Psyllium Fiber Supplements Review 2024

What is psyllium? 

Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It’s most commonly known as a laxative. However, research shows that taking psyllium is beneficial to many parts of the human body, including the heart and the pancreas.

Psyllium supplements are made from psyllium seed husk, the mucilaginous coat that surrounds the psyllium seed. The husk is about 90% fiber, most of which (about 80% of the fiber) is soluble fiber. This soluble fiber can attract and bind water (absorbing about 10 times its weight in water), forming a non-fermentable, viscous gel. The remaining 20% of the fiber in psyllium husk is insoluble fiber that can also add bulk to stool.

psyllium fiber

What are the health benefits of psyllium?

Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative. In the gut, the gel created by psyllium's soluble fiber occupies volume and slows digestion, leading to fullness and helping to regulate blood sugar levels, and softens and adds bulk to stool, providing a laxative effect. The gel may also bind to and reduce the absorption of a variety of compounds, which may explain its cholesterol-lowering effect.

This means it soaks up water in your gut and makes bowel movements much easier and can help promote regularity without increasing flatulence. It can be used as a one-off to ease constipation, or it can be added to your diet to help promote regularity and overall digestive health.

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease are all too familiar with bowel irregularity. The results of studies on psyllium’s effectiveness in treating these conditions are still mixed.

Psyllium is also a prebiotic — a substance needed for healthy colonies of probiotics to grow in the gut. A healthy colony of good bacteria in the digestive system is essential for healthy immune function. Your body is better able to fight infection, reduce inflammation, and maintain healthy tissue and cells.

Besides keeping your bowel movements regular and managing a chronic condition, psyllium has the ability to soften your stool provided you drink enough water. This can come in handy with short-term ailments, such as constipation. Used in this way, it can prevent complications of constipation, such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Preliminary research shows that psyllium may help with the painful symptoms associated with these conditions. Since there is no real scientific consensus, talk to your doctor to see if psyllium could help you.

Psyllium Husk Embraced by the Ozempic Crowd

With both soluble and insoluble fiber, psyllium husk is often used as an appetite suppressant among those looking to lose weight. 
 
It’s a far safer alternative to weight loss drugs like semaglutide, more popularly known as Ozempic. The demand for medications promising easy weight loss has skyrocketed, with prescriptions rising 2,082% from 2019 to 2022 (R). 

Sales of psyllium-husk products are also on the rise, with 249 such products released in the U.S. from 2018 to 2022 (New York Times). When you add water to psyllium, it forms a viscous gel that’s not digested or fermented in the body. In the small intestine, psyllium increases the viscosity of chyme — a semi- fluid mix of partially digested food, fluid and stomach acid — which slows absorption and degradation of nutrients (R). 

A comprehensive review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the AmericanAssociation of Nurse Practitioners (2023) found psyllium decreased body weight, body mass index and waist circumference in overweight and obese individuals. “Gel-forming nonfermented psyllium fiber, dosed just before meals, is effective in facilitating weight loss in overweight and obese participants,” the team concluded.

Why You Should Try Natural Strategies, Not Ozempic 

Weight loss drugs like Ozempic are all the rage, but their growing list of significant side effects — not to mention their high costs — has people seeking out safer, more natural options like psyllium. This is good news, since semaglutide, sold under the name Ozempic as a diabetes drug and, in a higher dose, under the name Wegovy as a weight loss drug, can also lead to debilitating side effects, including stomach paralysis.

Berberine — Another ‘Natural Ozempic’ 

On the topic of natural alternatives to Ozempic, berberine is another option with similar benefits to psyllium, although it’s an entirely different compound. Berberine is a chemical found in plants such as goldenseal and European barberry. Research shows it helps to regulate blood sugar and may help with weight loss. A 2022 systematic review of the literature demonstrated that supplementing with berberine had a positive effect on lipid profile, fasting blood glucose, obesity parameters and systolic blood pressure (Frontiers in Nutrition 2022).

What is the best psyllium? 

ConsumerLab's (third party testing company) overall Top Pick was Yerba Prima Psyllium Husks Fiber.

It was selected for having the least contamination from lead, the right amount of pure psyllium husk, the correct amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, and proper usage instructions. It was also relatively inexpensive.

Organic Psyllium Is Best. Psyllium is a heavily sprayed crop, which means many sources are contaminated with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. For this reason, only use organic unsweetened psyllium husk. Taking organic psyllium three times a day could add as much as 18 grams of fiber (soluble and insoluble) to your diet.

What is the right dose of psyllium and how should psyllium be taken? When starting with psyllium, start slow — with as little as ½ tablespoon of psyllium husk or ½ teaspoon of husk powder (which is denser, so a smaller serving is used). Dose can be increased to a full tablespoon or teaspoon per serving, taken one to three times daily, depending on the use.

Take psyllium with lots of water — at least 8 to 12 ounces with each serving, and more afterward. If mixing psyllium husk or powder in liquid, drink the liquid right after mixing -- before the liquid starts to gel. Timing around meals depends on whether you are using for laxation (stool softening), appetite control, or cholesterol-lowering.

How safe is psyllium and what are its side effects?

Due to its fiber, psyllium can cause bloating, and some gas -- particularly when you start. Too much can cause diarrhea. Taking with too little water can cause constipation. Don't take capsules if you have difficulty swallowing. Medications should be taken at least one hour before or four hours after taking psyllium to help avoid interactions which can delay or reduce drug absorption.

You may be especially prone to side effects if you’re new to psyllium or if you take more than the recommended amount per day.

In summary, some of the possible side effects include:
  • abdominal pain and cramps
  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • loose stools
  • more frequent bowel movements
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach pain
Call your doctor right away if you experience allergic-like reactions to psyllium. Although rare, risks (Ref) may include:
  • breathing difficulties
  • itching
  • skin rashes
  • swelling, especially around the face and throat
  • vomiting

How can I get psyllium?

Psyllium is most commonly consumed in powder or wafer form. It’s also available in capsules, granules, and as a liquid concentrate. It’s the main ingredient in many over-the-counter laxatives, including:
  • Metamucil
  • Fiberall
  • Cilium
  • Maalox Daily Fiber Therapy
  • Uni-Laxative
Shop for products containing psyllium.

Follow the directions on the packaging when taking any of these medications. Remember that a key component of how psyllium works in your lower intestine is its ability to soak up liquid, so make sure to drink plenty of water daily.

What problems did ConsumerLab's tests show with psyllium products? 

Most Psyllium Supplements Failed ComsumerLab's (CL) Tests Due to Lead Contamination. Fiber supplements made from psyllium (such as Metamucil) can help with constipation and regularity, lower cholesterol, and even reduce appetite. But CL recent tests revealed that many are contaminated with lead.

ConsumerLab.com's tests of the quality of psyllium products revealed that 5 out of 8 were contaminated with excessive amounts of lead — as much as 11 micrograms per 5 grams of psyllium husk (22 times the daily amount permitted in California without a warning label). Lead was found in all products, but those with the least contained only 0.4 to 0.6 mcg per 5 gram serving. One product had an unusually high amount of filth in the form of insect parts. However, all of the products contained their claimed amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. 


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