Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It sometimes goes by the name ispaghula.

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 is a bulk-forming laxative.

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 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.

Research has shown that taking soluble fiber can help people manage their cholesterol levels. Proper cholesterol regulation is important for everyone, but it’s vital for people over the age of 50.

One study shows that at least six weeks of daily psyllium intake is an effective way for people who are obese or overweight to lower their cholesterol with very few side effects.

If you’ve been told that you need to watch your cholesterol, ask your doctor if adding psyllium to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet will help you.

Numerous studies have shown that fiber like psyllium, taken as part of a healthy diet, can help lower a person’s risk of heart disease. Psyllium can affect your heart by lowering blood pressure, improving lipid levels, and strengthening heart muscle.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a concern for many people, especially those with a chronic condition like diabetes. Besides being good for your heart and blood sugar levels, psyllium may help you lose weight.

Because psyllium absorbs liquid in your body, it can help give you a feeling of being full. This can help you control the amount of food you eat. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking psyllium if they’ve suggested that you lose weight.

People with diabetes have to be mindful of their diet to maintain a healthy balance of insulin and blood sugar (glucose). Some research has suggested that fibers like psyllium can help people maintain a healthy glycemic balance.

The exact dosage of psyllium depends on the product you’re using. Dosage requirements may also vary based on what you’re taking psyllium for. Typically, you can take the product one to three times per day with a full glass of water.

Some research has shown that consuming 7.9 grams of psyllium per day (plus or minus 3.6 grams) with probiotics is a safe and effective way to treat Crohn’s disease. However, other results show soluble fiber like psyllium can make symptoms worse for some people.

One study found that taking 5 grams of psyllium twice a day can help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. Another study of people with type 2 diabetes found similar results, but stressed that psyllium therapy should be tailored to the individual.

Follow all product instructions carefully. Don’t take any more than the recommended dosage unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Since psyllium creates intestinal bulk and has laxative effects, this substance may pose adverse side effects. 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.

Some of the possible side effects include:

Call your doctor right away if you experience allergic-like reactions to psyllium. Although rare, risks may include:

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.