Psyllium Husk Health Benefits, Side Effects and Studies

Learn everything you need to know about Psyllium Husk and its benefits, side effects, safety, nutritional value, and if you should consider adding it into your diet.

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Whole body health is something that I like to pay close attention to. When you’re living a healthy lifestyle, I feel as though your body is going to look better and feel better than if you were sedentary and eating junk all day. Not to mention, people who focus on their nutritional intake, detoxing their body and gut health often look much younger and can avoid disease.

Many of my articles have included information on different fiber supplements and remedies for constipation / diarrhea. The products I’ve talked about have often included psyllium as a main ingredient. I was to spend some time talking to you about this powerful component of so many nutritional supplements and remedies. It’s plant-based but so potent and provides so many different benefits.

What Is Psyllium Husk?

Psyllium Husk bowl spoon plant

Psyllium is a form of soluble fiber that comes from the seeds of Plantago ovata plant. This is an herb that typically grows in India, and it’s used as an addition to flours or to help stiffen foods. A lot of products now contain psyllium for fortification as it is low in calories and fat but contains a great deal of nutrients.

Because of its excellent water solubility, psyllium can absorb water and become a thick, sticky substance that will avoid the digestive process in the small intestine. This can lead to better control of cholesterol, balanced blood sugar levels and less unpleasant GI symptoms. People have used psyllium to lose weight, firm up bouts of diarrhea and detox the body from built up waste and toxins. It’s well tolerated by most people.

The Health Benefits of Psyllium Husk

You can take a supplement containing psyllium husk and achieve a number of health benefits. You may have something in mind that you’re trying to address, but let’s take a look at the main health benefits of psyllium husk.

Psyllium Husk with spoon and bowl

May Help Relieve Constipation

It's true that fiber can help you poop, and Psyllium is considered to be a bulk forming laxative that has the potential to increase the size of your stools. It also helps make it easier to pass your stools on a regular basis. When you first consume psyllium, it will bind to some of the partially digested food that is making its way from your stomach into your small intestine. It will also absorb water to increase the moisture content of your stools. While your stools may get larger, they will be softer and more comfortable to expel from the body.

Out of all of the insoluble fiber supplements on the market, psyllium outperforms them in the majority of cases. If you suffer from chronic constipation, taking psyllium one to two times per day can quickly get you back on track. Some supplements containing psyllium can even be used regularly for a number of weeks at a time to promote regularity.

Could Help with Occasional Diarrhea

Psyllium can help relieve constipation, but it also has the unique ability to help with diarrhea as well. Since it absorbs water from the body, it can firm up your stools and increase their thickness to slow down their passage through your colon. You’ve probably had a bout of diarrhea at some point in your lifetime and know that the water content of your bowel movements is very high. It’s helpful to reduce that water whether you’re ill, you ate something that was spoiled, or your diarrhea is the side effect of a medical treatment like radiation for cancer.

Learn more with our top-rated fiber supplements for diarrhea.

May Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic, uncomfortable and unpleasant gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. It can cause frequent symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating and gas. Some people come to understand what their triggers of an IBS flare are, but other people can’t seem to get their condition under control with stress management and a specialized diet.

Psyllium has the potential to relieve some of the symptoms of IBS when it comes around again. Creating a more diverse microbiome that alleviates diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating can make it difficult for your IBS to flare.

Could Help with Weight Loss

Fiber is frequently being used to aid in the process of losing weight. Psyllium controls appetite by slowing down the process of stomach emptying. This means you feel full for longer periods of time because your digestive process isn’t moving quite as quickly as before. Decreased appetite means that you’re not consuming as many calories and you’re able to avoid those pesky cravings that cause you to overeat.

If you’re planning to use psyllium for weight loss purposes, it’s recommended that you take it first thing in the morning when you’re eating breakfast. This will help cut down your calorie consumption for the rest of the day. One of the best products on the market right now is Colon Broom, a psyillium husk supplement that is specifically designed for weight loss. You can read an independent review from Health Insider to learn more about ColonBroom.

Don’t forget, psyllium can help regulate your bowel movements, which also helps with weight loss. Did you know that some people can have as many as 20 pounds of built-up waste in their colon at any given moment? Think of all the weight you could lose if you finally detox your body and relieve some of this constipation.

Learn more about our top fiber supplements for weight loss.

May Help Improve Heart Health

Fiber of any kind is good for the heart, and psyllium husk is no exception. Psyllium can benefit your heart by improving your cholesterol numbers and decreasing your blood pressure naturally. This lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even obesity. Who would have thought a plant-based product like psyllium could accomplish all of these things?

Could Help Lower Cholesterol

High cholesterol is something that a lot of people deal with because of a poor diet, but sometimes high cholesterol is caused by genetics. A fiber supplement that is based off of psyllium allows the body to excrete things like fat and bile acids more effectively. Once you’ve lost those bile acids, your liver will start to utilize cholesterol in the body to produce more. This results in lower bad cholesterol numbers overall, but it can also raise your good cholesterol.

Other Benefits

Psyllium husk is such a beneficial supplement that you can use for so many different purposes. In addition to the benefits, I’ve talked about above, you can also achieve things like reducing the discomfort of hemorrhoids, preventing conditions like diverticulosis, balancing your overall gut health, and boosting your body’s natural immune response so you can protect yourself from things like pathogens and viruses.

Nutritional Value

Psyllium is high in soluble fiber, but it also has other nutritional value. It is very low in calories, fat and sodium. One tablespoon of psyllium husks each morning provides your body with 13 to 20 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake. This can also increase the absorption of nutrients that you’re getting from the foods that you’re eating each day. An improved microbiome and a healthy gut lining will allow more nutrients to pass through. On its own however, psyllium doesn’t contain a great deal of vitamins or minerals.

Psyllium Husk Dosage

pouring water into Psyllium Husk

While you’ll want to ensure that you’re following the instructions on a psyllium husk supplement that you purchase, the most common dose of this product is somewhere between five and ten milligrams each day. You should take your psyllium with a meal early in the day, and make sure that you’re consuming plenty of water over the next few hours.

If you find that your body tolerates the amount of psyllium that you started out with and you’re not quite where you want to be with alleviating your symptoms or balancing your gut, you can choose to increase your dose as long as it is within safe limitations.

Possible Side Effects

Most people tolerate psyllium very well, but there may be an adjustment period where you experience symptoms such as gas or bloating. This should go away on its own but stop use of your psyllium product if you’re experiencing severe bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

When to Not Take It

Psyllium has the potential to delay the absorption of certain medications that you may be taking. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor if you’re concerned with this prospect and want to confirm it’s ok for you to use psyllium before doing so.

It’s also uncommon to be allergic to psyllium, but it can happen. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction such as rash, itching, or trouble breathing, contact emergency medical services immediately and stop using psyllium husk.

Clinical Studies on Psyllium Husk

Psyllium Husk on table

There has been a decent amount of research done on psyllium husk and its potential benefits, providing us with knowledge that this is something we can use to better ourselves. Many studies have shown that the use of psyllium husk on a regular basis can reduce cholesterol levels naturally without the need for prescription medication. It has also been proven that psyllium can help promote bowel regularity in people who deal with frequent bouts of constipation or diarrhea.

How Can I Get Psyllium Husk?

You can purchase psyllium husk in a number of products and supplements. The brand and type of product that you choose will really depend on what you’re looking to achieve with your supplementation. Psyllium and fiber supplements can be found in both capsule form and as powder. Think about how you want to administer your dose each day. A lot of people opt for a powder because they can control their dose better. It can be added into a beverage, your morning smoothie or on top of a bowl of oatmeal or cereal for breakfast.

I have a number of articles that you can refer to if you’re looking for recommendations on some of the different high-quality and top-rated psyllium husk fiber supplements that are out there; many of which contain psyllium husk as an active ingredient.

The Bottom Line

Psyllium husk is such a natural and safe plant-based ingredient, and it’s being used more and more often for its potential health benefits. I myself have used psyllium to relieve digestive issues I was having. The great thing about it is that you can use it intermittently to get the results that you’re looking for, but it can also be used for longer periods of time if you’re trying to get your GI system and microbiome balanced.

I recommend looking online and in local health food stores to see what some of the different available psyllium supplements are that are within your budget. It’s best to look for a product that contains pure / organic psyllium and skips the use of fillers and artificial ingredients. If you’re investing in your health, make sure you’re investing in a good quality product that is safe.

Tips for Success from the RD

Have you recently purchased psyllium husk powder but aren’t sure how you should use it? Here are some of my tips for success.

  • Smoothies are a great way to pack a ton of nutrients into your diet, and you can put a scoop of psyllium in there without even noticing it.
  • You can add psyllium to baked goods and it will retain its structure. Use it in muffins, breads and rolls. It won’t really affect the taste or texture of your items.
  • You don’t have to get overly creative with your psyllium husk. Sprinkle it on top of a bowl of oatmeal. It blends right in.
  • For quick administration, mix it into a glass of water of juice and quickly consume your psyllium husk before moving on with your day.
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Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD

Courtney D'Angelo, MS, RD, earned her masters degree in Nutrition and Foods from the University of Georgia. She's a Registered Dietitian at Morrison Healthcare and has a strong passion in helping people improve their wellness!

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