Scientifically Proven Benefits of Psyllium (Husk, Powder, and Capsules)

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Scientifically Proven Benefits of Psyllium (Husk, Powder, and Capsules)
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Psyllium is a type of fiber that is made of the husks (outer coating) of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. Psyllium husk is beneficial in treating constipation and helping your digestive system work efficiently. Psyllium and psyllium husk can help to bulk up stool to make it easier to pass. Psyllium powder and capsules help to lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, and even help lose weight.

The benefit of psyllium supplements to ease constipation is that they are a natural source of dietary fiber. Because psyllium is a soluble fiber, it doesn’t get absorbed during digestion.

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Psyllium husk is gluten free because it comes from a seed, not a grain. So, if you have gluten intolerance, you can use psyllium to increase your daily fiber intake.

In this article, I will look at the scientific research on the benefits of consuming psyllium in its different forms (husk, supplements, capsules and powder). You will also learn about any side effects or precautions when using psyllium as a health supplement.

What is Psyllium?

Psyllium is the common name for the husk (outer coating) of the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. However, the International Journal of Science and Research says that the term “psyllium” can also refer to seed or the whole plant (and not just the husk). Researchers have found that psyllium husk powder has 8 times more soluble fiber than oat bran. (1)

Around 35% of the world’s supply of psyllium fiber comes from India’s westernmost state, Gujarat. Psyllium is also referred to as ispaghula, Indian Plantago, or Isabgol. (1)

The advantage of taking psyllium as a health supplement is that it contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.

According to an expert on nutrition, Dr. Kathleen M. Zelman, soluble fiber absorbs water during digestion and turns it into a gooey gel-like substance. This helps to slow down your digestion and make stools easier to pass. (2)

Insoluble fiber is also necessary for a healthy diet because it adds bulk to stool and improves the time food passes through your digestive system.

What is Psyllium Husk?

Sometimes, you will see fiber supplements sold as just psyllium powder or referred to as psyllium husk.

Basically, psyllium and psyllium husk are one and the same thing. Psyllium husk is the outer part of the seed from the Ispaghula plant. Psyllium husk contains nearly 85% carbohydrates which pass through your digestive system without being absorbed. (1)

Available Forms of Psyllium Supplements

You can buy psyllium supplements in many forms depending on how you want to take them.

Many stores sell psyllium husk capsules that are easy to take. These types of fiber supplements are an excellent way to help lose weight, improve your digestion, or treat constipation.

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You can also buy psyllium powder which you should mix with water before drinking. Or, some people add some powdered psyllium when cooking to improve the fiber content of homemade bread and other baked items.

Metamucil is a popular psyllium powder supplement. One study from 2016 found that Metamucil helped to increase satiety. Participants took 6.8 g Metamucil (psyllium) before their breakfast and lunch. The result was that they felt less hungry during the day and because of that, consumed fewer calories. (3)

Psyllium Benefits

Let’s look in more detail at the many health benefits of talking psyllium husk.

Psyllium Relieves Constipation

The most common reason you may want to take psyllium is to relieve the symptoms of constipation.

One study into the effects of psyllium on constipation found that increasing dietary fiber with psyllium husk helped to relieve constipation. Researchers found that stool weight and water content increased when supplementing the diet with psyllium. Also, the frequency of passing stool each day also increased. Psyllium supplementation resulted in nearly 90% of people reporting that their stool was no longer hard and difficult to pass. (4)

Other studies have shown that psyllium husk is effective in treating chronic constipation. When compared to docusate sodium (a common treatment used to soften stool), psyllium was more effective at softening stools naturally. The research concluded that “Psyllium is superior to docusate sodium for softening stools by increasing stool water content, and has greater overall laxative efficacy in subjects with chronic idiopathic constipation.” (5)

Gel made from psyllium seed husk has a positive effect on constipation. Researchers found that psyllium seed husk gel has laxative effects and makes stool easier to pass. The gel-like formula also lubricated the colon and made stool moister. (6)

For more helpful advice please read my article on how to get rid of constipation.

Psyllium can Help Get Rid of Enlarged Hemorrhoids

You can also take psyllium husk to reduce the size of hemorrhoids.

Gastroenterologists say that hemorrhoids are often the result of prolonged straining. This can cause bleeding and rectal pain if hemorrhoids develop. Research has shown that taking 5-6 teaspoons of psyllium powder in 600 mL water helped to relieve hemorrhoids. (7)

Check out some great ways to get rid of hemorrhoids.

Psyllium can Stop Diarrhea

Psyllium husk supplements benefit your digestive system because they can also help remedy mild diarrhea.

In one small trial, taking a tablespoon of psyllium powder with a large amount of water helped to relieve chronic diarrhea in children. In over 80% of cases, symptoms of mild diarrhea were treated with psyllium supplementation. (8)

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Psyllium powder can also help relieve the symptoms of fecal incontinence. This is where diarrhea-like liquid passes out the rectum unexpectedly and often occurs with chronic constipation. (9)

There are other ways to get rid of diarrhea naturally and stop explosive diarrhea.

Psyllium Husk can Help Lower Blood Sugar Levels

One of the benefits of fiber supplements like psyllium is that they help to control blood sugar levels.

In one single-blind crossover trial, 12 adults were given 4g Plantago psyllium fiber along with their meals in the morning and at lunchtime. People who took the fiber supplements didn’t experience blood sugar spikes after their meal. The researchers concluded that psyllium can help to reduce the glycemic response of a meal in healthy adults. (10)

Similar results were seen in a controlled trial that included 40 people with type 2 diabetes. The results of the trial were that moderate supplementation with psyllium at meal times helps to improve glucose metabolism. (11)

Psyllium Husk Supplements Benefit Diabetics

There are also other ways you could benefit from psyllium husk powder supplements if you have diabetes.

As well as helping to stabilize blood sugar levels, psyllium can also help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood. However, the greatest effect in diabetic patients was a decrease in glucose absorption. (12)

Increasing your dietary fiber using psyllium supplementation can also help improve symptoms of metabolic syndrome if you have type 2 diabetes. (13)

Check out my other article about foods that can reduce symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Psyllium Powder May Help Reduce Cholesterol Levels

You can help to reduce the high cholesterol by taking psyllium powder.

Researchers studied the effect that psyllium has on reducing cholesterol levels. Adults with high cholesterol took 5 g psyllium 2 times a day along with their meals. After 24 weeks, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the type of “bad cholesterol) were significantly reduced. (14)

The researchers concluded that regularly taking psyllium supplements for high cholesterol may even reduce the need for medication.

As well as increasing your fiber intake, find out what other ways can help you lower cholesterol naturally.

Psyllium Benefits your Heart Health

Increasing dietary fiber through supplements like psyllium husk also has cardiovascular benefits and keeps your heart healthy.

A review of 31 articles on the effects of fiber on your heart and the coronary system found that fiber (like in psyllium) can reduce heart disease. The result of research between 1980 and 2017 on fiber found that people with the highest fiber intake had the least chance of suffering from coronary heart disease. (15)

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Psyllium helps reduce mortality from heart disease and stroke by reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and reducing inflammation. (15)

To greatly reduce your risk of a heart attack, find out simple ways to help prevent heart disease.

Psyllium Husk can Help Lower Blood Pressure

Ground psyllium husk can help to lower blood pressure.

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials published in 2018 found that soluble fiber like psyllium can lower blood pressure. The result of over 40 studies showed that viscous fiber lowers both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. From all the types of fiber analyzed, psyllium showed the best results. (16)

One study showed that switching to a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as taking psyllium fiber can help reduce blood pressure. This greatly reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease in obese individuals. (17)

Check out other ways to reduce your blood pressure naturally.

Psyllium Capsules can Assist in Managing Digestive Disorders

Psyllium husk benefits your digestive system in general. If you suffer from a chronic digestive condition, then regularly taking psyllium husk can help to improve gastrointestinal upset.

Let’s look at 4 chronic conditions of the gastrointestinal tract that psyllium fiber powder can improve.

Irritable bowel syndrome. A review of treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found that psyllium husk supplements were the most effective fiber supplement. Studies have also shown that taking probiotics and following the low FODMAP diet can also reduce discomfort caused by IBS. (18)

A 2017 study involving 275 persons with IBS showed that psyllium is more effective than bran in improving IBS symptoms. (19)

Inflammatory bowel disease. The ability of psyllium seed husk powder to reduce inflammation means it can help if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One study showed that psyllium husk or seed improved the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Psyllium supplementation reduced abdominal discomfort, bloating, and loose stools. (20)

Diverticulitis. Nutritionists recommend taking psyllium supplements that bulk up stool to manage the symptoms diverticulitis. Fiber helps stool to pass through the digestive tract and prevent infection in small sacs in the colon (diverticula). It is recommended to take 20 grams a day of psyllium to prevent flare-ups of diverticulitis. (21)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Chronic constipation can often result in chronic reflux, or GERD. One trial involving 132 people who had constipation and symptoms of GERD proved the effectiveness of psyllium on GERD. Taking psyllium seed husk supplements proved to be more effective than omeprazole in getting rid of constipation and improving GERD recurrences. (22)

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If you suffer from regular digestive upset, learn about 8 of the best ways to beat problems with your digestion.

Psyllium can Help you Lose Weight

Supplementing your diet with psyllium husk can help you lose weight. Dietary fiber has the effect of keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

A triple-blind trial found that taking psyllium powder of 20 g in 200 ml water 3 hours before and after a meal helped to reduce fat intake. When compared to the placebo group and the group only drinking water before a meal, the psyllium group felt fuller 1 hour after their meal. (23)

Interestingly, a study from 2011 on the effects of psyllium on weight loss found that just adding 50 g fiber a day was enough to lose weight in 12 weeks. However, better results in losing weight were seen in the group that combined psyllium supplements with healthy eating. (24)

Do you want to know other ways of losing weight? Please read my article on simple tweaks to get slimmer quicker.

Psyllium May Treat Stomach Ulcers

Isabgol supplements in the form of psyllium husk powder can also help treat gastric ulcers.

A study published in 2015 found that the gel-like substance that psyllium forms in the gut can help protect the gastrointestinal lining. Within 14 days, scientists noticed an improvement in the symptoms of stomach ulcers. (25)

Psyllium May Help Prevent Certain Cancers

Clinical trials have shown that psyllium may help prevent certain cancers.

In one study using rats, psyllium husk supplementation greatly reduced instances of colorectal cancer. The scientists theorized that an increase in fecal output and higher content of water in stool was significant in reducing the risk of colonic tumors. (26)

In another study using rats, scientists noticed that supplementing the diet with psyllium powder also helped protect against breast cancer. The researchers think that dietary fiber affects certain enzymes that are connected with breast cancer. (27)

Although the results are promising, more research has to be done to link the connection between psyllium fiber supplements and preventing cancer.

How to Use Psyllium (Including Psyllium Dosage)

To get the benefits from psyllium in your diet, you can drink mixed psyllium husk powder in water. You can also use psyllium capsules.

The recommended dosage is 2.5-7.5 g psyllium in 8 oz of water 2 or 3 times a day. The maximum recommended dosage is 30 g psyllium daily. (28)

Some manufacturers recommend 1 teaspoon or one tablespoon psyllium husk in 8 oz of water.

Children between the ages of 6 and 12 should take between 1.25 g and 15 g per day depending on their symptoms of constipation. (28)

Is Psyllium Safe? Side Effects of Psyllium Supplements

Because psyllium husk fiber is a completely natural product, there are few reported side effects. Usually, the most common side effects of taking fiber supplements are connected with digestive upset.

Doctors on WebMD say that psyllium can cause excess gas or stomach cramping. It is also important to always drink plenty of water with psyllium supplements. (29)

Does Psyllium Contain Gluten?

No, psyllium doesn’t contain any gluten. Gluten is found in many grains; however, psyllium is the husk of the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant and is gluten-free.

In fact, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association recommend using psyllium powder when making gluten-free bread. Psyllium husk helps to give it a texture and consistency of bread that contains gluten. (30)

Where to Buy Psyllium Supplements

You can buy psyllium husk powder supplements in most major supermarkets and health stores. You can also find psyllium powder, psyllium husk capsules, and psyllium gel in online stores.

Psyllium Substitutes

All nutritionists and dieticians agree that soluble and non-soluble fiber are important elements in a healthy, well-balanced diet. Some researchers estimate that in the U.S. the average person only gets about half the recommended daily amount of fiber.

The University of California San Francisco reports that we should get about 25 to 30 grams of fiber in our diet daily. However, many people only get around 15 g. (31)

Taking psyllium supplements may not be for everyone. In fact, dieticians say that we should be getting our daily fiber requirements from our diet.

What can you do to increase your fiber intake without resorting to a supplement?

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that fiber from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and pulses is the best way. As well as helping to meet your daily fiber requirements, you also get plenty of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from a well-balanced diet. (32)

If you do decide to take psyllium supplements like Metamucil to help improve your digestive health, doctors recommend starting with smaller amount and slowly building it up.

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