Everyone knows how important fiber is for the body, as it benefits everything from digestive health, to weight management, to blood sugar and cholesterol maintenance. That said, there are many ways to get fiber in your diet, but one of the best sources is an edible, soluble fiber called psyllium husk.
You may have seen psyllium husk marketed as a natural laxative in health food stores, and that’s because this bulking fiber promotes healthy elimination by detoxing the colon quickly and effectively.
I also love it because it’s a known prebiotic, which means that it helps to feed to good bacteria (probiotics) in the gut. But that’s not all it can do. Here are five additional ways psyllium husk benefits the body:
Boosts Heart Health
Psyllium husk consumption has been shown to help with triglyceride and blood pressure levels, which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease.
Research published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Hypertension found that over a six-month trial for overweight patients with hypertension, supplementation with psyllium husk “appears to significantly reduce both [systolic blood pressure] and [diastolic blood pressure] in hypertensive overweight subjects.” (1)
Further research shows psyllium improved blood sugar and reduced the risk of heart disease in type II diabetics. (2)
Helps Manage Weight
According to research published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, psyllium husk is an anti-obesity medicinal plant. This is partially due to the way it encourages elimination and promotes satiety. (3)
Can Aid in Blood Sugar Management
In general, fiber can help normalize blood sugar, which is good news for diabetics. It’s been shown to help maintain normal blood sugar in diabetics by decreasing serum glucose (the amount of sugar currently in the blood) and glycosylated hemoglobin (reflecting the average blood glucose level over the past three months), as studies in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology and European Journal of Clinical Nutrition show. (5, 6)
Promotes Proper Digestion
Again, as a source of fiber, psyllium husk helps keep you regular—which surprisingly means that it can relieve both constipation and diarrhea.
The University of North Carolina recommends psyllium to improve symptoms of constipation, while research published in Ailment Pharmacology & Therapeutics found it’s more effective than docusate sodium, a common laxative, in relieving irregularity. (7, 8)
And regarding diarrhea, psyllium husk has been shown to relieve moderate cases because it soaks up a significant amount of water in the digestive tract to make the stool firmer. (9)
There is a host of research that shows psyllium husk can help lower cholesterol, which is tremendous news for the heart. Time and time again, the fiber has been shown to reduce LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol significantly, as several studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association have shown. (10, 11, 12)
Psyllium Husks Uses and Dosage
Now that you know how beneficial psyllium husk can be for overall health, it’s time to talk about how to get more of it into your diet.
You can buy whole psyllium husk or find it in powder or capsule form. If opting for the supplement form, make sure it’s 100 percent pure psyllium husk, as you don’t want any artificial additives or gluten.
It’s best to take one serving of psyllium husk per day to start and gradually increase to a maximum of three servings per day, so that your body has time to adapt. The most common way to take this herb is to mix it with a liquid of your choosing—water, juice, milk, etc.—based on the following recommended dosages:
- Adults and children over 12: 1 tablespoon mixed in 8 ounces of liquid, 1-3 times daily
- Children 6-12: 1 teaspoon, 1-3 times daily
- Adults and children over 12: 1 teaspoon mixed in liquid 1-3 times daily
- Children 6–12: half a teaspoon, 1–3 times daily
- Capsules typically contain 500–625 milligrams of psyllium per capsule; take as directions instruct
You can also take psyllium husk with pureed foods like applesauce, and the dosage should be similar to the dosages listed above. Additionally, psyllium husk can be used as a vegan egg substitute in baking recipes. This is because it form a gel-like consistency similar to eggs when mixed with water. In recipes that call for eggs, simply replace each egg with 1 teaspoon of psyllium stirred into a quarter cup of water, and be sure to give the mixture time to set before combining with the other ingredients. (13)
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored ‘Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and Five Surprising Steps to Cure It’ and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at http://www.DrAxe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DRJoshAxe.