What is Psyllium?
Psyllium (also known as Ispaghula) is the name that is often used to describe a plant called Plantago. The outer shell of the seeds from this plant (called the husk) is often ground to extract a clear, glue-like substance called mucilage. It is this mucilage that contains a high-level of soluble fiber and other beneficial components which are often used to treat a variety of ailments.
What are the Benefits of Psyllium?
Studies have found that Psyllium is beneficial in the treatment of a variety of health conditions. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved advertisers and food packagers from stating that Psyllium is an effective ingredient to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Many people have also found Psyllium to be effective when treating:
- Bleeding hemorrhoids
- Colon cancer
- Crohn's Disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Poison ivy rash
- Stings and insect bites
Uses of Psyllium
Psyllium is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter constipation products, since it is a high source of fiber and it acts as a bulk-forming laxative.
In other words, it helps increase the volume of fecal matter, which stimulates a reflex contraction of the bowel walls that helps the stool pass smoothly.
For mild constipation, a recommendation is to take 1 teaspoon of psyllium in a glass of juice, warm water, or milk three times a day. For moderate to severe constipation, use 2 teaspoons (instead of one). It is recommended to drink the mixture immediately before it thickens up and becomes harder to swallow. It is also very important to drink an additional 8 ounce glass of water immediately afterwards, as well as another 6 to 8 glasses of water throughout the remainder of the day.
Studies suggest that the various constituents of psyllium (such as soluble fibers, linoleic acid, and alkaloids) can help lower blood sugar levels. Therefore, a simple remedy to treat Diabetes is to take 1 tablespoon of Psyllium mixed into a glass of water or apple juice twice per day. It is also important to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Psyllium's properties help to soak up a significant amount of excess water in the digestive tract and make stool firmer. Therefore, it is an effective natural remedy for diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease. Simply take 1-2 tbsp (5-10 grams) of Psyllium husk 2-3 times daily until bowel movements are normal.
Since Psyllium is known to help soften stool, it is an effective way to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids. Take 1 teaspoon of psyllium husk mixed in a warm glass of water or milk twice daily. It is recommended to drink 6-8 glasses of fluids throughout the day when using this Psyllium husk remedy.
Psyllium is well studied as a lipid-lowering agent. The high levels of soluble fiber and linoleic acid in Psyllium stimulate the production of cholesterol-lowering bile acids and reduce the amount of cholesterol absorption by the body. Therefore, a simple remedy for high cholesterol is to take 1 teaspoon of Psyllium husk 3 times a day. It is recommended to drink lots of fluids when using this remedy.
Many dietitians believe that incorporating psyllium and other sources of fiber into the diet can help people lose weight faster. This is possible since psyllium can cause a feeling of fullness, which can reduce our sensation of hunger. Therefore, adding 1 teaspoon of psyllium to a glass of water or apple juice before each meal may be an effective way to increase weight loss. Be sure to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day when using this remedy, and combine it with a regular daily exercise routine.
What are the Side Effects of Psyllium?
It is recommended to talk to your doctor before taking psyllium if you are currently taking medications for diabetes or cholesterol.
Do not take psyllium if you have swallowing problems, intestinal obstructions, or have recently undergone bowel surgery.
Psyllium doesn't have any known side effects if consumed moderately with plenty of water. However, some people may be allergic to psyllium, so if you notice any rash, hives, itchiness or swollen skin, stop the use of Psyllium husk and consult your physician.
If you are taking any other medication, it is recommended to take Psyllium at least one hour after the medication. This is important since the thick mucilage formed by psyllium may engulf the medication, which significantly reduces the medication's effectiveness.
Where and How to Buy Psyllium
Psyllium husk can be purchased at natural health food and bulk food stores. If you are buying packaged psyllium make sure to choose a product that does not have added sugar, maltodextrin, or any other types of artificial sweeteners.