Psyllium

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW

Summary

Psyllium is the most popular natural dietary fiber used today, and while it’s best known for helping keep the gastrointestinal tract clean (e.g., to relieve constipation), it has been shown to help with weight loss, detoxification, and general complaints of the digestive system to promote overall health and potentially aid in the prevention of disease.

Other names for Psyllium

plantago seed, plantago ovata, plantago ispaghula, psyllii semen, fiber

Where to find Psyllium

This plant is native to Iran and India, and the seeds are most often used medicinally. The seed husks can also be used to relieve constipation but are considered by some to be too harsh for regular use.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Psyllium

Athletes attempting to “detox” the body may be interested in psyllium fiber for optimal health of the digestive tract, which may enhance energy, nutrient absorption, and also promote healthy functioning, ridding stored toxins and potentially eliminating gas and bloating.

It may also be beneficial for weight loss. Some experts suggest if the average person simply added extra fiber, as found in psyllium, to their diets, the potential for healthy weight loss would significantly increase.

Ways that Psyllium can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Create a feeling of fullness, which could potentially reduce overeating
Ways that Psyllium can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Reduce excessive blood sugar and help promote glucose tolerance
Ways that Psyllium can enhance Longevity:
  • Detoxify the body by flushing toxins from the digestive system
  • Help remove cholesterol and triglycerides to lower blood levels of these unhealthy fats

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Psyllium deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Psyllium

Research indicates that Psyllium may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Herpes
  • High blood sugar
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (but may also irritate)
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes (but may cause complications with glucose levels)
  • Heart failure
  • Obesity
  • Diarrhea

DISCUSSION

More about Psyllium

One of the most commonly used dietary fibers, psyllium is best known for its potential to help relieve constipation. But research has also shown this plant fiber may be beneficial for fighting a host of uncomfortable situations — from diarrhea to hemorrhoids to irritable bowel syndrome.

How it works

Psyllium is rich in fiber and something called mucilage. Basically, when psyllium is combined with water, it expands by 8 to 14 times its normal weight and forms a gelatinous glob that helps keep the contents of the digestive system hydrated. What that means is what comes out is softer and easier to move through the intestines. It also seems to stimulate the reflex needed for the bowels to empty.

More of a digestive system “regulator,” psyllium fiber may also help alleviate non-infectious diarrhea by helping solidify stools.

Why this matters

You may wonder why you would want to hydrate the digestive system. Well, aside from helping your digestive track keep flowing and avoiding the discomfort of being, shall we say, “stopped up,” psyllium also appears to clean out the digestive system and pick up unwanted cholesterol and toxins that may hamper our bodies’ functioning.

What’s more, because psyllium “swells” in the tummy, it helps us feel fuller, potentially helping reduce our chances of overeating, which, of course, may support weight loss in the long run.

What the research reveals

This fiber has been shown in numerous studies to not only successfully reduce constipation but to also lower triglyceride levels and total cholesterol levels while leaving the healthy HDL levels unaffected.

Interestingly, psyllium has also been shown to be beneficial for people with diabetes because it may improve glucose tolerance. As yet, the research is still preliminary, but with the increased consumption of refined sugars in our society, improved glucose tolerance may become more and more important.

Psyllium has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of hemorrhoids, including pain and bleeding, and improve some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

In conclusion

While supplements containing psyllium are typically called “laxatives” and are associated only with constipation, the whole truth reveals much more. Many people lack optimal levels of fibers, eat too many refined sugars, and live with dangerously high levels of blood fats. By regulating the bodies’ digestive system, this formidable fiber may help support both fat loss and overall health.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Most research suggests 5 to 10 grams (1 teaspoon) of the psyllium husks or 10 to 20 grams (2 teaspoons) of powdered seeds, taken 2 to 3 times daily, preferably before meals.

Important Note

When consuming powdered psyllium, it should be stirred in a large glass of water and drank immediately after mixing.

Timing

Psyllium works best when plenty of water is consumed during and after supplementation — some experts suggest drinking two to three glasses of water with psyllium. When taken for relieving constipation or other digestive-track ailments, two to three times a day without food appears to be enough. If you’re trying to lower cholesterol levels, research suggests it should be taken two to three times daily, again without food.

Synergists of Psyllium

Psyllium and aloe vera may work well together for relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Safety of Psyllium

If more than three doses are taken a day, you may experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Toxicity of Psyllium

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Anderson, J.W., et al., “Effects of Psyllium on Glucose and Serum Lipid Response in Men with Type 2 Diabetes and Hypercholesterolemia,” Am J Clin Nutr 70.4 (1999) : 466-73.
  • Chan, J.K.C. and Wypyszyk, V., “A Forgotten Natural Dietary Fiber: Psyllium Mucilloid,” Cereal Foods World 33.11 (1988) : 919-22.
  • Davidson, M.H., et al., “A Psyllium-Enriched Cereal for the Treatment of Hypercholesterolemia in Children: A Controlled, Double-Blind, Crossover Study,” Am J Clin Nutr 63.1 (1996) : 96-102.
  • Wolever, T.M., et al., “Effect of Method of Administration of Psyllium on Glycemic Response and Carbohydrate Digestibility,” J Am Coll Nutr 10.4 (1991) : 364-71.