Health benefits of psyllium husk

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Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Barnes, RDN

Psyllium husk is the outer covering of seeds derived from the plant genus Plantago. A natural, water-soluble fiber, psyllium husk is also called psyllium, psyllium fiber, psyllium gel, or ispaghula.

Psyllium, grown mainly in India, is known to be a natural medicinal plant. Much of psyllium’s healing properties may have to do with the fact that the plant is a gelling fiber, meaning it creates a gel when hydrated. That gel, unlike other viscous fibers that ferment completely in the colon, is not fermented. Instead, the gel remains intact throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

Largely due to this gelling quality, psyllium is thought to have multiple health benefits. Psyllium has even been studied for its ability to handle certain conditions. Here’s what research shows about the potential benefits and uses of psyllium husks.

Lowers LDL cholesterol

There are two main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Often referred to as the bad cholesterol, LDL cholesterol is what contributes to the buildup of fat in the arteries.

High levels of LDL cholesterol, a condition called hypercholesterolemia, can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and coronary artery disease.

Research has shown that psyllium husk can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

Psyllium may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering serum cholesterol levels. The only other fiber with the same support is b-glucan.

Relieves constipation

Constipation typically occurs when stool moves slowly through the digestive tract. When water is drawn from the stool, the stool can become hard and dry.

Constipation can be caused by a number of factors, including dietary changes, decreased physical activity, certain medications, intestinal obstruction, or inadequate water consumption.

In many cases, psyllium husk supplementation can be used to treat constipation. However, if you don’t consume enough fluids while taking psyllium husk, constipation can get worse. When psyllium husk is added to a diet, it has a small but significant effect on the microbiota which results in an increase in stool water. This water makes the stool softer and easier to pass.

Manages diarrhea

Just like constipation, diarrhea can be another mild or chronic problem affecting a person’s daily life. Diarrhea is the frequent or urgent passing of loose or watery stools. There are several potential treatments that can help manage diarrhea, including taking psyllium.

While psyllium’s high water-holding capacity can soften hard stools and relieve constipation, the supplement can also act as a bulking agent that can firm up loose or loose stools.

Research has shown that psyllium can help people with chronic diarrhea, lactulose-induced diarrhea, and Crohn’s disease manage their symptoms.

Improve IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that can involve abdominal discomfort and pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

Studies show that psyllium is safe and effective in improving general symptoms of IBS by normalizing stools and reducing gas. In fact, it can be recommended for patients with all subtypes of IBS: IBS-D (IBS with predominantly diarrhea), IBS-C (IBS with predominantly constipation), and IBS-M (IBS with a mix of diarrhea and constipation).

How to take psyllium husk

Psyllium is taken orally and comes in a variety of forms, including powder, granules, capsules, liquids, and wafers. Powder and granules should be mixed with 8 ounces of a liquid such as water or fruit juice.

You may also get psyllium when you eat certain processed foods.


How often you should consume psyllium husk and in what amount varies based on the reason for use and the severity of your symptoms. For example, if you’re constipated, 1 teaspoon of psyllium twice a day might be the dosage that helps you.

Your doctor should be able to advise you on the correct dosage when treating a given condition. Take psyllium as directed and no more or less than recommended. Do not take psyllium for longer than a week unless told otherwise by your doctor.

Is psyllium husk safe?

Psyllium husk is generally considered safe, but there are some cases where you should take precautions.

People who are allergic to psyllium may experience an allergic reaction when taking psyllium husk. You may also want to talk to a healthcare professional if you are allergic to other medications or supplements just to make sure you don’t experience any reactions when starting psyllium husk.

People who have or have had certain conditions may wish to avoid psyllium husk due to potential complications. Some of these conditions include:

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • Heart disease

  • Hypertension

  • Nephropathy

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Intestinal blockage

  • Difficulty swallowing

Talk to your doctor before taking psyllium husk if you’re on a low-sugar or low-sodium diet. Also, tell them if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or currently breastfeeding.

Potential drug interactions

Because psyllium is high in fiber, the supplement might reduce the absorption and effects of some medications. Within three hours of taking psyllium, try to avoid taking these medications:

  • Lanoxin (digoxin), used to treat certain heart conditions.

  • Aspirin

  • Nitrofurantoin (sold under brand names such as Macrodantin, Furadantin, and Macrobid, used to treat urinary tract infections

Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking psyllium husk if you are taking any prescription or prescription medications and vitamins. They can advise you on any potential interactions.

Where found

Ovate plantain, the plant that supplies psyllium husk, is mainly grown in India. The United States is the major importer of its seeds and hulls, which are widely used as supplements and ingredients in processed foods.

The United States Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements. When buying supplements of any kind, make sure the product has been third-party tested.

Psyllium is the main ingredient in several fiber supplements, including Metamucil.

Psyllium husk is also added to some processed foods. These foods can include:

Can You Take Too Much Psyllium Husk?

It is possible to take too much psyllium husk. Be sure to follow the products directions for dosage, and talk to your doctor if you have any questions.

Side effects of psyllium husk

Psyllium can cause some side effects. Talk to a healthcare professional if you experience any of the following problems:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Stomach ache

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Rash

  • Itching

  • Nausea

  • Vomit

A quick review

Psyllium husk is a bulk-forming water-soluble fiber derived from the seeds of the Plantago plant. Research has shown psyllium husk to be an effective dietary supplement that can help manage a number of conditions, including high cholesterol, constipation, diarrhea and IBS.

You can find psyllium husk in brand-name fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, as well as some processed foods.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before adding psyllium to your diet, and always follow suggested dosages to ensure safety and effectiveness.

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Read the original article in Salute.

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