Psyllium husk is a herb that is most commonly cultivated in India. It is a soluble fiber that is popularly used to treat constipation. For centuries, the whole seed has been used in traditional medicine. Aside from possessing amazing health benefits, its gel-like content is popularly added to foods to produce thickening.
Health Benefits of Psyllium Husk
Now, let’s take a look at the amazing things psyllium husk can do for your health.
Aids in Weight Loss
Psyllium husk may be effective for weight loss as it increases the feeling of fullness and reduces food cravings. Studies have found that psyllium delays stomach emptying, which tends to lead to increased fullness and reduced appetite, resulting in weight loss.
Not only does psyllium husk aid in weight loss, but it also reduces BMI and total body fat percentage. However, this may not be achieved with psyllium husk alone as it works in combination with a balanced diet.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Psyllium husk might help lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that consuming protein and fiber reduces systolic pressure. These findings are independent of age, gender, weight change, alcohol intake, or urinary sodium/potassium.
High blood pressure is sometimes attributed to overeating, reduced exercise, and emotional stress. Although a healthy diet is the best solution, psyllium husk may help prevent some of the short-term damage.
Based on some findings from studies, psyllium husk may play a major role in treating high blood pressure; however, more studies are needed.
Incorporating psyllium husk into your diet has proven to treat constipation by absorbing water as it goes through the gut. The herb softens stool, making bowel movements easier. In many studies, it has proven that psyllium husk can significantly decrease stool transit time and increase bulk weight and stool softness. This can be achieved without adversely affecting the absorption of nutrients.
Psyllium is also a prebiotic — a substance required for healthy colonies of probiotics to grow in the digestive system and for overall immunity. The body is better equipped to combat infection and reduce inflammation.
Indeed, increasing your intake of soluble fiber (found in psyllium husk) may boost bowel regularity. As psyllium passes down the digestive tract, it forms a gel, which adds bulk to stools and makes them softer and easier to excrete. Studies have found that psyllium works better with prune fiber to improve constipation and overall well-being. However, prune fiber is considered more effective at relieving bloating and flatulence.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Consuming psyllium husk could improve a person’s overall cholesterol level. The impact of psyllium husk on cholesterol may be due to lowered LDL levels and increased bile acid production after psyllium consumption.
Bile acid production and its eventual excretion is an effective way of eliminating blood cholesterol. Not only does it improve in cholesterol levels, but it also improves the overall distribution of body fat.
Adding soluble fiber to your diet may help to lower your cholesterol as it disrupts the presence of bile acids in the intestines, resulting in their excretion in the stool. As the liver converts cholesterol to replace the bile acids, cholesterol levels are lowered.
Even with its long-proven ability in reducing constipation, psyllium husk may also relieve diarrhea. In some studies, psyllium husk was found to increase stool passage time and improved the consistency of the stool in people with diarrhea. This also makes the herb an excellent alternative for people with irritable bowel syndrome, who often have constipation and diarrhea.
Psyllium husk can reduce the risk of diarrhea and the severity of its symptoms. Sometimes, diarrhea can be an unavoidable side effect of taking another medication. However, psyllium husk can be very effective in treating for relieving diarrhea.
Lower Blood Sugar Levels
There are several types of fiber that help to curb blood sugar levels. In multiple studies, a soluble fiber such as psyllium husk has been found to significantly reduce both fasting and after-meal blood sugar levels. It also reduces insulin levels and decreases the absorption of glucose as well. Psyllium husk not only improves fasting blood sugar but enhances a person’s tolerance to metformin (an oral medication for treating type 2 diabetes).
People who are diabetic need to constantly watch their diet to maintain a healthy balance of insulin and glucose (blood sugar) levels. Luckily, fibers such as psyllium can help the body maintain a healthy glycemic balance.
It is important to note that these results can only be achieved when psyllium husk is consumed with meals.
Treats Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
As we have already mentioned, psyllium husk plays a major role in treating both constipation and diarrhea, which are common symptoms of ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Psyllium husk eliminates the symptoms of IBS and stop a relapse.
Prevents Colon Cancer
According to some studies, when exposed to a known colon carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical), psyllium husk can significantly reduce the risk of tumors.
Side Effects of Psyllium Husk
Overall, psyllium husk is considered safe and associated with very few side effects. The most common adverse effect is some mild and temporary stomach discomfort.
However, there are several precautions to take.
- Some of the side effects of psyllium husk may include flatulence, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and even allergic reactions.
- Psyllium should only be taken in the recommended dosage and mixed with sufficient amount of water; otherwise, it may cause constipation and potentially lead to choking intestinal obstruction. It may also cause a solid mass of fiber in the digestive tract. Therefore, starting slowly with a small dose is recommended to give the digestive system time to adjust to the increased fiber.
- People who experience a persistent change in their bowel habits should consult a medical doctor before using psyllium husk.
- Those with kidney disease and people who are taking certain medications should avoid the use of psyllium supplements.
- If you suffer from a health problem (such as heart disease or diabetes) that requires treatment, check with your doctor before forgoing or delaying conventional care for psyllium husk.
- People with bowel obstructions or spasms, obstruction or a narrowing in the digestive tract, and difficulty in swallowing should avoid the use of psyllium husk.
- Ensure not to neglect prescribed medication or discontinue taking it without consulting your doctor first.
Psyllium husk may be effective for treating constipation and may be beneficial when taken for other health conditions. However, it is best used in combination with other treatments and preventative measures that may include lifestyle changes, balanced diet, and medication.
Aside from psyllium husk, you can boost your soluble fiber intake by incorporating fiber-rich foods such as prune fiber, nuts, oatmeal, acacia, seeds, strawberries, bean burgers, hummus, lentil soup, legume meals, artichokes, citrus fruit, apples, grapes, and eggplant.
Psyllium husk is available in the whole, powdered, granulated, encapsulated forms. Since the herb lacks a distinct flavor, it serves as a food thickener and can be easily stored. Psyllium has also been fortified into several food products, especially high-fiber cereals and ice cream.