Similarities and Differences Between Psyllium and Inulin Fibre

Published: 29th September 2011
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With a wide variety of fibre supplements available over-the-counter, itís hard to decide which one to choose. Two of the most popular, psyllium and inulin, are found in a variety of supplements. While both are plant-based fibres, they do have some differences. When a doctor has prescribed supplementing the diet with fibre to help lower cholesterol, treat diabetes or ease constipation, either of these fibres would be appropriate.


Psyllium seeds and husks come from the plants Plantago ispaghula and Plantago ovata. The high fibre and mucilage in the seeds and husks helps to add bulk to the stool and acts as a laxative. The laxative effect also helps the body lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.

An appropriate dose of psyllium would be 1/2 to 2 teaspoons mixed into 8 ounces of a beverage. This can be taken up to four times per day, but it would be better to consult with a doctor to make sure that the dose is appropriate for what it is intended to treat. It's important to drink the psyllium and water mixture as soon as it is mixed, because it will quickly begin to thicken up. This can cause gagging and even vomiting. Someone who has trouble swallowing or oesophageal problems should not take psyllium.

Psyllium may be prescribed by a doctor if a person has a high risk of colon cancer or heart disease. It is also used to help treat haemorrhoids and anal fissures, since it can make the stool soft enough to pass without irritating the haemorrhoid or the fissure.


Sometimes known as a prebiotic, inulin is a fructo-oligosaccharide, which is helpful for maintaining the good bacteria that live in the digestive tract and help humans digest food. Inulin can be found naturally in a variety of foods, including soybeans, onions and leeks.

Inulin is usually taken in doses of 2,000 to 3,000 mg per day. It is often added to foods to increase the fibre content without adding calories. A doctor may recommend doses of up to 20 grams daily to treat conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol. Inulin has been recommended by doctors to help treat traveller's diarrhoea and even eczema.

Why Take Psyllium or Inulin?

Both of these fibres can help treat many different conditions. Adding fibre to a person's diet can help with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea. Additionally, adding bulk in the form of fibre can help a person who is struggling with weight loss.

Side Effects

Both inulin and psyllium have a similar side effect profile, which sometimes includes gas or bloating as the body tries to adjust to increased levels of fibre in the diet. Additionally, some people may be allergic to either of the substances, and, in this case, should not take them. They may interfere with some medications, and someone taking prescription medications should discuss the use of psyllium or inulin with their doctor to be sure that it will be safe.

Having an honest discussion with a doctor about constipation or other health concerns, is the best course of action to take. While fibre supplementation can be helpful, itís not for everyone. A doctor can provide the best advice on whether to add fibre to the diet, and which type of fibre is the best to take.

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