The United States imports the largest amount of psyllium in the world. Over 60% of these husks go to pharmaceutical firms where they are utilized in products such as Metamucil, Effersyllium, Fiberall, Serutan, Effersyllium, Isabgol, and many other over the counter laxatives
The characteristics of psyllium make it beneficial for improving transit time of waste through the digestive tract. The husks bulk up when exposed to moisture and this helps provide a continuous supply of solid material separate from the normal diet moving through the digestive tract to promote regularity. Instead of standard laxatives, you can consume psyllium for the same effect, as long as you drink plenty of water with it to reduce the risk of choking on the swollen husks. To increase fiber content of your diet, you can add psyllium to your food or beverages as well.
Common Uses for Psyllium
Psyllium husks are commonly used for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to treating the following:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Diverticular Disease
- Dietary fiber supplement
Some research also suggests psyllium husks may lower cholesterol and help manage diabetes. It’s also believed psyllium ingestion can reduce hunger pangs throughout the day and thus promotes weight loss.
The fiber contained in psyllium husks are not broken down in the digestive tract, which means it provides no nutritional value. Adding water to the dry product increases its volume up to ten times over, thus making it beneficial for increasing waste bulk and also loosening stools to alleviate constipation.
It’s important to include as many different sources of fiber in your diet as possible. Although fruits and vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber, increasing the amount of soluble fiber (like that contained in psyllium husks) offers some advantages as well.
Risks of Psyllium Ingestion
Although using psyllium husks can provide health benefits, its use on a regular basis presents some serious risks as well. The following excerpts describe side effects associated with taking psyllium husk supplements.
- A woman living in New York reported her boyfriend began using psyllium to cleanse his intestinal tract and developed a severe case of Candida overgrowth. One possibility is that, since psyllium can act as an intestinal cleanser and the white coating on his tongue was due to the product removing toxins. Since no medical intervention was sought, it’s difficult to determine if Candida overgrowth is a risk factor of taking psyllium or if it was simply the toxins coming to the surface that caused the symptom to appear.
- Another report states psyllium may actually cause constipation. A woman from North Carolina began taking psyllium as a colon cleanser. Thereafter, her frequency of bowel movements reduced from once a day to once every two days and she experienced bloating as well. She consulted an alternative healing therapist who discovered she had an impacted colon. He advised against using psyllium husks for constipation as some people can develop constipation as a result of taking the supplement.
- A woman from South Carolina states she experienced chest tightness and had difficulty breathing after taking psyllium husks for the purpose of colon cleansing. The woman also has mild asthma and obtained relief from the tightness only after drinking an extra eight-ounce glass of water with ½ lemon juice added. This could be because a minute amount of the psyllium was caught in her esophagus and began to swell, thereby restricting her airway, or the symptom could have been unrelated.
If taken on a regular basis, such as for treating constipation, psyllium products can lead to physiological dependency so it’s not advisable to consume psyllium on an extended basis.
When psyllium husks are used as a dietary fiber, it can make stools softer and this may help relieve symptoms of constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other intestinal disorders. When mixed with water, psyllium swells and is thus able to assist in transporting fecal matter through the intestines. As a colon cleanser, psyllium shortens the amount of time the body retains toxic-laden waste, and this factor could potentially reduce the risk for developing colon cancer and other digestive diseases.
Safe Alternative to Psyllium Husks
It must be noted, however, regular use of any artificial product to stimulate the bowels will eventually cause the colon to stop functioning on its own. Do not take psyllium-containing products simply to “prevent constipation” when no need exists for this backhanded method. Rather, you can prevent constipation by drinking plenty of water, dietary fiber, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Modifying your diet so it’s high in fiber is probably the best way to relieve and prevent constipation. You can also try a specially formulated product such as Oxy-Powder® to promote normal bowel function without encountering the negative health risks associated with ingesting psyllium husks.