As medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy skyrocket in popularity, many people are searching for natural, over-the-counter supplements that can lead to similar results. Recently, psyllium husk—a common fiber supplement and gluten-free bread additive—has been catching the internet’s eye.
Dubbed in some blogs as the “poor man’s Ozempic,” psyllium husk is being touted as another way to achieve some of the medication’s benefits without the prescription and cost.
In particular, TikTokers are interested in psyllium husk—better known as Metamucil—for its ability to promote satiety, or feeling full. Semaglutide, the medication in Wegovy and Ozempic, can have a similar effect.
This appetite suppression typically causes people to lose weight when they’re taking Ozempic or Wegovy. However, the same isn’t usually true for psyllium husk.
“It’s a fiber supplement that is most commonly used for constipation and for bowel regularity. And it has a lot of benefits besides that,” William Yancy, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Lifestyle and Weight Management Center at Duke Health, told Health. “Weight loss is not one of them.”
Here’s what experts had to say about the comparisons between Ozempic and psyllium husk, and what to know before starting the fiber supplement.
Psyllium husk is fairly common, and can be purchased as a powder, capsule, or tablet at any online retailer or grocery store, Irene Sonu, MD, clinical associate professor of gastroenterology at Stanford Medicine, told Health.
“Psyllium husk is a type of soluble fiber supplement,” she said. “What it’s traditionally used for is regularity—so it can be used for constipation, diarrhea, and it can basically create a more regular-formed stool.”
Despite the fact that the fiber is primarily used to help keep people regular, people online aren’t wrong to suggest that its benefits can, in two ways, mirror those of Ozempic.
“Fiber in general is a non absorbable plant-derived particulate that can sit in your gastrointestinal tract, including your stomach for a very long time and can help with satiation,” Sonu said.
In other words, psyllium husk can help a person feel full for long periods of time, similarly to Ozempic or Wegovy.
Psyllium husk has also been shown to help control blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes, Sonu said. The same is true for Ozempic—along with diet and exercise, the medication has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels.
Despite these two similarities, experts are hesitant to say that psyllium husk is similar to Ozempic, or that it could stand in for the drug.
Most basically, Sonu said, there doesn’t seem to be any studies putting the two head to head. A small 2016 study did suggest that psyllium husk “deserves attention as a potential natural dietary supplement” for people with diabetes, however, this was before semaglutide was approved for weight loss.
Beyond a lack of research, the other thing giving experts pause is that psyllium husk and semaglutide have different mechanisms in the body, meaning they don’t function in similar ways.
When it comes to feeling full for longer, though the end result may be somewhat similar, “[psyllium husk] definitely doesn’t work the same way as semaglutide,” Sonu said. Ozempic is essentially slowing down digestion, while the psyllium husk is simply sitting in the stomach for longer, she explained.
An average of “15% of body weight can be lost with Wegovy,” Yancy said. “With [psyllium husk] it might be a fraction of a percent, or maybe one or two percent if there’s any weight loss at all. So it’s not really a comparison.”
For now, Sonu said, psyllium husk is “not known as an effective weight loss strategy.” Other studies have shown that the fiber doesn’t have any meaningful effect on weight.
For Ozempic and psyllium husk’s other shared feature—namely, blood sugar control—again the two don’t really compare, Yancy said.
“Ozempic acts like a hormone in the body,” and it stimulates insulin release that helps control blood sugar, he said.
Psyllium husk, on the other hand, traps some sugars in the digestive tract before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Psyllium husk is the latest in a long line of alleged “dupes” for semaglutide—TikTokers have dubbed the supplement berberine a natural Ozempic, while interest in laxatives, to appear thin or to address stomach issues, appears to be driving a nationwide shortage.
It’s easy to understand why. On the one hand, Yancy explained, dieting and exercising to lose weight can seem daunting—a “magic pill” to expedite the process will likely always be popular.
Also, accessing the real weight loss medications can be difficult. Certain doses of Mounjaro, Wegovy, and Ozempic are all listed as “currently in shortage” on the Food and Drug Administration’s website. Plus, the drugs can be extremely expensive—without insurance, Ozempic can cost over $900 per month, though there are ways to lower the costs with coupons and insurance.
Unfortunately, however, these supplements, laxatives, or other over-the-counter products won’t work in the same way as prescription weight loss or type 2 diabetes medications.
“Ozempic or semaglutide or Wegovy—that’s a medicine that we’ve been waiting around [for] for decades,” said Yancy. “I don’t think there’s a way to replicate it in existing products, or over-the-counter products, or supplements.”
That being said, psyllium shouldn’t be written off completely, experts agreed, even though it may not be a good semaglutide replacement.
“I am a huge advocate for fiber because high fiber diets have shown to lower your risk of colon polyps and colon cancer. And as I mentioned earlier, can also help with irregularity,” Sonu said. “So I do usually encourage a lot of my patients, if they can tolerate it, to take it.”
Psyllium husk might also help lower cholesterol, Yancy said, and can be used in people who have both diarrhea and constipation. Additionally, it may reduce some of the inflammation associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
It’s also safe for most people to use if they are interested in giving it a try, Sonu added, so long as they’re using it as directed.
Of course, some side effects are possible—some people may experience bloating and gas, said Sonu, which might be an indicator that they’re taking too much. Others should avoid it altogether, or should check with their doctor before taking it, she added.
“If you have underlying digestive diseases, though, it can worsen symptoms,” said Sonu. “There’s a condition that I see very frequently in my practice called gastroparesis, where people will have slow stomach emptying. And so in those situations, taking a lot of fiber can really exacerbate their symptoms.”
Taking psyllium husk can also affect the absorption of medications, Sonu said, so the fiber may be unsafe for people taking antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering medications, and a handful of other drugs.
When it comes to TikTok health recommendations, Sonu added, it’s always best to check with a doctor first to make sure that the product is helpful, and “it’s not just a craze.”
“[Psyllium husk] is good in a lot of different ways,” Yancy said. “I just don’t think I would use it for weight loss, or expect major weight loss benefits from it.”
Dr. Debi Johnson is a medical expert and health journalist dedicated to promoting well-being. With a background in medicine, she offers evidence-based insights into health trends and wellness practices. Beyond her reporting, Dr. Debi enjoys hiking, yoga, and empowering others to lead healthier lives.