts recommend that about a quarter of your total daily fiber intake, between six and eight grams, should be soluble fiber.

Get the word of drug information

While psyllium can be helpful in treating certain types of occasional constipation and may have benefits when taking other conditions, it is best used in conjunction with other treatments and prevention strategies, which may include diet, lifestyle changes, and medications.

Frequently asked questions

  • On the contrary, for most healthy people, psyllium offers many benefits. Taking psyllium alone is not recommended for people with certain medical conditions, such as digestive problems, kidney problems, or swallowing problems . Children should not receive psyllium without the recommendation of a physician.

  • It depends on why you are taking it. If you are treating constipation , you should use psyllium for no more than a week. As a fiber supplement, you can take it every day, but it should only be done under the direction of your doctor.

  • Metamucil is one of the psyllium supplement brands. Others include Fiberall, Maalox Daily Fiber Therapy, and Hydrocil. All are sold without a prescription.

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