Have you spent more time sitting in the loo than in the world?
Are you tired of pushing out poop with all your strength?
Are constipation and cholesterol your best buddies?
What if I told you I have one stone that can kill both of these birds (read: troubles)?
Yes, I do. Have you heard of psyllium husk? It is a soluble fiber used in traditional Indian medicine to fight constipation, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia. Essentially, this husk scrubs your innards to detox them.
I’m not kidding! To know more about the psyllium story, find a peaceful corner and start scrolling!
In This Article
- What Is Psyllium Husk?
- What Are The Benefits Of Psyllium Husk?
- What Is Psyllium Husk Made Of?
- What Are The Side Effects Of Psyllium Husk?
- What Are The Directions To Use Psyllium Husk?
What Is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium husk is derived from the seeds of plants belonging to the Plantago genus. Psyllium seeds and psyllium husk are age-old hacks for treating constipation as they are rich sources of fiber.
Out of over 200 species in the Plantago genus, Plantago ovata and Plantago psyllium are widely known for their therapeutic value. They are grown in parts of Europe, Russia, Pakistan, and India.
Plantago ovata husk is a source of natural, concentrated, soluble fiber. It is obtained from the outer membranous green envelope of the P. ovata seed.
P. ovata husk (that contains soluble fiber) and seeds (that contain insoluble fiber) are well-accepted, safe, and effective bulk laxatives.
About 55-60% of psyllium husk has gel or mucilage forming ability that is responsible for its laxative and cholesterol-lowering activities. Unlike other natural laxatives, psyllium husk survives the fermentation in the gut and increases stool output effectively (1).
Psyllium husk is rich in some essential and unique monosaccharides and polysaccharides. These biomolecules work towards ensuring smooth digestion, an active metabolism, and a healthy heart.
Want to know what other problems psyllium husk solves? Check out the next section!
What Are The Benefits Of Psyllium Husk?
1. Ameliorates Constipation And Hemorrhoids
Constipation is known to affect approximately 27% of the population and is more prevalent in children and women than in men. A low-fiber diet is said to be one of the factors that cause constipation.
Using psyllium husk in your food or as a supplement can relieve constipation. The mucilage generated by the husk acts as a bulk-forming laxative that eases and fastens bowel movement through the small intestine (ileum, to be precise).
As a result, the stool does not degrade, harden, or cause piles or hemorrhoids when it is forced out (2).
[ Read: 25 Best Foods That Make You Poop ]
2. Facilitates Weight Loss And Cholesterol Metabolism
Obesity and hypercholesterolemia are linked to various metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. Increasing the intake of dietary fiber has the potential to improve the serum lipid profile.
Ingredients like psyllium husk, oat bran, and barley have abundant amounts of water-soluble fiber. Dietary psyllium fiber consumption has also been found to increase fecal fat excretion by 41.27%. This shows that psyllium can reduce plasma and liver cholesterol levels, increase the level of HDL (good cholesterol), and exhibit positive gut-modulatory effects.
This reduction in appetite and LDL levels, along with enhanced fat absorption in the gut, can aid weight loss, the right and healthy way (3).
3. Cardioprotective Properties
Plasma LDL levels are major indicators of heart health. Consuming foods that contain dietary fiber reduces LDL levels and boosts HDL cholesterol, thus keeping cardiovascular diseases at bay.
Having the recommended intake of fiber (about 10-25g/day) helps regulate the LDL in your body. A study conducted in 2007 found that water-soluble fiber in psyllium husk increased the HDL concentration by 6.7%, while insoluble fiber reduced the same by 3.3%.
This proves that psyllium husk, in combination with a low-saturated fat/low-cholesterol diet, prevents heart diseases. Apparently, it does a better job than most of the commonly prescribed cardioprotective therapies (4).
4. Controls Diabetes And Hyperglycemia
Many studies have demonstrated the effect of dietary fiber on type 2 diabetes. Psyllium husk is one of the fiber sources that has exhibited anti-hyperglycemic and anti-diabetic effects.
Oral administration of about 10g of psyllium husk per day lowers blood sugar level, increases insulin sensitivity, and improves glycemic control in the body (5).
It is hypothesized that psyllium husk can alter intestinal motility to enhance the absorption of anti-diabetic or any other medication (6).
5. Protects Intestines And Excretory System
Psyllium husk has the excellent ability to maintain intestinal mucosa. Due to the ability of this fiber to fix organic and inorganic substances, their absorption by the intestinal cells is delayed, reduced, or even prevented (just like a flu-defense mechanism).
The dietary fiber in psyllium husk may also protect your duodenum by decreasing gastric acid secretion. Therefore, it can reduce the intensity of duodenal or gastric ulcers if taken in the right quantities (7).
You must be wondering who actually are the heroes behind the mucilage, the benefits, and all the fame that psyllium husk gathers?
Good question! You can get the answers in the next section.
What Is Psyllium Husk Made Of?
Psyllium husk is made of monosaccharides and polysaccharides like xylose and arabinose. They are collectively called arabinoxylan and account for more than 60% of the weight of psyllium husk.
Essential fats like linolenic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, lauric acid, erucic acid, and stearic acid are found in the husk. It is also a reservoir of aromatic amino acids.
Surprisingly, psyllium husk is rich in phytochemicals like alkaloids, terpenoids, saponins, tannins, and glycosides. It also contains unique triterpenes like narasin, ginsenoside, and periandrin.
Metabolites like sarmentine, purmorphamine, tapentadol, zolmitriptan, and withaperuvin have been identified in psyllium husk extracts, giving it various nutraceutical properties (8).
We’ve discussed the benefits that psyllium husk offers and the excellent nutraceutical profile it boasts of. But could something go wrong if you had too much of it?
Find out in the next section!
What Are The Side Effects Of Psyllium Husk?
Though there is little supporting evidence, the following could be the risks associated with consuming psyllium husk (9):
- May cause a drop in blood pressure if consumed in a large quantity, along with medicines that have a similar effect.
- May interfere with the absorption of certain drugs because the mucilage formed by psyllium husk can trap or dampen their effect.
- Likely safe for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers as there is not enough clarity or evidence that proves otherwise.
- May cause gastric discomfort in some people in the first few days.
If you have tried psyllium husk and are aware of how your body responds to it, you should take it regularly. Talk to your doctor and try to incorporate this dietary fiber in your daily meals. But how can you about doing this? Let’s take a look.
What Are The Directions To Consume Psyllium Husk?
- It is safe to have 10-20g of psyllium husk per day as a wellness supplement or in foods.
- If you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or acute constipation, you can increase the dose to 30 g/day.
- It’s best to split the dose throughout the day.
Mode Of Intake
- Solution: The best way to consume psyllium husk is to add it to water and drink it after it dissolves.
- Adding about 250 mL of water to a spoonful of husk should do.
- Porridge: You can have it like porridge. Add a tablespoon of husk and some sugar (optional) to 250 mL water.
- Wait for 2-3 minutes until the solution turns into a gel
- Baking: You can add psyllium husk to cookies, bars, flat fiber cakes, bread, and muffins to add some crunch and health.
Time Of Intake
- It’s best to have psyllium husk right before meals (10).
- Always have a sufficient amount of water with psyllium husk to prevent choking on it.
- You can take small drinks of psyllium husk 2-3 times a day to keep your gut happy and kickin’!
In A Nutshell…
Psyllium husk is a boon for anyone suffering from constipation or digestive issues. It is recommended that you take at least 10-25g of dietary fiber a day.
With over 60% fiber and unique bioactive ingredients, this husk is the best natural, gluten-free, and versatile supplement you can gift your body.
If you don’t like the husk texture or gel-like consistency of psyllium husk, you can opt for psyllium husk capsules.
What’s the best part? Psyllium husk has a long shelf-life and is not prone to degradation. (That does not mean you can buy expired stock!)
So, I urge you to start taking psyllium husk in small doses and experience the difference. If you experience diarrhea or dehydration after taking it, consult your doctor.
Please share your views, suggestions, and questions about this wonder ingredient with us in the comments box below.
Happy colon cleansing!
1. “The gel-forming polysaccharide of psyllium…” Carbohydrate Research, Elsevier
2. “Pharmacological Basis for the Medicinal…” Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, The Aga Khan University, eCommons
3. “The right fiber for the right disease…” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, US National Library of Medicine
4. “Effects of soluble fiber (Plantago ovata husk) on…” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, American Society for Nutrition
5. “Effects of psyllium on glucose and serum…” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine
6. “Evaluation of the Association Metformin…” Journal of Diabetes Research, US National Library of Medicine
7. “Study of the protective effect on the intestinal…” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
8. “Non-targeted Metabolite Profiling and Scavenging…” Frontiers in Plant Science, US National Library of Science
9. “Blond Psyllium” Medline Plus, US National Library of Medicine
10. “Ask the doctor: How much psyllium is…” Harvard Heart Letter, Harvard Health Publishing