What is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium comes from the seeds of a shrub called plantago ovata. The plant is mostly found in India but grows all over the world (x). Psyllium husk is a soluble fiber that is sometimes called ispaghula. It is a natural, bulk-forming laxative. When it absorbs water, it swells and turns into a gelatin-like substance that moves waste through the digestive tract, providing water and volume to stools (x).
Whole psyllium husk typically comes as psyllium husk powder or in wafer form, but it’s also available in liquid, granule or capsule form. Only buy all-natural, 100 percent pure psyllium husk to avoid chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides (x).
Some psyllium supplements also tend to use semi-synthetic or synthetic active ingredients like polycarbophil and methylcellulose, which contain no psyllium. Keep away from psyllium powder with sweeteners or additives, as these can negatively affect the microbiome and possibly trigger side effects.
Benefits of Psyllium Husk
Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative that works by increasing the size of stool, thereby helping ease constipation (x, x). First, it binds to partly digested food moving to the small intestine. Then it helps it absorb water, which increases the size and moisture of stools. This results in large stools that pass quickly (x, x, x).
A study concluded that psyllium fiber had a more significant impact on the texture, total weight and moisture of stools than wheat bran (x). Another study revealed that taking 5.1 gm of psyllium twice daily for 14 days notably increased the stool weight, water content and frequency among 170 people with persistent constipation (x).
Including soluble fiber in your diet can help reduce cholesterol (x). Soluble fiber stops intestines from absorbing bile acids, causing their excretion in stools. Since the liver converts cholesterol to replace bile acids, this lowers the amount of LDL cholesterol.
Increasing soluble fiber intake by 5 to ten grams daily usually leads to a 5 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol. A 2012 study shows that psyllium supplementation led to a 6 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol (x).
One study revealed that psyllium husk considerably reduced diarrhea in 30 people undergoing cancer radiation therapy. In another study, eight people with lactose-induced diarrhea were treated with 3.5 grams of psyllium husk three times a day. It significantly increased the time their stomachs took to empty, which resulted in fewer bowel movements (x). Hence, psyllium can both reduce and prevent diarrhea, effectively regularizing bowel movements.
Many studies have indicated that psyllium fiber in a healthy diet may help decrease the risk of heart disease. It can promote a healthy heart by reducing blood pressure, strengthening the heart muscle and improving lipid levels (x).
In one study, 40 diabetics used a psyllium treatment with a controlled diet. After two months, their overall health improved significantly, including their triglyceride levels, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Researchers suggest that psyllium may help reduce the risk of heart disease (x).
Obesity has tripled worldwide in the last four decades and it causes serious health issues, including chronic heart disease and diabetes (x). Psyllium is one of the many medicinal herbs that may significantly reduce body weight (x).
It can help achieve and control healthy body weight by making the stomach empty more slowly so that it feels full faster. Adding extra fiber like psyllium can help prevent overeating. A study in 2007 found that taking psyllium supplements for six months resulted in lower body mass index (BMI) in overweight individuals (x).
Psyllium husk has effects similar to prebiotics, which promote bacteria growth in the intestines (x). It resists fermentation, but sometimes the bacteria ferments the psyllium husk and creates short-chain fatty acids to relieve digestive distress (x, x).
Patients in a study consumed 10 grams of psyllium twice daily for 12 months. It boosted the production of short chain fatty acids, including butyrate, which may improve colon and skin health. The fermentation process is typically slow, meaning there’s no gas increase or digestive discomfort along the way (x, x, x, x).
Consumed regularly, psyllium husk can be a great natural solution for irregular blood glucose levels (x). When researchers gave diabetics 5.1 grams of psyllium 20 to 30 minutes before breakfast for eight weeks, they discovered that their fasting blood glucose levels decreased by 52.6 milligrams per deciliter. They also reported a 1.6 percent decrease in A1C levels (x).
Another study found that when male type 2 diabetics consumed 5.1 grams of psyllium twice a day for eight weeks, their glucose levels after meals reduced by 11 percent (x).
In teens and children with altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, psyllium husk intake lowered their post-meal blood glucose levels by between 12.2 and 20.2 percent (x).
In a 2017 study, diabetics consumed seven grams of psyllium husk powder on a moderate-carbohydrate diet. Their insulin sensitivity increased significantly, which is good news because the more insulin the body detects, the better it can control glucose (x).
Another study in 2016 found that fasting blood glucose levels decreased by 43.6 milligrams per deciliter. In the survey, diabetics took seven grams of psyllium husk 15 minutes before their midday meal and 3.5 grams 15 minutes before supper (x).
Side Effects of Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is generally safe in the correct dosage with lots of fluids. Side effects may include (x):
Digestive Side Effects
Gas and severe flatulence may occur when consuming psyllium husk products. If bloating persists or becomes unbearable, talk to a physician about remedies. It may also cause diarrhea, constipation or nausea.
Psyllium users have reported serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Potential symptoms include chest tightness, vomiting, dizziness, trouble breathing, hives, rashes and swelling or itching in the throat, tongue or face.
If you suffer other side effects not listed here, contact a physician or pharmacist.
Other Side Effects and Warnings
Psyllium husk shouldn’t be consumed by people who have difficulty swallowing, spastic bowels or gastrointestinal tract obstructions. The supplement may be ineffective for serious kidney disease (x).
Psyllium husk can potentially interfere with medication absorption. It may cause reactions with carbamazepine, digoxin, tricyclic antidepressants and bile acid sequestrants. Consult with a doctor before consuming psyllium husk products (x, x).
If your bowel habits continually change or you have a health problem that requires treatment — like heart disease or diabetes — talk to a physician if you want to use psyllium. But don’t delay or forgo standard care. If you’ve been prescribed medicine, never stop using it before consulting a doctor first.
If you’re pregnant, speak with your doctor before including this soluble fiber in your diet. Psyllium is generally safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women in appropriate doses (x). As with any nutritional supplement, it’s advisable to use small amounts to clock its effects.
Psyllium Husk Supplements
Dosage and Instructions
In powder form, the recommended dosage of psyllium husk is five grams up to three times a day, unless a doctor recommends otherwise. In capsule form, take three capsules twice a day. Take capsule and powder supplements with at least eight ounces of fluids to avoid choking. Avoid psyllium husk if you find it difficult to swallow.
Why Take Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium husk provides a healthy, natural, cost-effective alternative to expensive fiber supplements, many of which have artificial additives. Ideally, the average person needs about 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day, but many people don’t meet those requirements (x). Taking psyllium husk every day is a simple remedy for insufficient fiber and preventive for constipation.
The Bottom Line
The recommended amount of fiber is 25 to 30 grams a day to move bowel contents more easily. However, most people do not consume the recommended amount. Psyllium husk is an excellent natural remedy for people who suffer from constipation or other digestive issues.
With more special bioactive ingredients, this product is the best organic supplement on the market. Psyllium may be beneficial in maintaining blood sugar levels, weight loss, and preventing risk factors for heart disease. However, it is most effective combined with other preventive and treatment plans.