Dietary fibers are a very important part of our daily diet, and the appropriate daily consumption promotes good digestion and bowel movement. A soluble fiber, psyllium aids digestion and helps lower cholesterol levels in the body. Psyllium was first discovered as an ingredient in Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and its health benefits gained public attention through Metamucil TV commercials.
Mucilage cleans colons
Psyllium produces mucilage, a thick, gluey substance produced by some microorganisms and plants. Mucilage is often used as a colon cleanser, as it has the ability to absorb excess intestinal fluids, which softens stools and encourages regular bowel movement. As a natural laxative, Mucilage can prevent constipation and diarrhea. It is also a dietary fiber because it can help the stool to form better, which helps reduce symptoms of diarrhea.
Originally from India and Iran
Psyllium is a member of the plant genus called Plantago. Native to India and Iran, psyllium is a bushy herb that grows in sandy and salty soil. Each bush can produce up to 15,000 tiny gel-coated seeds which are covered by a husk and are tasteless and odorless. The outer husk is processed to produce mucilage, although some producers also include the seeds in the process.
Psyllium can often be found in high-fiber foods, such as cereals and herbal supplements. The US alone imports 8,000 tons of psyllium annually. The figure could rise as people become increasingly aware of the importance of fiber.
- Psyllium helps relieve diarrhea and constipation – As a bowel regulator, mucilage can both soften hardened stools or compact loose ones. The husk can prevent diarrhea, by providing the dietary fiber that helps with stool formation.
- Psyllium helps lower cholesterol levels in the body – Taking psyllium daily can help lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol level while at the same time increase your HDL or “good” cholesterol. High-fiber foods, such as psyllium, lower bad cholesterol by absorbing it and secreting it out of the body.
- Psyllium is beneficial for people with diabetes –Studies show that psyllium can lower the blood sugar levels of people with diabetes — both type one and type two. The extra fiber from psyllium lowers blood sugar levels, according to several studies. However, psyllium does not decrease blood sugar levels in people without diabetes.
- Psyllium helps with weight loss – Constipation and other digestive irregularities can cause health problems, such as weight gain. By taking psyllium regularly, you can cleanse the body of waste such as excess fat, and help the weight-loss process.
- Psyllium helps treat high blood pressure – According to a 2001 study in the journal of “Hypertension,” consumption of psyllium can lower blood pressure better than a low-protein, low fiber diet. Another study found that, when combined with soy protein, it lowered systolic blood pressure levels.
Psyllium helps to promote good digestion and general health; it acts as a natural laxative and dietary fiber which helps with irregular bowel movement.
- Constipation and diarrhea – Drink a spoonful of psyllium husk in a glass of water to relieve constipation or diarrhea.
- Hemorrhoids – Irregular bowel movement (as in the case of constipation) can irritate hemorrhoids, resulting in pain. Drink one full glass of water with a teaspoon of psyllium husk to help encourage regular bowel movements and prevent your hemorrhoids from being irritated. You could also mix psyllium husk in with a salad or add it to a drink of juice.
- Losing weight – Psyllium is a soluble fiber that can generally help with weigh loss. Replacing junk food with psyllium, for example, is healthier and will help reduce daily calorific intake, effectively helping you lose weight.
- Blood in stool – The presence of blood in your stool could mean that hard stool has caused a wound in your intestines. Including psyllium in your diet can help to soften the stool and prevent such wounds. Drink water mixed with psyllium daily to regulate your bowel movement.
Possible Side Effects
- Gas – Psyllium can cause the intestines to produce gas. While this is not a serious side effect from a medical perspective, it can be embarrassing. If you are experiencing excessive flatulence, simply reduce your intake of psyllium.
- Bloatedness – Psyllium expands when added to water. If psyllium is taken without sufficient water, it will expand in your stomach or intestines, causing discomfort.
- Choking – As noted, when added to water, psyllium expands. As such, if psyllium was not properly mixed with water before consuming, it may expand during ingestion, blocking the windpipe and causing choking.
- Weight loss – Patients who take psyllium can often feel that they are full. While this may seem beneficial for weight loss, in extreme cases this can cause unhealthy, rapid weight loss or even malnutrition.
- Allergic effects –People who are allergic to psyllium may develop rashes, headaches, dizziness and other symptoms. If you suffer discomfort after consuming psyllium, stop consumption immediately and consult your doctor.
A safe and effective supplement, psyllium helps promote good digestion. It can help with weight loss, lowering “bad” cholesterol, high blood pressure and lessening hemorrhoids. Talk to your doctor if you are taking any prescription medications before consuming psyllium, as it can have some drug interactions.