How Psyllium Husk Works For Weight Loss (Science Backed)

Reviewed by Merlin Annie Raj, Registered Dietitian
by Charushila Biswas
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition

Psyllium husk (isabgol or ispaghula) is the outer covering of the seeds of the plant Plantago ovata. It is popularly used as a laxative and is now scientifically proven to aid weight loss. The high soluble fiber (8 times that of oats) content of the husk or mucilage is found to be the main driving force (1).

If you have never taken psyllium husk for weight loss but want to give it a try, this post is for you. Here’s how it aids weight loss, how to use it, benefits, and side effects. Swipe up!

How Psyllium Husk Aids Weight Loss

Psyllium husk aids weight loss by pushing the body toward the fat loss phase and improving various body functions.

The psyllium plant is mainly grown in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan and is known as isabgol (Persian: asp – horse and gul – flower). The seeds have been used in traditional Iranian medicine since ages. Psyllium husk is a good source of fatty acids and starch and is used as an additive in animal feed as well.

How does psyllium husk aid weight loss? Here are 6 scientific ways:

1. Increases Satiety

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A study by American scientists shows that psyllium husk aids greater satiety and reduces hunger pangs (2). Psyllium contains soluble dietary fiber, which forms a gel-like layer after coming in contact with water. This layer helps slow down the transit of food through the stomach, resulting in increased satiety (3).

Psyllium husk helps in curbing your appetite without affecting the energy levels. This aids weight loss.

2. Acts As A Laxative

In a study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion, scientists found that psyllium husk to be the most efficient laxative. It helped treat constipation and reduced abdominal pain and diarrhea better than other laxatives (4).

Psyllium is a home remedy for constipation. The fiber helps draw water from the body and adds bulk to the stool, thereby improving gut movement (5). This helps in building a strong immune system and effectively helps in losing weight. Here are some more high fiber foods for weight loss.

3. Improves Lipid Profile

Researchers from New Zealand conducted a study on 47 15-16-year-old participants. The participants consumed 6 g of psyllium husk for six weeks. Their body composition, insulin sensitivity, lipid profile, and blood pressure were measured. The fiber in the psyllium husk reduced bad (LDL) cholesterol and fat (by 4%) in the participants (6).

4. Reduces Cholesterol

Scientists at the Washington State University experimented with seven participants. They were on 21 g/day psyllium husk supplementation for three weeks. By the end of the third week, the total cholesterol was considerably low (7). Psyllium husk may also be effective in lowering cholesterol in postmenopausal women (8).

5. Improves Glucose Homeostasis

The soluble fiber present in the psyllium husk not only increases satiety but also improves glucose homeostasis. In a study, type 2 diabetes patients were supplemented with psyllium husk for eight weeks, which improved their insulin levels, glucose tolerance, and metabolism (9).

6. Lowers Blood Glucose

Psyllium husk also helps lower blood glucose levels by increasing satiety levels. A study published in the British Medical Journal showed that due to the slowing down of the transit time of the food, the blood glucose levels did not rise suddenly after a meal (10).

7. Helps Treat Metabolic Syndrome

According to scientists Supreeya Swaroop and Roman Zeltser, “Metabolic syndrome is an accumulation of several disorders, which together raise the risk of an individual developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes mellitus, and vascular and neurological complications such as a cerebrovascular accident.” (11)

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology shows that psyllium intake helps lower bad cholesterol, improves triglyceride levels and satiety, reduces blood pressure, and aids weight loss. All of these, together, help treat metabolic syndrome (12).

These are the seven ways in which psyllium husk aids weight loss. But how to take it? Find out in the next section.

How To Consume Psyllium Husk

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You can consume psyllium or isabgol in the following ways:

  • Mix psyllium powder in a glass of warm water. Add a tablespoon of lime juice and drink it.
  • Mix psyllium husk in half a glass of water and drink it immediately. Follow it up with another glass of water.
  • Add psyllium husk to cakes, smoothies, and pancakes.

Now, the main question is, how much psyllium should you consume? Check out the answer in the next section.

How Much Psyllium Husk To Take In A Day?

You may consume the recommended dosage as per the bottle. According to the Harvard Medical School, you need to consume 10-20 grams of psyllium husk per day with 8 ounces of water to lower cholesterol (13).

Another study showed that 20 g per day might be the optimum dosage of psyllium husk to prevent constipation (14).

We suggest that you take your doctor’s opinion on the dosage.

What is the best time to consume psyllium husk or isabgol? It is all explained below.

What Is The Best Time To Consume Psyllium Husk?

The best time to consume psyllium husk or isabgol for weight loss is in the morning before breakfast or at night before going to bed.

Tip: Do not consume it right before or after meals.

Apart from relieving constipation and aiding weight loss, there are other benefits of consuming psyllium husk. Find out what they are in the following section.

Other Benefits Of Psyllium Husk

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  • Helps improve heart health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • Relieves acidity by preventing excess acid formation in the gut.
  • Helps improve digestion.
  • Helps patients with type 2 diabetes by lowering insulin and glucose levels.
  • Helps treat diarrhea.
  • The fiber in the husk helps improve the number and variety of good gut bacteria.
  • Helps treat blood pressure.

However, psyllium husk has a few side effects that you should be aware of. Take a look.

Side Effects

  • Consuming too much of psyllium husk to lose weight quickly can lead to diarrhea, bloating, and inflammation of the stomach lining.
  • It may aggravate IBS/IBD and stomach ulcers.
  • You may find it difficult to swallow.

To avoid such side effects, you must know what precautions to take. Here’s a list.

Precautions

  • Check if you are allergic to psyllium husk.
  • Do not consume it if you are pregnant or have kidney disease.
  • Start with a very low dosage (half a teaspoon with a glass of water).
  • Always consult your doctor before taking any laxative for weight loss.

Conclusion

Psyllium husk or isabgol is a traditional medicine for treating constipation and gut problems. It helps boost metabolism by clearing your colon and improving gut function, which, in turn, helps burn fat. However, without a balanced diet and regular workout routine, you will not see any results.

Taking laxatives regularly for weight loss is not good for your health and should be avoided. You may use them in the initial phase when you are constipated and bloated and need to kick-start your weight loss. Discuss with your doctor before going ahead. Cheers!

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Does psyllium husk make you gain weight?

No, psyllium husk does not make you gain weight. It contains soluble fiber, which bulks stool, improves bowel movement, and increases satiety.

Is it ok to take psyllium husk every day?

No, do not take psyllium husk every day for weight loss. Talk to a licensed physician if you want to take psyllium husk for constipation treatment.

What are the dangers of using psyllium husk for weight loss?

Using or abusing psyllium husk to lose weight may cause diarrhea, nausea, bloating, inflammation of the stomach and GI tract lining, and ulcers.

References

    1. Psyllium (Plantago ovata) Husk: A Wonder Food for Good Health” International Journal of Science and Research.
    2. Satiety effects of psyllium in healthy volunteers.” Appetite, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    3. Evidence-Based Approach to Fiber Supplements and Clinically Meaningful Health Benefits, Part 2” Nutrition Today, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    4. A multi-centre, general practice comparison of ispaghula husk with lactulose and other laxatives in the treatment of simple constipation.” Current Medical Research and Opinion, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    5. Diets for Constipation” Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    6. Psyllium Supplementation in Adolescents Improves Fat Distribution & Lipid Profile: A Randomized, Participant-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial” PLoSOne, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    7. Three-week psyllium-husk supplementation: effect on plasma cholesterol concentrations, fecal steroid excretion, and carbohydrate absorption in men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    8. Serum lipid responses to psyllium fiber: differences between pre- and post-menopausal, hypercholesterolemic women” Nutrition Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    9. Soluble fibers from psyllium improve glycemic response and body weight among diabetes type 2 patients (randomized control trial)” Nutrition Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    10. Dietary fibres, fibre analogues, and glucose tolerance: importance of viscosity.” British Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    11. Metabolic Syndrome” StatPearls, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    12. The right fiber for the right disease: an update on the psyllium seed husk and the metabolic syndrome.” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    13. Ask the doctor: How much psyllium is needed to lower cholesterol?” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, USA.
    14. Optimum dosage of ispaghula husk in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: correlation of symptom relief with whole gut transit time and stool weight.” Gut, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. This prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.
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