Fiber plays a very important role in the body and apart from being a regulator, it helps to deliver essential nutrients. You get the fiber your body needs via your diet, from vegetables, fruits and whole grains. If you want to find out more about Psyllium continue reading!
However, if the foods you eat are not able to meet the daily fiber requirements, then you may need to take a fiber supplement.
There are many brands of fiber supplements available on the market and you must ensure that you opt for a completely pure and natural product that does not have negative effects on your health.
Psyllium is an excellent and natural way to ensure that you get your regular dose of fiber.
What Is Psyllium?
Derived from the husks of the Plantago ovata or psyllium seed, psyllium is a soluble fiber. Native to Asia, the psyllium plant is mostly grown in India. Psyllium is a kind of fiber that absorbs water and becomes a thick and viscous compound, which acts as a gentle bulk-forming laxative.
The soluble fiber is not absorbed or broken down completely and passes through the small intestine. Often taken as a supplement to increase fiber intake, psyllium helps in various health issues including constipation, diarrhea, diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and metabolic syndrome.
Benefits Of Psyllium
Psyllium has several health benefits including:
- Relieves Constipation: Since psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative, it increases stool size and helps to alleviate constipation. The psyllium binds itself to the partly digested food that passes from your stomach to the small intestine. It then absorbs water, increasing the moisture and stool size, making it much easier to pass the stools.
- Helps to Treat Diarrhea: The psyllium absorbs water, increasing the thickness of the stool, which slows down its passage in the colon thus reducing the number of bowel movements and relieving diarrhea.
- Lowers Blood Sugar: Psyllium helps to reduce insulin and blood sugar levels by controlling the glycemic response of the body to a meal. This is because the psyllium forms a gel, which slows down the digestion of the food, thus regulating the blood sugar levels.
- Lowers Cholesterol Levels: The psyllium helps the body to eliminate the fat and bile acids by binding to them. The liver makes use of the cholesterol in the body to produce more bile acids, thereby, reducing the cholesterol levels and also increasing the good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
- May Help in Weight Loss: The soluble fiber becomes a viscous gel and may slow down the emptying of the stomach and reduce appetite, which may help in weight loss.
- May Aid Heart Health: According to the AHA (American Heart Association), dietary fiber can help to improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity. And, psyllium being a soluble fiber can help to reduce blood pressure, triglyceride levels and the risk of heart disease.
- Has Prebiotic Effects: According to studies, psyllium has prebiotic properties. A very small portion of the psyllium is fermented by the intestinal bacteria, which produces SCFA (short-chain fatty acids), which have several health benefits.
- Helps in IBS: IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is caused by very less dietary fiber and soluble fiber like psyllium can help to reduce abdominal discomfort or pain, bloating and flatulence compared to insoluble fiber.
Foods With Psyllium
Psyllium is a key ingredient in many kinds of high-fiber cereals and is often combined with oats and wheat. Often, ice cream manufacturers include psyllium as a thickening agent and also a way to boost the fiber content of the ice cream.
Many breads, rice cakes, biscuits, instant noodles, bakery products and health drinks contain psyllium, which is added to bulk up the foods and also increase their fiber content. It is a common practice for people to add psyllium to their baked goods and other recipes to enhance the fiber content.
Daily Recommended Dose Of Psyllium
You must take psyllium according to the recommended amount on the packaging or after consulting with your medical practitioner. Take the recommended amount with sufficient water or any other liquid, i.e., around 8 oz or 240 ml, or it can cause constipation.
Begin by taking a small amount and increase gradually by around 5 gms per day so that your digestive system gets acclimatized to this increased fiber.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the daily fiber intake for adults of ages between 21 to 50 years, is around 38 g for men and for women, it is 25 g. For adults over the age of 50, the fiber intake is around 30 g for men and 21 g for women. Doses of 5 g to 10 g of psyllium, 3 times a day do not cause any problems. However, you may notice some bloating, gas or cramping.
If you’re using psyllium as a laxative, then you must use it only for 1 week. However, if you’re using it as a health supplement, then you can use it for a longer period. The important thing to remember is that you must always take psyllium with water. Also, ensure to drink water all through the day.
How To Take Psyllium
Psyllium is available on the market in several forms, as powder, liquid, granules, capsules and wafers and they are taken orally. Psyllium is often sold as an over-the-counter laxative in medical stores. You can also purchase it online.
Psyllium can be taken along with water, added to your smoothies or baked goods to increase your intake of fiber. Capsules are a convenient way to take psyllium and can be swallowed with water and are usually preferred by people who don’t really like the texture of the psyllium powder.
Side Effects Of Psyllium
Psyllium creates bulk in the intestine and has laxative properties. It can have potential side effects, especially if you end up taking more than the recommended daily dosage. Some of the side effects of psyllium include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pains, loose stools, gas, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain and frequent bowel movements.
Although these are rare, some people may experience adverse allergic reactions to psyllium such as itching, difficulty in breathing, skin rashes, swelling around the throat and face and vomiting.
People suffering from bowel spasms or obstruction, having any obstruction or narrowing in the intestinal tract, difficulty swallowing or suffering from kidney disease should not take psyllium.
Psyllium may reduce the absorption of many medications and so you must consult your doctor before taking psyllium supplements. If you’re taking any medicines, avoid taking psyllium at the same time as your medicines. Take it 2 hours before taking your medications or 2-4 hours after. Psyllium is also not recommended for children.
In conclusion, psyllium is a natural soluble fiber source that is commonly used as a supplement or laxative, it has many health benefits and can help to treat constipation, diarrhea and also reduce blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. Safe to consume as a fiber supplement, you can include psyllium as part of your daily diet for good health.