In case you need a little help in the fiber department, here we’ll show you how to use psyllium husk and become a poop champion.. We’ll detail here what is psyllium, how to use psyllium and why it’s so dang good for your body!
Remember a few months ago when I wrote about how to make green juice based on the info I sent my parents? Well, it’s the same story here. I was encouraging my parents to get more fiber in their diet, to create better, more frequent poops which help reduce cholesterol (for Dad) and reduce the risk of breast cancer (for Mom). So I sent them some psyllium, wrote them a long email, and then realized it’s a great blog post too. So here we are!
What is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium is the seed of a shrub-like herb, and these little seeds are loaded with soluble fiber which can help improve and increase our bowel movements.
The soluble fiber in psyllium binds with liquid and helps bulk up the stool in order to move it out of the intestines faster and easier. According to this excellent page from University of Maryland Health Centers, “When psyllium husk comes in contact with water, it swells and forms a gelatin-like-mass that helps transport waste through the intestinal tract.”
It can be purchased in bulk, or under brand names like ‘colon cleanse’ at natural food stores. It is also the main ingredient in Metamucil, although they sweeten their psyllium with sucrose and/or flavorings. Psyllium has virtually no flavor, tasting vaguely ‘grainy’ or ‘floury,’ but nothing that would require it to be flavored with sugar and/or artificial flavoring. Our suggestion is to stick to the bulk stuff, and avoid the packaging and unnecessary ingredients (like maltodextrin, artificial flavors and fake colors). Stick with the psyllium au natural.
How to use psyllium husk
If you’ve never tried using a fiber supplement before, start with just a half teaspoon of psyllium in 6-8 ounces of water; stir the psyllium immediately, and drink quickly. I like a little less water at first, but then I swish the glass and get about 6-8 ounces total.
The water is imperative– DO NOT take psyllium without water. It absorbs liquid very quickly, and thus needs to be taken with liquid to reduce the choking hazard. As you will notice the first time you use it, psyllium gets sticky and thick very quickly.
If you’ve used fiber supplements before, you can start with one full teaspoon in 6-8 ounces of water. As you become more accustomed to the extra fiber, you can increase your intake of psyllium gradually. eventually increase the amount up to 1-2 Tablespoons each day.
Note that whenever you add more fiber to your diet, it’s always good to add more water, otherwise you can get constipated and/or gassy.
You can take psyllium in the morning or at night. I prefer nighttime because then my morning poops are GREAT! As with any new diet change, give it a few days and see how you feel before giving up. My guess is that you will feel super good– better and quicker elimination, reduction of gas and bloating, and a better appetite as food is moved from the digestive tract more quickly. And there are lots of studies showing that good gut health is the root of our immunity, hormone balancing and happiness, so I bet you’ll feel pretty good overall!
You can also experiment with using psyllium in baking. You can sneak a few teaspoons into your favorite bread or muffin recipe, and it is the main ingredient here in my Gluten-free Nut & Seed Bread. I’ve used it successfully as an egg replacer in some vegan baked goods, but it does make the item a bit more dry because of its insane ability to absorb liquid.
Health Benefits of Psyllium Husk
As we’ve talked about before, people with higher fiber diets have less risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, and it can drastically reduce your cholesterol and improve your digestion. Better digestion improves the overall health of your gut, which helps with immunity, mood, anxiety and mineral production/assimilation. And there are SO MANY benefits to improving your daily fiber intake.
Research suggests that more than 90 percent of Americans aren’t meeting their daily fiber requirement, which is 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men.
According to University of Maryland Health Centers, psyllium and other high fiber foods can help us improve our health in many ways:
“Colon Cancer: After some promising early studies, newer results examining whether a high fiber diet protects against colon cancer have been mixed. Most large, well-designed studies have found only a slight association between fiber intake and colorectal cancer risk. In addition, fiber does not appear to protect against the recurrence of colorectal cancer.
Constipation: Many well-designed studies have shown that psyllium relieves constipation. When combined with water, it swells and produces more bulk, which stimulates the intestines to contract and helps speed the passage of stool through the digestive tract. Psyllium is widely used as a laxative in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Diabetes: Studies suggest that a high-fiber diet may help lower insulin and blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. It may also reduce the chance of developing diabetes in those who are at risk.
Diarrhea: Psyllium can also be used to help relieve mild-to-moderate diarrhea. It soaks up a significant amount of water in the digestive tract, making stool firmer and slower to pass.
Heart Disease: Adding high fiber foods (such as psyllium-enriched cereals) to your diet may help lower heart disease risk. In fact, studies show that a diet high in water-soluble fiber is associated with lower triglyceride levels, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Hemorrhoids: Your doctor may recommend psyllium to help soften stool and reduce the pain associated with hemorrhoids.
High Blood Pressure: Although studies are not entirely conclusive, adding fiber (12 g of soluble fiber per day) to your diet, particularly psyllium, may help lower blood pressure. In one study, 6 months of supplementation with psyllium fiber significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in overweight people with hypertension.
High Cholesterol: Soluble fibers — such as those in psyllium husk, guar gum, flax seed, and oat bran — can help lower cholesterol when added to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Studies have shown psyllium can lower total, as well as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. In combination with cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, psyllium provides an added benefit to reducing cholesterol levels.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Although studies have found conflicting results, some physicians recommend psyllium for mild-to-moderate cases of diarrhea from either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (another type of inflammatory bowel disorder). In one study of people with ulcerative colitis, psyllium was as effective as the prescription drug mesalamine (Pentasa, Rowasa, Asacol) in maintaining remission. However, for some people with IBD, too much psyllium can make symptoms worse. Work closely with your doctor to decide how much fiber is right for you.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Several studies have found that soluble fiber (including psyllium) helps relieve some symptoms of IBS, such as diarrhea and constipation. Other studies, however, have found mixed results.
Obesity: Studies and clinical reports suggest that psyllium may make you feel fuller and reduce hunger cravings.”
Here’s to happy poops, and healthier parents.