If you’ve struggled with weight loss, you’re not alone. A whopping 51 percent of adults in the United States say that they want to drop some pounds, but the problem is that many aren’t sure how to do it. Many of the weight loss supplements on the market are ineffective and possibly even unsafe, which has lots of people looking for a more natural way to boost the effects of their diet and exercise routine. As it turns out, the solution might be found in psyllium seed husks. Derived from the blond psyllium plant (or “desert Indian wheat”) in western and southern Asia, this supplement can work wonders not only for your weight loss goals, but also for your digestive health.

What is Psyllium Husk?

spoon-of-psyllium-seedsThe Plantago ovata is a shrub-like plant that contains thousands and thousands of seeds that are coated in a gelatinous substance. Psyllium husk is derived from these seeds and used as a fiber supplement for human consumption. Even though its name may seem strange and complicated, this plant is used in many popular products we see in the supermarket every day, including Metamucil and many types of high-fiber cereals. Psyllium husk has risen in popularity as an easy way to increase a person’s intake of soluble fiber (which has been shown to help prevent heart disease), but the benefits of this supplement don’t stop there.

The Connection Between Fiber and Weight Loss

Fiber is a substance found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. Although we can eat it, our bodies can’t digest it. The type of fiber found in psyllium husk is soluble, which means that it absorbs water in the same way that chia seeds do. This can contribute to your weight loss goals in a few ways:

  • It makes you feel fuller.

The absorption of water makes the psyllium husk swell up, increasing its volume and causing it to take up more room inside your digestive tract. As a result, you’ll feel like you’ve eaten a lot more than you have, which can decrease your appetite and discourage you from eating large amounts of high-calorie food. While lots of high-fiber foods can help you achieve this, psyllium husk is particularly convenient because it’s easy to add to something like a glass of water.

  • It helps control blood sugar levels.

Soluble fiber — and psyllium husk in particular— has been found to help regulate blood sugar levels, which is great news for anyone who has or is at risk for diabetes. But even if you don’t have diabetes, blood glucose regulation is crucial if you want to lose weight. If your blood sugar levels spike and drop, you might feel yourself getting cravings or a false sense of hunger. This can cause you to consume excessive calories, which leads to weight gain. The soluble fiber found in psyllium husk can help prevent this from happening in the first place, making it valuable for those who want to maintain a healthy and consistent diet.

  • It cleans out your colon.

If you feel like you’re often constipated, there’s a good chance you also experience bloating, which can make your abdomen appear wider and rounder than it normally is. Even though bloating usually won’t cause you to be physically heavier than normal, it can make it look like all your hard work to get a flatter belly has gone to waste. The fiber found in psyllium husk helps move things along in your digestive system, making your stool not only easier to pass, but also a bit more solid. Just make sure to increase your fiber intake gradually rather than dramatically; sudden, massive increases in fiber can cause gas and extra soft stool, which can be super uncomfortable in addition to causing a bloated belly.

Adults should be getting between 25 and 30 grams of fiber every day, with six to eight grams coming from soluble fiber. However, most of us are only consuming half of the fiber we should be getting on a daily basis. It’s recommended that we get as much fiber as possible from food rather than supplements, but if you’re having trouble meeting your daily fiber needs, psyllium husk can make a big dent in getting there. A single teaspoon can contain up to three grams of insoluble fiber and two grams of soluble fiber, and many recommendations state that it can be taken up to three times a day. Just like that, you’ve gotten just the right amount of soluble fiber to help you improve your digestive health and drop those extra pounds. But where can you get a hold of this useful weight loss plant?

How to Include Psyllium Husk In Your Diet

Its name makes it seem like something you might only find a health food store, but psyllium husk can actually be found in almost any grocery store or pharmacy. It probably won’t be marketed as a weight loss supplement, though. Metamucil, Konsyl, Perdiem, and Hydrocil Instant all have psyllium husk as their active ingredient, but you can also find generic psyllium husk powders and capsules. The powdered form is generally flavorless and can be mixed in with anything from water to your favorite dishes, but some companies also offer it in flavored mixes. The only problem with using these mixes for weight loss is that many of them contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, which can add calories to your diet and affect your blood sugar levels. If you get a funny taste from the powder, take it in pill form as instructed by your doctor or on the back of the packaging.

Other Benefits of Psyllium Husk

psyllium-seedsWhy should you consume psyllium husk when there are so many other weight loss supplements on the market? As it turns out, this plant’s ability to help you shed pounds is just one of its many health benefits. Check out the other ways it can give you a better body:

  • It helps create smooth bowel movements.

As mentioned before, psyllium husk can help relieve constipation. It’s helpful for individual situations, but when taken daily, it can help you leave behind the days of unproductive bathroom breaks for good. In fact, this supplement is so effective in creating easier bowel movements that some studies have suggested that it can ease symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, though more evidence is needed to come to any solid conclusions. Additionally, unlike many other laxatives, this plant usually doesn’t cause excess flatulence when used as directed.

  • It lowers bad cholesterol.

If you have high cholesterol, good news: psyllium husk can bring it down and even has the possibility of replacing your current medication. One study showed that patients with high LDL-cholesterol had it lowered up to 6.7 percent after 26 weeks of taking the supplement. It was suggested that the supplement could replace traditional drugs for high cholesterol, but that’s obviously a decision that should be made with the help of your doctor.

  • It reduces your risk of heart disease.

To be fair, this benefit isn’t only associated with psyllium husk; it applies to any source of fiber, including oats, vegetables, and legumes. Consumption of fiber has been shown to improve blood lipid profiles, and in conjunction with its ability to lower cholesterol and improve the body’s blood sugar management, it makes supplements like psyllium husk excellent resources to improve your heart health. Again, if you’re using any supplement to manage something as important as your heart health, it’s important to talk to your doctor first to make sure it’s a good idea to add it to your diet and exercise plan, but it’s definitely worth bringing up psyllium husk when you have that conversation.

  • It helps manage your blood sugar.

We touched on this above, but it’s important to remember that keeping your blood glucose levels in check isn’t just beneficial if you want to lose weight; for people who have diabetes or are at risk of getting it, managing blood sugar can be life-saving. One study revealed that taking about five grams of psyllium twice a day for eight weeks significantly improved the subjects’ ability to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. When you combine this effect with psyllium husk’s reputation for improving heart health, lowering cholesterol, and assisting in weight loss, it seems like this powerful herb is a powerhouse supplement for anyone who is experiencing health problems due to obesity.

  • It relieves hemorrhoid pain.

Thanks in part to its assistance in making bowel movements easier and stool softer, psyllium has been shown to reduce the pain and bleeding that people experience due to hemorrhoids.

It’s safe to say that psyllium is an extremely useful supplement for not only people trying to lose weight, but also for those looking to improve their overall heart and digestive health. But if you’re thinking about adding it to your diet, you should know that it doesn’t come without risks.

Side effects of Psyllium Husk

Even though it’s not a traditional drug, this supplement can still cause side effects that you should be aware of if you’re thinking about taking it.

Possible side effects of Psyllium Husk:
  • Intestinal gas and cramps

The good news is that psyllium isn’t as likely to cause gassy buildup as much as other fiber supplements, but again, it can happen if one drastically increases their fiber intake or is simply sensitive to added fiber.

  • Diarrhea

Because psyllium has properties that make it an effective laxative, it makes sense that it also carries the risk of softening a person’s stool too much and causing diarrhea. This symptom, like gassiness, normally goes away once the body gets used to the increased intake of fiber, but it’s just one more reason to up your consumption slowly rather than quickly.

  • Hypersensitivity

This symptom was mostly seen in people who work where psyllium supplements are manufactured thanks to the larger amounts of dusty particles that they inhaled. If you want to avoid hypersensitivity due to psyllium husk, just make sure you avoid inhaling the powder when you scoop it out of the container.

  • Difficulty swallowing

Some patients who have taken Perdiem Overnight Relief (which is 82 percent psyllium and 18 percent senna) have experienced esophageal impaction as a result of the drug.

Should You Take Psyllium Husk to Help You Lose Weight?

It’s always best to consult with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your diet. But if you’re overweight, and especially if you’re dealing with high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes, it’s definitely worth asking about next time you visit your primary care physician. Psyllium husk is a powerful herb with numerous benefits, and even though its main purpose is to help your digestive tract move things along, it can also be a useful add-on to your weight loss program. If diet and exercise just aren’t enough, perhaps this versatile supplement is just what you need to finally drop those extra pounds.