What if one natural ingredient could help ease some of your stomach issues? Psyllium husk might just be what you’re looking for.
Psyllium, also called psyllium husk, psyllium fiber or ispaghula, comes from the seeds of the plantago ovata plant, which grows mainly in India. 1 Psyllium is prized for its natural laxative properties, and it’s been long used as traditional medicine in India.
How Does Psyllium Help Your Stomach?
Psyllium is an excellent source of fiber. Fiber moves through your digestive tract, helping other food to be expelled as waste.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. The difference is that soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber does not. Both types of fiber are needed for a healthy diet, and fiber-containing foods usually include both. 3 Psyllium husk is very high in soluble fiber. When it is dissolved in water, it turns into a gel, which helps move solid waste out of your body in an efficient manner. 4
Here are some of the ways psyllium can help with your tummy troubles.
Constipation is characterized by hard, dry stools and less than three bowel movements per week. One of the main reasons people take psyllium fiber is to stop constipation. The high fiber content in psyllium makes it helpful in cleaning out the digestive system. A review published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine noted that psyllium is very effective in treating chronic constipation because of its ability to add bulk to stool. 6
Since diarrhea is nearly the opposite of constipation, you may be surprised to find that psyllium fiber can help with both. A small study conducted at Baylor University Medical Center tested several types of fiber supplements and their effects on patients with diarrhea. 7 Scientists found that psyllium was the only fiber tested that made stool firmer and improved fecal consistency. Researchers hypothesize that psyllium helps diarrhea by stabilizing the ratio of fecal matter to water, making stool a more normal consistency.
Soothe symptoms associated with IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition of the large intestine with symptoms including abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. 8 An estimated 10 to 15 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from IBS. Taking psyllium husk can help eliminate the annoying symptoms that may be caused by IBS. 9 A 2009 Dutch study found that psyllium fiber improved IBS symptoms better than bran. 10 The American College of Gastroenterology recommends treating IBS with psyllium fiber. 11
Ease Stomach Acid Problems
Gastroesophageal reflux – also called acid reflux and acid indigestion – occurs when stomach acid moves into the esophagus. 12 The main symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. Patients who have chronic, frequent acid reflux may be diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). An estimated 20 percent of adults in the U.S. have GERD. 13
A 2015 study from Iran examined the effect of psyllium seeds on GERD patients. 14 In addition to heartburn, GERD can also cause constipation. Researchers found that taking psyllium seeds helped study participants have fewer incidents of constipation and fewer symptoms associated with GERD in general.
Additional Benefits of Psyllium
In addition to the benefits psyllium can have on your stomach, it could also help your overall health. Research has shown that soluble fiber, such as psyllium, helps to support healthy LDL cholesterol levels in study participants.
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of psyllium fiber on diabetes patients. 15 Researchers found that taking psyllium helped lower blood sugar for men with type 2 diabetes. Psyllium may even make at-risk people less likely to develop diabetes in the first place. 16
How to Take Psyllium
Follow package instructions, and make sure to take psyllium with a full glass of water. If you take prescriptions or other supplements, take psyllium one hour before or two to four hours after taking other medicines. 17
When taking any fiber supplement, be sure to drink enough water to prevent dehydration. If you have a medical condition, including kidney disease, or if you are taking prescription medication, ask your doctor before taking psyllium. If you experience side effects while taking psyllium, such as stomach pains, difficulty breathing, rashes, itching, or nausea, stop taking psyllium and contact your doctor. 18
Many people who experience stomach discomfort due to constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or acid reflux would benefit by taking this natural supplement. Considering it helps with so many issues, it might be just the thing you need to conquer your tummy troubles!
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