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Gut Health
The Effect of Psyllium Husk on Health: 4 Surprising Benefits
Gut Health

The Effect of Psyllium Husk on Health: 4 Surprising Benefits

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Fact checked by Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Last update: December 28, 2022
7 min

Health Reporter explores the trending fiber rumored to have a vast range of benefits on the body, psyllium husk.

Psyllium husk

We want to find out just how effective it can be when looking at aiding existing health conditions and diving into the possible safety aspects by exploring the potential side effects.

What is Psyllium Husk?

Psyllium is a fiber manufactured from the husks of the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. It’s also referred to as ispaghula.

It’s best recognized for being a laxative. Psyllium, on the other hand, has been shown to be suitable for many sections of the human body, including the heart and pancreas, according to studies.

It absorbs water in your intestines, making bowel motions more straightforward and promoting regularity without causing gas. It can be used as a one-time remedy for constipation or as part of a daily diet to improve regularity and digestive health.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease patients are no strangers to stool irregularity. The evidence for psyllium’s usefulness in treating certain illnesses is currently inconclusive.

Psyllium is prebiotic, a chemical that helps good bacterial colonies thrive in the stomach.

It may take 1 to 3 days to start working. To receive the best benefit from this drug, take it daily. Take it at the same time(s) every day to help you remember. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, do not take this drug for longer than seven days.

What Are the Benefits of Psyllium Husk?

Psyllium husk is most commonly used as a laxative, but research suggests that this plant has numerous additional health benefits, including digestive and cardiovascular health. Here are a few examples:

#1 Psyllium Husk and constipation

Psyllium has been said to improve gut health and constipation for those who struggle with those mentioned above. Below, we look at various studies highlighting psyllium’s benefits for those with constipation.

Psyllium is a laxative that forms a bulk. It works by enlarging the feces and relieving constipation.

It begins by attaching to partially digested food as it passes through the stomach and into the small intestine.

It then aids in the absorption of water, resulting in larger and more moist stools. The ultimate result is stools that are larger and simpler to pass.

According to one study, psyllium, a soluble fiber, had a bigger impact on feces’ moisture, total weight, and texture than wheat bran and insoluble fiber.

Another study found that giving 170 people with chronic constipation 5.1 g of psyllium twice a day for two weeks increased the water content and weight of their feces and the total number of bowel movements.

Psyllium Husk Findings

Psyllium supplements increase regularity for those reasons.

Psyllium has also been shown in studies to help with diarrhea. This is accomplished by functioning as a water-absorbent. It can thicken stools and take them longer to move through the colon.

In a previous study, psyllium husk significantly reduced diarrhea in 30 cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Psyllium Husk Findings

In a previous trial, researchers gave 3.5 g of psyllium three times daily to eight persons who experienced lactulose-induced diarrhea. This raised their stomach emptying time from 69 to 87 minutes, as well as the colon’s slowing, resulting in fewer bowel motions.

#2 Psyllium husk and ulcerative colitis (UC) & IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

Sufferers of IBS are often advised to take natural fiber solutions to aid this, and psyllium husk is no different. Numerous studies have been conducted exploring the effects psyllium can have on IBS and UC, and below, we look at the possible advantages and disadvantages.

In some people with irritable bowel syndrome, psyllium, a soluble fiber found in Metamucil and other products, helped reduce abdominal pain and discomfort (IBS).

Participants in one study were assigned to one of three groups at random. One group was given two 10-gram psyllium dosages daily, usually blended with yogurt. A third group received a non-fiber placebo (rice flour) to combine with their yogurt, while a second group received similar quantities of bran.

During the first two months of the trial, patients who were given psyllium were likelier to say they had been relieved of IBS. Patients with constipation-predominant IBS were slightly more likely than those with diarrhea-predominant or mixed-type IBS to report alleviation.

Psyllium Husk Findings

Psyllium users were also more likely to report a considerable improvement in the severity of their symptoms.

Symptom severity in the psyllium group was reduced by 90 points after three months of treatment, compared to 49 points in the placebo group and 58 in the bran group.

Psyllium Husk Findings

In Chron disease and ulcerative colitis, psyllium husk has been demonstrated to enhance stool bulk and reduce diarrhea. Psyllium has both; therefore, it works well for both IBD symptoms. Soluble fibers are known for their effects on the stomach and small intestine, while insoluble fibers are known for their benefits in the large intestine.

#3 Psyllium husk and cholesterol

Psyllium is rumored to help with various medical conditions, mainly focused on gut health. But several studies suggest it can positively affect other areas, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Psyllium husk aids in the reduction of LDL cholesterol and two other heart disease-related lipid indicators.

The results of 28 studies in patients with normal and high cholesterol levels were combined in this study. When consumed for at least three weeks, a daily intake of around 10 grams of psyllium husk reduced dangerous LDL cholesterol by 13 mg/dL. 

Psyllium Husk Findings

It also resulted in a decrease in non-HDL cholesterol (which includes LDL and other dangerous lipoprotein particles) and ApoB levels (a substance found in many lipid particles, considered by some experts to be an even better predictor of heart disease than LDL or non-HDL).

Another study found that after 24-26 weeks, the psyllium group had 4.7 percent lower total and 6.7 percent lower LDL-cholesterol concentrations than the placebo group (P 0.001). Other outcome measures showed no significant differences between groups.

They concluded that treatment with 5.1g psyllium twice daily results in significant net decreases in blood total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations in men and women with primary hypercholesterolemia. 

Psyllium therapy is a valuable supplement to diet therapy and, in some instances, a viable alternative to pharmacological therapy.

#4 Psyllium husk and weight management

All of the above suggest that psyllium husk helps with weight management. From reducing hunger pangs, to drastically improving your gut health, all of this must have some sort of positive effect on weight loss.

According to a study, psyllium husk promotes fullness and lowers hunger sensations. 

Psyllium contains soluble dietary fiber, which produces a gel-like coating when exposed to water. This layer aids in the slowing of food transit through the stomach, resulting in greater fullness.

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In a study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion, scientists also discovered that psyllium husk is the most effective laxative. It was more effective than other laxatives at treating constipation and reducing stomach pain and diarrhea. 

Psyllium husk is low in calories; experts estimate that one tablespoon of psyllium husk will only provide 16 calories while still filling your stomach. 

Psyllium Husk Findings

Side Effects of Psyllium Husk

As with most health-related products or supplements, the risk is usually centered around the correct dosage or usage. It is always wise to consult your doctor before experimenting with psyllium husk.

Most people have no significant adverse effects if they take psyllium as prescribed by a doctor or on the packaging. As it begins to function in the stomach and intestines, you may experience discomfort in the abdominal area when you first start using it. An allergic reaction, such as a rash, swelling, or dizziness, is a more uncommon occurrence.

Stop using it and get medical care if you suffer any of the more severe symptoms listed above or if you have difficulties breathing. You should also stop taking it if it causes nausea or chest discomfort. 

When taking fiber supplements, you may experience various adverse effects, including gas and bloating.

Being physically active might help to lower the risk of constipation. It’s also critical to stay hydrated while taking psyllium. Constipation or cramping, which fiber is supposed to ease, may worsen if you don’t drink enough water. With the supplement, drink at least one 8-ounce glass of water and at least six to eight glasses throughout the day.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the benefits of taking psyllium husk appear to outweigh the negatives. It has been shown to have overwhelmingly good results on issues like IBS, cholesterol levels, and even weight loss.

Several studies included above have demonstrated just how good it can be when used correctly, but do always air on the side of caution.

There are rumored side effects, of course, but with proper consultation from your doctor to outline whether or not it is safe to use, it should be okay.

Sources: WebMD 1, IJSR, NCBI, PubMed 1, PubMed 2, NCBI 2, PubMed 3, PubMed 4, WebMD 2, NCBI 3, NCBI 4, Harvard Health, PubMed 5, PubMed 6, NCBI 5, PubMed 7, Mount Sinai, MedLine Plus

Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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