Psyllium: what is it and what is it for

This content is part of the Alternative Medicine category and may contain information that lacks scientific studies and/or medical consensus.

Psyllium, a flour derived from plants from the botanical genus Plantago, is a great option to regulate bowel function, reduce cholesterol and blood glucose, and accelerate weight loss.

This is because the bran, also known as ispaghula , is extremely high in fiber. Both insoluble and soluble types.

What made it be considered a functional food and gained fame worldwide, being able to be consumed mixed with juices or used in recipes.

What is psyllium?

Psyllium is the commercial name for the flour prepared from the husk removed from the seeds of some plants of the Plantago genus , mainly ovata.

The result of grinding the husks is a compound basically formed by soluble fibers, which turn into a gel when in contact with water and which brings several health benefits. ( 1 )

As it is a substance that retains water, it often increases in volume and is not absorbed by the body, passing entirely to the intestine.

In the case of psyllium, there is also the advantage that it has no taste or smell , so it does not influence the taste of food. ( 2 )

Do you really lose weight?

The answer to that question is yes. And all thanks to fiber . By transforming into a gel, which is not digested or absorbed, the product causes the stomach to remain full for longer , a process that ends up reducing the desire to eat throughout the day, as the body understands that it is still digesting the foods.

Another important point is that, as you increase in size, the fibers make you feel more satisfied. This way, you end up eating less during meals and consequently consuming fewer calories. Factor that directly contributes to weight loss. ( 3 )

The low energy density of high fiber foods still makes the body need to burn accumulated fat for energy.

Added to this, there is their ability to reduce the absorption of food from the small intestine. In this way, the body also ends up absorbing fewer calories. ( 4 )

What is psyllium for?

Helps control blood glucose

Psyllium may have benefits for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Daily consumption reduces up to 10% glucose levels after meals.

The reason for this is the decreased ability of the small intestine to absorb food after ingesting psyllium. In other words, the gel formed by soluble fibers “sticks” to food, causing them to be discarded through feces and urine.

In the long term, the result is a control of blood glucose levels in diabetics . However, a high-fiber diet can cause a deficiency of several nutrients. Avoid exaggeration! ( 5 )

lowers cholesterol

The food helps to reduce cholesterol that is circulating in the blood for two main reasons.

The first is its ability to stimulate bile production. This is a type of greenish acid, which serves as a natural detergent and which metabolizes the fat ingested through food.

Second, thanks to the fiber gel, the food reduces the amount of fat that is ingested by the body, causing it to be discarded through the stool.

In this way, the body absorbs less of the cholesterol found naturally in food, with some of it being dissolved. This results in a gradual reduction in its levels in the blood and a decrease in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. ( 6 )

Improves bowel function

Do you suffer from constipation ? Then psyllium is the ideal supplement for you. To understand how this flour helps in the treatment, it is necessary to understand what the problem of constipation is.

This problem is often caused by the dehydration of the colon, the final part of the large intestine, which reduces the mobility of the stool and makes evacuation a torment. ( 6 )

What the psyllium does is absorb water and “pull” moisture to the region, which ends up improving intestinal mobility and facilitating the passage of feces through the organ.

In addition, food fibers play a fundamental role in the growth of the intestinal flora.

That is, they ferment and stimulate the proliferation of various types of beneficial bacteria that live in the region and produce gases that serve to widen the intestinal passage; and enzymes that improve site lubrication. ( 1 )

Another important point of functional food is that this process also helps with diarrhea, as the proliferation of bacteria helps to maintain healthy bowel function and the fiber gel maintains the consistency of the fecal cake. ( 6 )

Controls blood pressure

One study found that dietary supplementation with psyllium for six months helped control blood pressure in hypertensive people.

Food consumption decreased the formation of fatty plaques and improved blood circulation. In this way, the pressure was naturally reduced. ( 7 )

Acts in the prevention of colon cancer

Colon cancer can be prevented by eating a diet rich in fiber and free from processed foods, in addition to maintaining an ideal weight. ( 8 )

In addition to being effective in all these aspects, psyllium increases the proliferation of bacteria that are beneficial to the intestinal flora. They release some types of acids that reinforce the natural barrier against the disease, mainly by inhibiting the inflammatory process and the formation of cancer cells . ( 1 )

In addition, the anti-inflammatory action of fibers alleviates the symptoms of the so-called Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease, which can progress to colon cancer if not treated correctly. ( 6 )

Psyllium does not contain gluten

This flour is ideal for celiacs as it does not contain gluten . This protein – found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye –, when used in recipes, forms very thin membranes that trap air bubbles and make the dough rise. 9 )

However, people who suffer from celiac disease (CD) have a type of allergic reaction when consuming foods with this protein. It is estimated that more than 300 thousand Brazilians suffer from the disease.

Among its symptoms are: constipation or diarrhea, anorexia, vomiting and abdominal pain after consuming gluten-containing foods. Some people develop atrophy of an area of ​​the intestine. ( 10 )

Psyllium can be used as a wheat substitute in pasta recipes, giving better consistency and stability to the preparations and helping to keep the recipes softer and similar to traditional versions. ( 9 )

How to consume?

Psyllium can be consumed in capsules or mixed with juices, water or vitamins, on fruits or as a wheat substitute in gluten-free preparations.

If you want to enjoy its slimming action, the ideal is to do this before meals. In this way, the fibers “swell” and increase the feeling of satiety.

How much to consume?

Consuming about two tablespoons of food a day is enough to realize its benefits in the body. ( 5 )

However, to make a correct consumption and taking into account the particular needs of each body, the indication is to seek guidance and follow-up with a nutritionist.

Where to find?

Psyllium can be found easily in supplement and health food stores.

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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