Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It sometimes goes by the name ispaghula.
Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative. This means it soaks up water in your gut and makes bowel movements" much easier. It also helps promote regularity without increasing flatulence. It can be used as a one-off to ease constipation, or it can be added to your diet to help promote regularity and overall digestive health.
People with irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease are all too familiar with the banes of the bathroom. The results of studies on psyllium’s effectiveness in treating these conditions are still mixed.
Psyllium is a prebiotic — a substance needed for healthy colonies of probiotics to grow in the gut. A healthy colony of good bacteria in the digestive system is essential for healthy immune function. Your body is better able to fight infection, reduce inflammation, and maintain healthy tissue and cells.
Some research has shown that consuming 7.9 grams of psyllium per day (plus or minus 3.6 grams) with probiotics is a safe and effective way to treat Crohn’s disease. However, other results show soluble fiber like psyllium can make symptoms worse for some people.
Besides keeping your bowel movements regular and managing a chronic condition, psyllium has the ability to soften your stool. This can come in handy with short-term ailments, such as constipation. Used in this way, it can prevent complications of constipation, such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
Preliminary research shows that psyllium may help with the painful symptoms associated with these conditions. Since there is no real scientific consensus, talk to your doctor to see if psyllium could help you.
Research has shown that taking soluble fiber can help people manage their cholesterol levels. Proper cholesterol regulation is important for everyone, but vital for people over the age of 50. One study shows that at least six weeks of daily psyllium intake is an effective way for people who are obese or overweight to lower their cholesterol with very few side effects.
If you’ve been told that you need to watch your cholesterol, ask your doctor if adding psyllium to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet will help you.
High cholesterol is merely one way a bad diet can affect your heart. Numerous studies have shown that fiber like psyllium, taken as part of a healthy diet, can help lower a person’s risk of heart disease. Psyllium can affect your heart by lowering blood pressure, improving lipid levels, and strengthening heart muscle.
Maintaining a healthy weight is a concern for many people, especially those with a chronic condition like diabetes. Besides being good for your heart and blood sugar levels, psyllium may help you lose weight.
Because psyllium absorbs liquid in your body, it can help give you a feeling of being full. This can help you control the amount of food you eat. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking psyllium if they’ve suggested that you lose weight.
People with diabetes are constantly watching their diet to maintain a healthy balance of insulin and blood sugar (glucose). Some research has suggested that fibers like psyllium can help people maintain a healthy glycemic balance.
One study found that taking 5 grams of psyllium twice a day can help patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. Another study of people with type 2 diabetes found similar results, but stressed that psyllium therapy should be tailored to the individual.
Where to find it
Psyllium is most commonly consumed in powder or wafer form. It’s also available in capsules, granules, and as a liquid. It’s the main ingredient in many over-the-counter laxatives, including:
- Maalox Daily Fiber Therapy
Follow the directions on the packaging when taking any of these medications. Remember that a key component of how psyllium works in your lower intestine is its ability to soak up liquid, so make sure to drink plenty of water daily.