Psyllium is a soluble fiber, commonly used as an ingredient in laxative. Psyllium is extracted from Plantago ovata, a
shrub like herb found mostly in India. Psyllium husk is derived from the tiny, gel coated seeds of this plant.
|Potential Health Benefits
The soluble fiber found in psyllium husks may help lower cholesterol. Psyllium is claimed to benefit people suffered
from constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and other intestinal issues. Psyllium is also claimed
to be able to help control the sugar level in people diagnosed with diabetes, or even lower the risk of colon cancer.
Eswaran S, Muir J, Chey WD, University of Michigan Health System made a concise description about psyllium's health
benefits. They wrote, "Fiber undergoes partial or total fermentation in the distal small bowel and colon leading to the
production of short-chain fatty acids and gas, thereby affecting gastrointestinal function and sensation. When fiber is
recommended for functional bowel disease, use of a soluble supplement such as ispaghula/psyllium is best supported
by the available evidence. ....... fiber can exacerbate abdominal distension, flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea."
[Am J Gastroenterol. 2013 May;108(5):718-27
Constipation / Diarrhea
Yang J and colleagues at The First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University reviewed lots of articles and concluded
that "Dietary fiber intake can obviously increase stool frequency in patients with constipation. It does not obviously
improve stool consistency, treatment success, laxative use and painful defecation." [World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Dec
A randomized study showed treatment of a mixture of acacia fiber, psyllium fiber, and fructosea significantly improved
constipation on children with chronic functional constipation. [Quitadamo P,J et al, Pediatr. 2012 Oct;161(4):710-5.e1]
In a study of 53 participants, both psyllium and a special bowel recipe improved constipation scores to a similar extent.
[Female Pelvic Med Reconstr Surg. 2011 May;17(3):128-33]
Bajorek SA and Morello CM. from the University of California, San Diego reviewed 7 studies, and they concluded that
psyllium supplementation improved glycemic risk factors. Both postprandial plasma glucose and glycosylated
hemoglobin A₁(c) decreased with psyllium 10.2 g per day. However, the authors also say that psyllium
supplementation might be an additional therapeutic option for people with T2DM who are already receiving diabetes
medication and who still experience elevated PPG concentrations. [Ann Pharmacother. 2010 Nov;44(11):1786-92]
Mello VD and Laaksorien ED at University of Kuopio comments that, in postprandial studies, meals containing
sufficiently quantities of beta-glucan, psyllium, or guar gum have decreased insulin and glucose responses in both
healthy individuals and patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus T2DM. Diets enriched sufficiently in soluble fiber may also
improve overall glycemic control in T2DM. [Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 2009 Jul;53(5):509-18.]
Psyllium is a high fibre bulk forming laxative. It absorbs water and expands to provide increased bulk and moisture
content to the stool. The increased bulk encourages normal peristalsis and bowel motility. Thus, some people belive
that psyllium may benefit people at risk of hemorrhoids. However, there is no solid clinical data to support such health
benefit claim of psyllium.
High Blood Pressure
In a six-month, open-label clinical trial, 141 consecutively enrolled, hypertensive, overweight patients were randomized
to the oral ingestion of psyllium powder 3.5 g three time a day to be taken 20 min before the main two meals, or to
standard diet. Psyllium supplementation exerted a significant improvement in plasma triglyceride concentration and
blood pressure. [Clin Exp Hypertens. 2007 Aug;29(6):383-94]
Three major biological mechanisms have been proposed to explain the cholesterol-reducing effects of soluble dietary
fibres, such as β-glucan, pectin, guar gum and psyllium: prevention of bile salt (BS) re-absorption from the small
intestine leading to an excess faecal BS excretion; reduced glycemic response leading to lower insulin stimulation of
hepatic cholesterol synthesis; and physiological effects of fermentation products of SDF, mainly propionate. [Food
Funct. 2010 Nov;1(2):149-55]
Dietary supplementation with 6 g/day of psyllium over 6 weeks improves fat distribution and lipid profile (parameters of
the metabolic syndrome) in an at risk population of adolescent males. [PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41735]
A study demonstrated that simply adding psyllium fibre supplementation to a normal diet was sufficient to obtain
beneficial effects in risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. [Br J Nutr. 2011 Jan;105(1):90-100]
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Singh B. at Himachal Pradesh University, India, suggested the potential use of psyllium for the treatment of
constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease-ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, diabetes
and hypercholesterolemia. [Int J Pharm. 2007 Apr 4;334(1-2):1-14]
In a study of 120 outpatients with ulcerative colitis, both daily capsule consisting of Bifidobacterium longum 2 x 10(9)
colony-forming units and daily 8.0-g doses of psyllium benefited the patients by improving the condidtions.
[Nutrition. 2009 May;25(5):520-5]
Ranjbar SH et al did a literature search and concluded that psyllium fibre show significant decreases in body weight. [J
Diabetes Metab Disord. 2013 Jun 19;12(1):2]
Side Effects, Precaution and Possible Interaction
Intake of psyllium may cause side effects such as gas and bloating. Do not take psyllium if you have bowel
obstructions, spasms, swallowing difficulties, abdominal pain, esophageal narrowing or other GI issues. People with
health issue must talk to their doctor before taking psyllium.
Psyllium may alter the absorption of certain drugs, and food ingredients. Do not take it and medications at the same
Psyllium fiber comes from psyllium, psyllium husk. Some cereals contain psyllium to increase their fiber content.
Psyllium is available as dry seeds or in husk form. It also comes in capsules, tablets and wafers.
The recommended dosages can be found on the supplement label, and you should follow the product label to take
Psyllium. Mostly, 1/2 to 2 tsp of psyllium seed to 1 cup of warm water for adult in the morning or before bedtime. To
control weight, one may take it before meals.