Psyllium husk is a naturally occurring, plant-derived source of fibre. It’s probably most well-known for its potential to improve digestive health and constipation by acting as a natural laxative.
But are there any other health benefits to gain from using psyllium husk? In this article, we will explore the story behind this seed, as well as its potential perks and any side effects.
What is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium is a type of fibre that is made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It is also sometimes referred to by the name ispaghula. The plant is native to Asia and although most predominantly grown in India, it can still be found in other locations around the world.
It is a natural source of soluble fibre, similar to fibre found in grains such as oats and barley, however psyllium husk is naturally gluten free. This makes it perfect for anyone with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance who is looking to increase their fibre intake. If you want to know why fibre is such a vital part of your diet, then have a read of Why is Fibre Important?
What is Psyllium Husk Used For?
Some people may require a fibre supplement such as psyllium to help with a range of health issues. Fibre slows digestion, allowing the body to absorb nutrients from your food as it passes through the stomach and intestines.
However, psyllium husk is most commonly used as a bulk forming laxative. In fact, it’s generally the main ingredient in many over-the-counter laxatives. As psyllium travels through digestive tract, it absorbs water in the intestines, expands, and helps create the formation of a gel-like stool that's softer and easy to pass.
Psyllium can either be used as a one-off to alleviate constipation, or it can be added to your diet to help boost regularity, as well as overall digestive health.
How to Add Psyllium Husk to Your Diet
The suggested intake of psyllium husks to treat constipation is 1 teaspoon (approximately 5 grams) up to three times per day. It is also recommended to stay well hydrated and active whilst using psyllium husk to help aid in the stool softening process.
You may be wondering; how do I take it? Well, another great fact about psyllium, is how easy it can be added to your diet. It is most commonly consumed in husk or powder form, which can simply be mixed into any drink, due to its mild taste. You can also find it available in capsules, granules, and even as a liquid concentrate.
Psyllium husk powder can also be great in baking, and it's often used for gluten free recipes. You can also use it as a natural thickening agent - Why not try adding it to soups, stews, and smoothies!
More Psyllium Husk Benefits
Along with aiding constipation, psyllium husk is also great for your digestive health in general. Psyllium is a prebiotic, which is a substance necessary for healthy probiotics to flourish in the gut. A healthy community of good bacteria in the digestive system is imperative for good immune function. It means your body is better capable to combat infection, reduce inflammation, and preserve healthy cells and tissue.
Taking soluble fibre, such as psyllium husk, can help people manage their cholesterol levels, which in turn can help lower the risk of developing heart disease. Psyllium can aid in keeping your heart healthy by decreasing blood pressure, improving lipid levels, and strengthening heart muscles. There is also some research to suggest that soluble fibre like psyllium, may benefit people with type 2 diabetes by regulating their blood sugar levels.
It can also benefit anyone looking to lose or maintain their weight. Soluble fibre may help you feel fuller after eating by stimulating satiety. This can help prevent you from overeating, which allows you to better control your weight. Supplementing with psyllium husk can also assist in making you feel less hungry between meals.
As with most things in life, too much of a good thing can still be bad for you. Since psyllium creates intestinal bulk and has laxative effects, it may cause adverse side effects such as cramps, stomach pain, gas, loose stools, and diarrhoea. If you’re new to psyllium, or take more than the recommended amount, you may be more prone to these side effects, so make sure to stick to the RDA.
Although rare, If you do experience any allergy related symptoms after taking psyllium husk, please stop using the product and contact your doctor immediately.