Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: How much psyllium is needed to lower cholesterol?

Q. What amount of psyllium should I take each day to lower cholesterol?

A. Psyllium (SILL-ee-um) is the main ingredient in many over-the-counter laxatives, such as Metamucil, Fiberall, and others. It can also lower harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 5% to 10%.

The amount needed to lower cholesterol is 10 to 20 grams a day. Psyllium is generally taken three times a day, just before each meal, either in a capsule or as a powder that you mix with water or juice. Make sure you drink at least 8 ounces of water, juice, or other fluid every time you take psyllium, otherwise you run the risk of it swelling and blocking the esophagus or bowels. Start slowly, say withone-halftablespoon in 8 ounces of water once a day, and gradually increase to the full dose. The most common side effects are gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.

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