10 Reasons You Want To Try Psyllium Fiber

With gut health being all the rage these days, you've likely come across psyllium fiber on the internet or at your supermarket. If you've wondered whether it's worth all the hype, you're not alone. As it turns out, psyllium deserves some of the hype it's been getting, and it's good for more than just gut health.

Various studies have been conducted to investigate the various benefits of psyllium fiber, which include lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as helping patients who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, to name just a few, and the results look promising.

Psyllium fiber comes from the husks of the Plantago ovata, a plant native to Asia. It's also commonly referred to as ispaghula. It can, however, be found in most parts of the world, especially India. It also grows in the southwestern parts of the United States, per Verywell Health.

Psyllium fiber is gaining popularity as a natural laxative sold by various brands, one of the most well-known brands being Metamucil. Psyllium provides people with an alternative to stimulant laxatives and tends to cause fewer side effects as well. While it's great for overall gut health and digestion, it can help your body fight other chronic conditions. Let's have a look at 10 reasons you want to use psyllium fiber.

Psyllium fiber can help you maintain a healthy immune system

Did you know that 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut? According to David Heber, M.D, Ph.D. professor emeritus of medicine at UCLA Health, having a diverse range of gut bacteria is key to ensuring good health, and it all starts with what you eat.

You might be curious about the part psyllium fiber plays in this, and it's fairly simple. Jonathan Jacobs, MD, Ph.D., says that a diet rich in fiber is the key to supporting our gut microbiome, giving our immune system a boost, and preventing inflammation. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that thanks to psyllium fiber acting as a prebiotic, it can successfully help the body fight off infection and inflammation. As a bonus, it also aids your body in growing healthy tissue and cells.

Jacobs explains that the fiber we get from plant foods (which includes fruits, vegetables, and, yes, psyllium) is not digested by our bodies but instead serves as food to our gut bacteria, which, in turn, helps to keep the good gut bugs alive and increase their diversity. This helps our immune system to remain strong in the face of infection and inflammation. The typical Western diet doesn't consist of many fiber-rich foods, so if you're struggling to meet your daily fiber intake, you're not alone. Luckily, psyllium fiber can be a great supplement to keep your gut and immune system happy.

Psyllium fiber can help reduce your risk of heart disease

According to the CDC, heart disease kills around 659,000 Americans per year. Every 36 seconds, one American dies due to a cardiovascular-related condition. That's incredibly scary. Luckily, you don't have to become a statistic. Simple lifestyle changes can make a world of a difference, and adding psyllium fiber to your diet could help ward off heart disease, according to Healthline.

Certified holistic health coach Cathy Holligan told Byrdie that incorporating more soluble fibers (of which psyllium is one) into your diet can help lower triglycerides. These fatty compounds are found in your bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic. If your triglycerides levels are too high, you have a bigger chance of developing heart disease. A study published in the Korean Journal of Internal Medicine found that psyllium fiber can help lower blood pressure as well, which makes it an effective treatment for hypertension.

Psyllium fiber can help lower your cholesterol levels

If your last checkup showed that your cholesterol levels need some serious attention, psyllium fiber is about to become your new favorite natural supplement.

According to Verywell Health, psyllium's efficacy at improving cholesterol levels has been proven to such an extent that the Food and Drug Administration allows brands to include its cholesterol-lowering properties on their packaging.

The reason psyllium is effective at helping to lower cholesterol is that it's a soluble fiber. These fibers prevent bile acids from being absorbed by your intestines, which means it leaves your body in the form of stool. Your liver proceeds to use the existing cholesterol reserves to make up for the bile acids lost, resulting in lower cholesterol levels.

Consistency is key when using psyllium to lower cholesterol levels. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that taking psyllium fiber every day for six weeks has a significant impact on cholesterol levels in overweight and obese people, lowering their cholesterol levels without producing any severe side effects.

A study published in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (via Verywell Health) found that combining psyllium fiber with typical cholesterol medication like bile acid sequestrants and statin drugs amplifies the drugs' efficacy, leading to higher decreases in cholesterol levels. To top it off, psyllium also helps to manage the side effects of these medications. It's a win-win all around.

Psyllium fiber can help you lose or maintain weight

Weight loss fads are everywhere these days, but psyllium fiber actually has some studies backing up the claims that it can help people shed some pounds.

According to Healthline, psyllium's superpower lies in its ability to absorb the fluids in your body. This leads to fewer hunger pangs and feeling satisfied for longer, which means you're less likely to reach for snacks between meals.

A study published in Appetite found that taking psyllium in the morning before you dive into a yummy breakfast can greatly reduce feelings of hunger during the day (via ScienceDirect). The participants in the study took 10.2 grams of psyllium in the mornings. Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition discovered that, whether taking psyllium fiber on its own or alongside a diet rich in fiber, the weight loss effects remain practically the same. Participants lost weight, their body fat percentage was reduced, and they had a lower BMI at the end of the trial. However, eating a diet rich in fiber is always better than solely relying on a supplement like psyllium.

Even though the abovementioned studies are promising, a recent study review concluded that more research needs to be done on the subject to truly determine the weight loss benefits of psyllium fiber.

You can control your blood sugar levels with the help of psyllium fiber

While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highly recommends that people get their fiber from whole foods, psyllium fiber can play a significant role in helping diabetic patients manage their blood sugar levels.

A study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine that looked at psyllium's effect on type two diabetes found that it can help regulate the body's glycemic response after eating a meal, which leads to a reduction in blood sugar levels. According to Medical News Today, psyllium's ability to lower blood sugar is largely thanks to its gel-forming fibers. These fibers work to slow down the pace at which your body digests food, which helps prevent spikes in blood sugar. Other foods rich in fiber, like bran, don't have the same effect.

A study conducted by the University at Buffalo discovered that fibers like psyllium have the ability to give the body's insulin production a healthy boost, even when patients had a meal that was high in fat and carbohydrates. It also found that taking fibers like psyllium can decrease inflammation, another great perk for people who suffer from diabetes.

Meghan McLarney, R.D., C.D.E., told Livestrong that some diabetic patients could experience uncomfortable side effects like constipation if they suffer from diabetes-related issues like gastroparesis. If you suffer from this condition, McLarney suggests you take psyllium under the supervision of your doctor or dietician.

Psyllium fiber is an excellent treatment for constipation

Whether you suffer from chronic constipation or just have some issues with it from time to time, psyllium fiber can really be a great help to get your gut back on track.

Thanks to psyllium's ability to absorb water, it transforms into a viscous compound that can kick constipation to the curb in no time, per Medical News Today. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, psyllium is classified as a bulk-forming laxative. This is because psyllium has the ability to bind its fibers to the food particles entering your small intestine. Thanks to its moisture-absorbing properties, it helps to prevent hard stools, while at the same time increasing their bulk, which makes going to the bathroom a breeze.

Another benefit of using psyllium as a laxative is that it's completely natural and can be more effective at relieving chronic constipation than other popular stool softeners on the market, per Livestrong. However, it is advised that you don't take psyllium fiber for longer than a week when you suffer from constipation without consulting your doctor first, Medline Plus warns. This is because prolonged constipation probably has an underlying cause that needs to be examined by your doctor. It's also important to note that, even though psyllium is a natural laxative, it can still interact with some medications, so it's always best to check with your doctor first, Livestrong advises.

Psyllium fiber can help calm diarrhea

While it might seem counterintuitive that psyllium fiber can help both constipation and diarrhea, it really does work wonders for both conditions.

There's nothing worse than constantly having to run to the bathroom, and if you find yourself in that situation again, psyllium fiber can help ease your symptoms. A study published in Nutrition Today found that, despite soluble fibers like psyllium having the ability to ease constipation by softening stools, its ability to absorb water helps the digestive tract to calm down, slowing down bowel movement frequency, which is exactly what you need when suffering from a bout of diarrhea. The study also advises that people don't solely rely on fiber supplements like psyllium, but instead try to include more fiber-rich foods in their diet.

As for dosage, Livestrong advises you that take about half a teaspoon of psyllium in an eight-ounce glass of water. You can adjust the dosage as needed and can take it up to three times a day. If you suffer from diarrhea consistently and find that you continually need to take psyllium to keep the runs at bay, it's time to pay a visit to your doctor so they can rule out any other issues.

Psyllium fiber acts as a prebiotic, aiding in digestion and overall gut health

With gut health gaining more popularity across the globe, you've probably heard about prebiotics and how good they are for keeping your tummy happy. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences concluded that psyllium has prebiotic properties, which means it can help your gut stay healthy by feeding your gut bugs (probiotics).

As a bonus, psyllium can also assist the body in producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), according to a study published in Pharmacology and Therapeutics. SCFAs are very beneficial to your overall health. A study published in Alimentar Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that SCFAs are great at regulating the health of the colon and metabolic processes. It can also help the body fight inflammation.

Another great benefit of psyllium is that, unlike some fiber supplements, it doesn't cause any bloating or gas, thanks to the fact that it doesn't ferment as fast as other fibers, so you can take it knowing that you'll reap all the benefits without any of the usual pesky side effects (via Medical News Today).

Psyllium fiber can be helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other gut conditions

Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe an array of gut-related conditions that are characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, according to Mayo Clinic. These conditions include ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Living with these conditions can prove challenging, but psyllium fiber might help to manage it. A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that psyllium can reduce some of the symptoms Chron's patients experience. The study's participants took psyllium for four months, and 45% of them experienced a significant improvement in digestive symptoms associated with the disease.

People who suffer from similar conditions, like IBS, can also benefit from using psyllium fiber. According to Verywell Health, a diet lacking in fiber is believed to be one of the main causes of IBS. Soluble fibers, like psyllium, tend to work best to help IBS patients manage symptoms without any uncomfortable side effects like stomach pain, gas, and bloating. A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that soluble fibers like psyllium are an effective treatment for IBS. If you suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder like IBS or IBD, speak to your doctor about how you can safely incorporate psyllium fiber into your diet. They'll also help you figure out the correct dosage for your condition.

Psyllium fiber can reduce your risk of colon cancer

We all want to live healthier and eat foods that can help us ward off diseases like cancer. Psyllium fiber has various benefits, and possibly preventing colon cancer is one of them.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that fiber in general has the potential to protect the colon from carcinogenic compounds introduced to the body via the consumption of processed foods. Another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that psyllium fiber intake can reduce the risk of death due to colon cancer. Both studies noted that more research needs to be conducted to confirm these findings, but it is definitely pretty promising.

Another study published in the National Library of Medicine discovered that using laxatives like psyllium can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Using non-fiber or stimulant laxatives, however, has the opposite effect, increasing the risk of colon cancer. The lead author of the study, Jessica S. Citronberg, told Fred Hutch that the study's findings don't necessarily mean stimulant laxatives are completely off-limits. "I think the better route to go would just be to have a healthy diet," she said. "Because there are so many subtypes of laxatives, more research is needed to determine which kinds may be associated with higher cancer risk."

Watch out for these side-effects when taking psyllium fiber

While psyllium fiber is a natural supplement that can do a lot of good, it can still cause unpleasant side effects if you don't follow instructions on the packaging or take higher doses than recommended.

When you're new to using psyllium, Healthline recommends you start with a low dose to avoid side effects. If you overdo it, you might experience uncomfortable symptoms like stomach pain, cramps, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

If you experience any itching, skin rashes, nausea, swelling around your throat and face, or have difficulty breathing, you're likely having an allergic reaction to psyllium and need to contact your health care provider immediately.

If you take psyllium fiber in powder form, it's very important that you mix it with enough water. You should never try to swallow it dry since this can cause choking. Everyday Health suggests you mix psyllium powder with 8 ounces of water or fruit juice and drink it immediately.