Psyllium fiber comes from the small reddish brown to black seeds of the Plantago psyllium plant. Plantago grows as a weed in many places around the world and is commercially cultivated in Spain, France, India, Pakistan and other countries.
Various species of the plant are used in herbal medicine, most commonly the seeds of P. psyllium and P. ovata. Psyllium seeds are commonly dried and ground and sold in the form of powders, capsules or chewable tablets.
Psyllium is an inexpensive source of soluble fiber (the kind of fiber that blends with water). It’s particularly suitable for people who don’t eat enough fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains (oats are particularly rich in soluble fiber), beans, fruits and vegetables. It is also potent remedy for various digestive ailments because it acts as an “intestinal broom,” sweeping out toxins as it winds its way through the digestive tract.
How does Psyllium works? When mixed with water, the fibrous husks of psyllium seeds form a gel-like mass that absorbs excess water from the intestines; and creates larger, softer stools. In the case of constipation, the added water and bulk help to soften stools, making them easier to pass.
Psyllium Fiber Health Benefits:
- Psyllium fiber lowers blood cholesterol safely and effectively. Combining a psyllium-enriched cereal with a whole-oat cereal may be an even more effective strategy for lowering cholesterol levels.
- Psyllium helps to prevent gallstones.
- Psyllium can help to normalize bowel function in a wide variety of disorders, including constipation, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. Even though it doesn’t cure hemorrhoids, passing softer stools reduces irritation in the sensitive area.
- Psyllium’s is an effective treatment for diarrhea because of its ability to absorb large amounts of excess water from loose stools.
- Psyllium fiber facilitates weight loss. By absorbing water, it fills the stomach, providing a sense of fullness. It also delays the emptying of food from the stomach, thus extending the time you feel full.
- Psyllium can help to stabilize levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood, which may control food cravings.
Dosage: The usual dosage is 1-3 Tbsp (or up to 10g) two or three times a day. Some formulas are more concentrated, so check the label. Don’t exceed 30g a day.
How to Use Psyllium Fiber:
- Relief of constipation usually occurs in 12-24 hours, though it can take as long as three days.
- Since psyllium absorbs water it is therefore important to take it with large amounts of liquid. Dissolve psyllium powder in water (or juice), drink it, and then drink another glass of water or juice. In addition, drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
- Take psyllium two hours or more after taking medications or other supplements so that it doesn’t delay their absorption.
- If you’re pregnant, check with your doctor before using psyllium.
Psyllium Fiber Side Effects:
- Psyllium can cause temporary bloating and increased flatulence because it supplies fiber. Avoid these problems by slowly increasing psyllium intake over several days.
- Amounts of psyllium larger than the recommended doses may reduce the absorption of certain minerals.
- Allergic reactions are rare, but can be life threatening. If you develop difficulty in swallowing or breathing seek medical help straight away.
Caution: Always take psyllium with plenty of liquid. Without lots of fluid, it is possible to develop intestinal blockage, causing severe, painful constipation.