Psyllium Husk For Great Colonic Health

Psyllium can help alleviate abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea.
Photo by drneumann, c/o Pixabay.

♦ Psyllium husk is a source of natural soluble fibre which is derived from a seed that also contains a nutritionally valuable mucilage. It is best known for helping support intestinal health.

Psyllium husk is also known as ispaghula or isabgol and is a portion of the seed of the plant Plantago ovata (Forsk). The blonde seed husk is indigestible and is valuable source of soluble dietary fibre. It comes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran.

In health terms it is a safe and effective bulk laxative especially in promoting the regulation of large bowel function. It helps relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, even diarrhea. It also helps with maintenance and improvement of regular gastro-intestinal transit. The fibre always retains its volume irrespective of any other components in food in which it is often taken. It also helps minimise dietary discomfort in disease states.

Soluble fibre derived from various sources such as oats, barley as well as psyllium has long been associated with cholesterol management (Anderson et al., 1992; Jenkins et al., 1993; Glore et al., 1994; Hunninghake et al., 1994; Anderson, 1995; Haskell et al., 1999). Recent research reports psyllium is highly effective at reducing blood cholesterol where it is now used as an adjunct to dietary intervention for those cannot handle a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet (Anderson et al., 1991; 2000).

It is can be ingested as part of a low-fat diet because previous research showed that psyllium decreases serum total cholesterol concentrations an additional 3–6% and serum LDL-cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) concentrations by an additional 5–9% relative to placebo. There is apparently no effect on serum HDL-cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) or triacylglycerol concentrations and inconclusive effects on serum apolipoprotein (apo) B concentrations (Bell et al., 1989; Levin et al., 1990; Neal et al., 1990;  Anderson et al., 1991; Sprecher et al., 1993; Weigand et al., 1997).

Nutritionists have looked at the consumption of high fat American diets and noted that psyllium does reduce total serum cholesterol levels by 5 to 15% and serum LDL-cholesterol levls by 8 to 20 % in men with high initial cholesterol levels (Anderson et al., 1988; Everson et al., 1992).

Regulation Of Type-2 Diabetes

It also helps to regulate diabetes especially type-2 (Gibb et al., 2015). One study, a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study looked at how psyllium affected fasting blood glucose and particular types of heamoglobin in those being treated for type-2 diabetes mellitus (Feinglos et al., 2013). 

Psyllium appears to be very effective for improving glycemic control already for those with diabetes.

Cardiovascular Disease

The US Food and Drug Administration established a tangible benefit for psyllium seed husk intake and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD or CVD).

The husks have been mixed with other ingredients to maximise the product development opportunities. One product uses Blackstrap molasses which is sometimes used with psyllium seed husks to exploit its high mineral and vitamin content, as well as being an excellent carrier.

The husks are used in their natural state, dried, chopped or powdered so that it makes them easier to consume. They usually have to be mixed with water or some other liquid. A typical dose is one to three teaspoons per glass of water. Psyllium seeds can be used for the same purpose at a lower cost. The standard dose is 3.5 g dissolved in 250 ml of water.

Psyllium For Dealing With Constipation

Constipation is one of the banes of life and can leave people feeling great discomfort for days. regular consumption of fibre generally helps our bowel movements. It helps to bulk stools and to stimulate peristalsis. That latter aspect is when contractions propel our stools through the intestine to the colon.

yes, fibre is good but not all fibre is as good as others. Pysllium husk is very gentle as a fibre especially when you compare it with a very strong alternative which is wheat bran. Wheat bran can be very irritating if not inflammatory for some.

A large systematic review from the American College of Gastroenterology looked at the clinical evidence on fibre supplements. They thought that there was plenty of evidence to support a recommendation for treating chronic constipation.

Psyllium For Dealing With Diarrhoea

We’ve spoken about constipation but the obverse is diarrhoea. Here, psyllium soaks up water which helps soften up stools so they pass more easily which is great for constipation. With diarrhoea, it works well because it also soaks excess water in the digestive tract so that stool formation is so much easier. There was a study back in 2011 with mice where feeding them with psyllium husk which stimulated constipation in those which had it, whilst inhibiting gut movements with those that had diarrhoea.

Psyllium can naturally reduce excessive stimulation which might well explain it’s role in reducing diarrhoea. 


Anderson, J.W. (1995) Dietary fibre, complex carbohydrate and coronary artery disease. Can. J. Cardiol. 11:55G–62G (Article)

Anderson, J. W., Allgood, L. D., Lawrence, A., Altringer, L. A., Jerdack, G. R., Hengehold, D. A., & Morel, J. G. (2000). Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium intake adjunctive to diet therapy in men and women with hypercholesterolemia: meta-analysis of 8 controlled trials. Amer. J Clin. Nutr., 71(2): 472-479.

Anderson, J.W., Floore, T.L., Bazel-Geil, P., et al. (1991) Hypocholesterolemic effects of different bulk-forming hydrophilic fibers as adjuncts to dietary therapy in mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Arch. Intern. Med. 151:1597–602.

Anderson, J.W., Garrity, T.F.,Wood, C.L., Whitis, S.E., Smith, B.M., Oeltgen, P.R. (1992) Prospective, randomized, controlled comparison of the effects of low-fat and low-fat plus high-fiber diets on serum lipid levels. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 56:887–94.

Anderson, J.W., Zettwoch, N., Feldman, T., et al. (1988) Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid for hypercholesterolemic men. Arch. Intern. Med. 148:292–6.

Everson, G.T., Daggy, B.P., McKinley, C., Story, J.A. (1992) Effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid on LDL-cholesterol and bile acid synthesis in hypercholesterolemic men. J. Lipid Res. 33:1183–92.

Bell, L.P., Hectorne, K., Reynolds, H., et al. (1989) Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid. JAMA 261:3419–23.

Feinglos, M. N., Gibb, R. D., Ramsey, D. L., Surwit, R. S., & McRorie, J. W. (2013). Psyllium improves glycemic control in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus. Bioactive Carbohydrates and Dietary Fibre1(2), pp. 156-161 (Article).

Gibb, R. D., McRorie Jr, J. W., Russell, D. A., Hasselblad, V., & D’Alessio, D. A. (2015). Psyllium fiber improves glycemic control proportional to loss of glycemic control: a meta-analysis of data in euglycemic subjects, patients at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and patients being treated for type 2 diabetes mellitus. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition102(6), pp. 1604-1614 (Article

Glore, S.R., Van Treeck, D., Knehans, A.W., Guild, M. (1994) Soluble fiber and serum lipids: a literature review. J. Am. Diet Assoc. 94:425–36.

Haskell, W.L., Spiller, G.A., Jensen, C.D., Ellis, B.K., Gates, J.E. (1999) Role of water-soluble dietary fiber in the management of elevated plasma cholesterol in healthy subjects. Am. J. Cardiol. 69:433–9.

Hunninghake, D.B., Miller, V.T., LaRosa, J.C., et al. (1994) Long-term treatment of hypercholesterolemia with dietary fiber. Am. J. Med. 97: 504–8.

Jenkins, D.J.A., Wolever, T.M.S., Rao, A.V., et al. (1993) Effect on blood lipids of very high intake of fiber in diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol. N. Engl. J. Med. 329:21–6.

Levin, E.G., Miller, V.T., Muesing, R.A., et al. (1990) Comparison of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid and cellulose as adjuncts to a prudent diet in the treatment of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Arch. Intern. Med. 150:1822–7.

Neal, G.W., Balm, T.K. (1990) Synergistic effects of psyllium in the dietary treatment of hypercholesterolemia. S. Med. J. 83:1131–7.

Sprecher, D.L., Harris, B.V., Goldberg, A.C., et al. (1993) Efficacy of psyllium in reducing serum cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemic patients on high- or low-fat diets. Ann. Intern. Med. 199:545–54.

Weingand, K.W., Le, N.-A., Kuzmak, B., et al. (1997)  Effects of psyllium on cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein metabolism in subjects with hypercholesterolemia. Endocrinol. Metab. 4:141-50

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