Can Psyllium Help With Weight Loss?

psyllium seed husks
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One popular natural remedy for weight loss is psyllium, a plant that produces seed husks that are rich in soluble fiber. Known as mucilage, the fiber in psyllium is thick and gelatinous when mixed with water. When it's in your gut, psyllium soaks up water, softening stools and making bowel movements easier to pass. Due to its ability to promote regularity, psyllium is also said to cleanse the colon.

Some studies suggest that psyllium may help relieve constipation, keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check, improve symptoms of some types of irritable bowel syndrome, and regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes

Does Psyllium Really Work for Weight Loss?

So far, studies on psyllium's effects on appetite and weight have yielded mixed results. For a study published in Appetite in 2016, psyllium taken before breakfast and lunch resulted in less hunger and increased fullness between meals compared to a placebo in healthy volunteers. Of the doses tested (3.4, 6.8, and 10.2 grams), the 6.8 gram dose provided more consistent satiety benefits over the placebo. 

A small 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that psyllium-enriched meals decreased levels of glucose, insulin, ghrelin, and PYY (gut hormones involved in the regulation of food intake and body fat) compared to a placebo, however, the amount of psyllium in the meals was high (23 grams).

In another small study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, scientists gave healthy normal-weight men either a breakfast enriched with 22 grams of psyllium husk (soluble fiber), a breakfast enriched with 22 grams of wheat bran (insoluble fiber), a low-fiber breakfast, or a low-calorie breakfast and then tracked hunger and food intake for the following 24 hour period.

Study participants were less hungry and consumed less food after the wheat germ-enriched meal compared to the psyllium-enriched meal. There was no difference between the four types of breakfasts in overall caloric intake during the 24 hour period.

In a 2010 report from the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, researchers note that adding psyllium to the diet may lead to weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes.

Possible Side Effects

Although psyllium is generally considered safe when used as recommended, it may trigger certain side effects (such as gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and nausea). If taken insufficient fluids or in large doses, it may cause choking or bowel obstruction. Taking it in the amounts used in some of these studies isn't recommended (to put it in perspective, one rounded teaspoon of psyllium is approximately five to six grams).

In order to protect against adverse effects, it's best to begin with a lower dose and mix it well with the recommended amount of water. Staying hydrated helps to keep stool soft and makes bowel movements easier to pass.

It shouldn't be taken by people with bowel obstructions or spasms, difficulty swallowing, or a narrowing or obstruction anywhere in the digestive tract. People with kidney disease and those who are taking certain medications may not be able to take psyllium supplements. 

The Takeaway

While upping your soluble fiber intake from foods like dried beans and peas, flax seeds, oats, fruits and vegetables may help keep you fuller for longer, there currently isn't enough evidence to recommend psyllium solely as a weight loss aid. 

If you have trouble getting enough fiber or have other health concerns might be helped by boosting your soluble fiber intake, adding some psyllium to your diet may be beneficial. If you're considering trying it, it's a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider first to discuss whether it's appropriate for you.


Brum JM, Gibb RD, Peters JC, Mattes RD. Satiety effects of psyllium in healthy volunteers. Appetite. 2016 Oct 1;105:27-36. 

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Giacosa A, Rondanelli M. "The right fiber for the right disease: an update on the psyllium seed husk and the metabolic syndrome." J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010 Sep;44 Suppl 1:S58-60.

Karhunen LJ, Juvonen KR, Flander SM, Liukkonen KH, Lähteenmäki L, Siloaho M, Laaksonen DE, Herzig KH, Uusitupa MI, Poutanen KS. "A psyllium fiber-enriched meal strongly attenuates postprandial gastrointestinal peptide release in healthy young adults." J Nutr. 2010 Apr;140(4):737-44.

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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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