Psyllium husk has a funny name, but a great purpose in your diet. Learn all about its health benefits, different ways to use it, and how it’s used for weight management.
What is Psyllium?
Psyllium is a soluble fiber derived from an herb primarily grown in India. First introduced for medicinal purposes, the actual term “psyllium” refers to the crust, seed and whole plant (1). It’s most commonly known for aiding constipation, as it’s the active ingredient in the fiber supplement/stool softener Metamucil. It works by increasing stool size as a bulk forming laxative. The husk also absorbs water and soaks up water in the gut. Therefore, stools get softer and pass more easily. People use it in many forms including: husk, granules, capsules or powder.
Funny enough, the same thing used for constipation actually helps diarrhea. By increasing stool size and slowing down transport through the digestive tract, studies show psyllium assists with runny and loose stools.
When used as a powder with water, psyllium becomes gel-like and absorbs the water.
- Blood Sugar Regulation. In addition to aiding digestion, regularity and elimination, psyllium helps with blood sugar control. Its fibers produce a thick gel-like substance that slow down or delay the digestion of food. Doing so helps regulate blood sugar levels. Try about 10 grams with meals to significantly affect blood sugar levels. Best results occur when taken with food (2).
- Weight Management/Satiety. The same bulking effect that aids digestion also helps with satiety. In a small study, intake fo 10.8 grams of psyllium delayed gastric emptying, increased satiety and reduced hunger compared to placebo (3). When appetite decreases due to feelings of fullness or delayed stomach emptying, fewer calories are taken in. Therefore, weight loss may occur as a result.
- Reduced Cholesterol. Psyllium binds to fat and bile acids, allowing excretion from the body. In order to replace lost bile acids, the liver relies on cholesterol to produce more, resulting in a reduction in blood cholesterol levels (4). Consuming 5.1 grams twice a day for eight weeks reduced total and LDL cholesterol, while increasing HDL levels in 49 patients with type 2 diabetes (5).
- Aids Digestive Disorders. If you follow the 131 Method, you know we love our pre- and probiotics! Gut health power!! Psyllium is considered a prebiotic fiber. “Prebiotics are a type of fiber that the human body cannot digest. They serve as food for probiotics, which are tiny living microorganisms, including bacteria and yeast. Both prebiotics and probiotics may support helpful bacteria and other organisms in the gut” (6). It helps minimize digestive discomfort in some patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease because it ferments more slowly than other fibers, without the common gas and digestive discomfort.
How to get it into your Diet
It depends on what you’re using it for, but this super-fiber can be ingested a number of ways. For laxative purposes, look for over the counter remedies like Fiberall, Metamucil or Maalox. Whether you take a capsule or stir a flavored powder into water, be sure to pay attention to the grams and amounts that work best for you.
Many people enjoy using psyllium husk powder in baking, especially those who follow a low carbohydrate diet. Lots of low carb keto-type breads lack the elasticity found in regular breads and baked good. Psyllium aids with achieving an airier and pliable consistency. In fact, it’s the main ingredient in one of our “favorite things.” Pamela’s brand makes a product for baking called “Not Xanthan Not Guar Gum.” For people sensitive to certain gums, her little mix is a gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory baking aid. Using it results in dough much easier to roll, shape and bake. Plus, it’s tastier and more like the real thing.
Check out these recipes using it:
Let us know in the comments below if you use psyllium husk!