- Psyllium is obtained from the seed husk of Plantago ovata.
- It is popularly used as a bulk-forming laxative as it forms bulky, soft stools that can easily pass through the digestive tract.
- Psyllium is consumed with water and forms a viscous gel-like matrix when it comes in contact with water. This gel-matrix helps in softening the stools.
- It is available in four basic forms – granules, powder, husk and seeds and the husk is best for relieving constipation.
- Psyllium is found in many regularly consumed breakfast items.
- Consuming psyllium has many health benefits.
- Consuming 5-10 grams once a day, with water, is considered safe yet effective
- Psyllium is usually well-tolerated and is safe for consumption.
What is Psyllium?
Psyllium is a fibre that is obtained from the Plantago ovata seed husks. It is used as a mild, bulk-forming laxative. Since it contains soluble dietary fibre, it passes through the digestive system as it is without being broken down or absorbed. It is soluble in water and on adding to water, it forms a viscous compound.
Quick fact: Psyllium is a commonly used laxative in India.
How it works?
Psyllium, as we now know, is filled with fibre. There are two types of fibres found– soluble and insoluble. Psyllium, in the early stages after ingestion, partially binds to the digested food that is passing from the stomach into the small intestine.
In the process, it then helps with the absorption of water and itself forms a thick, viscous mass with water. This gel-like mass that psyllium forms with water helps increase the bulk as well as moisture in the stools. Towards the end of the digestive tract, the end product is bulkier, bigger and easily passable stools.
Since this soluble fibre is not broken down or absorbed into the system, it also helps to maintain cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels.
Quick fact: Psyllium forms a thick, viscous, gel-like compound that softens the stools and increases the bulk of it.
Psyllium is available in different forms:
- Psyllium is commonly found in India and is available as husk, granules, capsules, and as a powder.
- Apart from this, it is also found in fortified cereals and other baked foods.
Among these forms of psyllium, the husk is what helps most with relieving constipation.
Quick fact: Psyllium is available in three forms.
While psyllium is obtained from the husk of the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant, it is easily found in foods that we consume. Common sources of psyllium are:
- Oat meal
- Oat bran
- Different types of breads
- Cereal bars
- Rice or grain cakes
- Some ice creams
Quick fact: Psyllium is found in many regularly consumed foods, especially breakfast items.
Uses and Benefits
Psyllium, as we have seen so far, provides many health benefits. These are:
- Relieves constipation- Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative that helps relieve constipation and regularises bowel movements.
- Relieves diarrhoea- Since psyllium increases the bulk and size of the stools, it helps to clear out any diarrhoea-causing infections and can help treat diarrhoea.
- Controls blood sugar levels- Psyllium has the potential to delay food digestion and is itself not absorbed. So, it helps to control and reduce blood sugar levels.
- Helps in weight maintenance- Psyllium slows down the emptying of the stomach, which in turn reduces appetite. Reduced appetite and decreased caloric intake helps in losing weight.
- Helps control cholesterol levels- Psyllium helps eliminate or remove bile acids from the body and this has shown to reduce LDL and increase HDL cholesterol.
- Good for the heart- Psyllium intake reduces blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These effects are good for your heart and protect it from any diseases.
- Prebiotic in nature- Psyllium is believed to have prebiotic properties and is useful for those suffering from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis etc.
The exact dosage of psyllium that is recommended varies depending upon the type of product consumed and the reason for consuming it. Generally, taking the product 1- 3 times a day with a glass of water.
Consuming 5-10 grams of psyllium with meals once a day is safe and causes no serious side-effects
Some studies have shown that consuming 5 grams of psyllium two times a day can help in blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
The AIWO Recommendation of psyllium 5-10 grams once a day, with meals, is safe to consume.
Safety And Side Effects
Psyllium is usually well-tolerated and is safe for most people. Psyllium is believed to delay absorption of some medications. So, it is advised to not take psyllium with other medications.
Some common reactions to psyllium include rashes, itching or breathing trouble. However, these are not serious or common effects.
People who are sensitive to fibre, however, need to take care while consuming psyllium.