Psyllium Husk is a natural laxative. It is popular for its various health benefits, such as treating digestive problems, controlling blood sugar levels, and aiding in weight loss. This makes it highly popular among those following a low-carb lifestyle.
If you are looking for a healthier lifestyle and want to include more fibers in your diet, here’s everything you need to know about psyllium husk and items you can use as its substitute. We have put together a list of health benefits, possible side effects, and your go-to alternatives of psyllium husk right in one place.
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What is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium husk is primarily sourced from the seeds of the Plantago ovato plant, native to western and southern Asia. This region's rich soil and climate conditions contribute to the quality and effectiveness of Psyllium, also known as Ispaghula.
It is a soluble fiber that absorbs water and forms a viscous gel. It is indigestible, which means it passes through your digestive system without getting absorbed or disintegrated.
Health Benefits of Psyllium Husk
Psyllium Husk Good For Constipation
Psyllium husk is a powerhouse of fiber - it absorbs water and forms a gel in the gut, which aids in regular bowel movements. There are testimonials from people who have successfully used Psyllium husk in managing constipation, treating ulcerative colitis, and maintaining regularity. Medical professionals also frequently recommend it due to its benefits.
Since psyllium is prebiotic, it allows the growth of good bacteria in the gut that results in a stronger immune system.
Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
More soluble fibers mean lesser risks of heart disease. This is because soluble fibers lower LDL cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure levels for obese patients. Psyllium husk can increase HDL cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides. It also strengthens the heart muscles and keeps lipid levels in check.
Helps in Diabetes
Psyllium husk shows promise in supporting blood sugar management for those with type-2 diabetes. A study conducted by XYZ University (2006) showed a significant drop in post-meal blood sugar and insulin levels after several weeks of Psyllium intake. Moreover, values for fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin also drastically improved.
Key to Weight Loss
Used in Gluten-free Recipes
Giving up foods like pizza, cakes, and crepes can seem like torture when on a diet. But psyllium can help recreate gluten-free and keto-friendly versions of those recipes. If used in baking, psyllium retains moisture in the bread and gives it a light texture.
Since the bacteria don’t ferment psyllium husk in our colon, it doesn’t cause excess gas or digestive problems. There are very few reports of an allergic reaction to psyllium husk. In most cases, the components in the seed were the leading cause instead of the husk.
However, taking massive amounts of psyllium husk without adequate liquids can lead to constipation. If the amount is more than 15 grams in a day, it can cause excessive gas, bloating, and discomfort. In the worst cases, it might lead to intestinal blockage, but that is very rare.
How to Take Psyllium Husk and Dosage
Firstly, if you are on any medications, it is better to consult your doctor before taking psyllium husk. This is because psyllium reduces the absorption of medicine as it forms a bulk in the intestine. It’s advised to take psyllium before or after 2 hours you have taken your medicine.
You can also take it an hour before going to bed or before breakfast. Researchers have found that it helps in proper stool formation and stimulates the intestine properly.
The psyllium husk found in markets usually doesn’t have any added sugar to it. So it has no flavor. In this case, you can mix it with juice or water, depending on your preference. Some even add it to their smoothies.
Accordingly, it is best to incorporate psyllium husk into your diet slowly. You can take it one to three times a day. Half a teaspoon of the powder you can mix into a glass of water (8 ounces), and you can increase the amount gradually to up to two teaspoons.
The trick to taking psyllium is that it should be consumed immediately. If you keep it for some time, the mixture becomes semi-solid and bulky, which is hard to swallow. Since psyllium husk increases metabolism, you should drink plenty of liquids when you add it to your regular diet.
Substitute for Psyllium Husk
For those who have difficulty sourcing Psyllium Husk, are allergic to it, or are looking for variety in their recipes, a number of substitutes are available. While these alternatives may not exactly replicate psyllium husk, they offer similar health benefits. Here's a rundown of these substitutes-
Ground seeds substitute for psyllium in a 1:1 ratio. That means one can use 1/3 cup psyllium or 1/3 cup ground chia or flax seeds while baking. Flaxseeds have anti-diarrheal properties besides being a laxative. So, it helps regulate all types of bowel movements. The downside is that the seeds have some extra calories.
Psyllium Husk Instead of Xanthan Gum
The quantity of xanthan gum to replace psyllium is lesser than ground seeds. Just 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum can substitute 1 tablespoon of psyllium, but if you use the husk powder, the 1:1 ratio is also applicable. At the same time, if you are willing to bend on the inorganic side, there are many laxatives in pharmacies that use psyllium husk as a prime ingredient. These include- Cilium, Fiberall, and Uni-Laxative, etc.