Psyllium fiber is a soluble fiber derived from a shrublike plant called plantago ovata. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, this plant yields up to 15,000 seeds, which are used to produce psyllium fiber. It is frequently used as a laxative, and is included in products such as Metamucil. In addition, psyllium is also thought to have benefit in lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar and decreasing heart disease risk, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. It may also be useful in weight loss and maintenance. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking psyllium.
Psyllium fiber's primary benefit in weight loss appears to be in its ability to control appetite. A study published in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" assessed psyllium's effects on 14 participants when taken with a meal. In the study, which was led by D. Rigaud of the Service de Gastroenterologie et Nutrition, Hopital Bichat, Paris, the volunteers were given 7.4 gr of psyllium with a 450-calorie meal. The researchers reported that psyllium appeared to decrease both appetite and food intake in the subjects.
Psyllium fiber is available in various forms for dietary consumption and supplementation. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it is available in both dry seed and husk form. It is also used in commercial laxatives, and can be acquired on its own in the form of capsules, tablets and wafers. Some cereals are also enriched with psyllium to add to fiber content.
The University of Maryland Medical Center advises taking psyllium 30 minutes prior to a meal for weight-loss benefits. If taking psyllium in seed form, you should mix between 1/2 tsp. and 2 tsp. of seeds. Mix well, and be sure to drink the mixture soon after adding the seeds, as psyllium thickens quickly when added to water, and may become difficult to swallow. If you are taking psyllium as part of a commercial product, follow the package directions. Regardless of the formulation of psyllium, water is essential. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises drinking 8 oz. of water with each serving of psyllium.
Psyllium fiber is particularly interactive with various types of medications, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Among the medications that may be affected by psyllium fiber are tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil, Sinequan and Tofranil, the seizure medication Tegretol, a class of cholesterol-lowering medications called bile acid sequestrants, diabetes medications, the heart medication digoxin and the psychiatric medication lithium. Talk to your doctor about any potential interactions.
Drugs.com notes that laxatives can be addictive if taken for too long a period of time. You should avoid taking psyllium or any laxative product beyond the time period stipulated on the label or recommended by a doctor. In addition, you shouldn't rely entirely on psyllium fiber for your weight loss. A healthy diet and exercise are essential to long-term weight loss and maintenance.