Psyllium husk benefits are multiple and well documented. It’s the fiber supplement I most often recommend to patients who may benefit from more fiber than they can consume in their diet. In the office I often am faced with patients who will benefit from a fiber supplement. Conditions as varied as hemorrhoids and anal fissures, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, constipation and watery diarrhea can benefit from fiber supplement. In our western diets and in most eastern diets also, we consume far less fiber than is ideal. As a consequence we often struggle with bowel issues that are nearly unheard of in cultures where refined grain products are not consumed.
There are lots of fiber supplement options on the market, and I have come to the conclusion that psyllium husk benefits of lowering cholesterol tip the scales toward using psyllium rather than one of the other options. Let’s look at the various fiber supplement options. Along with any of these a diet high in fruit and vegetables is optimal, and I certainly encourage you to eat five helpings of both a day. Still, for many people adding a fiber supplement is helpful.
Methylcellulose (brand Citrucel): This is an option that some patients prefer because it does not form a gel if left to sit a minute or two. It has less, if any, cholesterol lowering properties, but can be effective at increasing stool volume and texture.
Wheat Dextran (brand Benefiber): The key advantage is that this is clear in solution and is relatively without taste or texture. It tends to be considerably more expensive than many other options, and does not lower cholesterol.
Calcium polycarbophil (brand FiberCon and others) This is almost always consumed as many large tablets or capsules because it is not soluble. The drawback is the large number of large tablets needed, and it also does not lower cholesterol.
Psyllium husk (brand Metamucil and others) is what I consider the best option for most people. It is usually consumed as a powder you can mix into water or juice. The key is to drink it immediately. If left to sit it forms a gel that is essentially impossible to drink. I tell patients to mix a heaping, snow-shovel heaping, teaspoon in a small cup of water and to gulp it down. Then chase it with a large glass of water to dilute it in the stomach. Done this way it is palatable. For patients who find psyllium husk mixed with water or juice to have a granular or unpleasant texture I recommend the brand name product available in almost every grocery store and pharmacy labeled the New Smoother Texture Metamucil. Psyllium husk unlike the others above helps lower cholesterol, helps modulate postprandial glucose if taken with a meal, and may help lower the risk of heart disease.
Psyllium husk benefits digestion by keeping the colon contents moist, malleable, and in this way reduces cramps, pain, and bowel irregularity in irritable bowel syndrome. It is also helpful in managing chronic constipation, hemorrhoids and anal fissures by leading to soft but formed stool that is easily passed and reduces the need to strain. In cases of watery diarrhea the psyllium husk benefits by absorbing water and giving more texture to the stool which makes control of the bowels easier.
For those botanists or trivia fans in the crowd Psyllium is the common name for plants in the genus Plantago, and the seeds of this genus have husks with the favorable qualities listed above. They are grown primarily in India, although research fields have been grown in the US mostly in Arizona and Washington states.
Overall there are enough psyllium husk benefits to make it the fiber supplement of choice for most people who need fiber supplementation.
For More info on this site see the follow up post: Psyllium Husk
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