In this age where artificial laxatives are so prevalent in the market, psyllium husk powder is a healthier and organic alternative. Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative that is made from natural sources. Psyllium husk powder provides a wide range of health benefits, including treating diarrhea, relieving constipation, controlling blood sugar levels, and weight loss. Due to this, it has gained quick popularity in the low-carb community.
If you are looking for a healthier lifestyle and want to include more fibers in your diet, here’s everything you need to know about psyllium husk powder and items you can use as its substitute. We have put together a list of health benefits, possible side effects, and your go-to alternatives of psyllium husk powder right in one place.
What is Psyllium Husk Powder?
Psyllium husk is a type of fiber which is derived from the seeds of Plantago ovato, a plant native to western and southern Asia. It is sometimes known as ispaghula as well.
It is a soluble fiber that absorbs water and forms a viscous gel. It indigestible, which means it passes through your digestive system without getting absorbed or disintegrated.
Psyllium husk is available in the market in various forms. The ones that are labeled as “100% whole psyllium husk” are usually the plant seed husks without any processing.
Health Benefits of Psyllium Husk Powder
In light of its recent popularity, many people ask questions regarding the health benefits of psyllium husk powder. To make things simple, we’ve put together a list of benefits that psyllium powder provides.
Helps in Digestive Issues and Metabolism
Psyllium husk has a strong water-holding capacity and forms a viscous gel by absorbing water. When it absorbs liquid in the intestinal tract, it swells and stimulates bowel movements. Doctors have found it to relieve constipation, treat ulcerative colitis, and help maintain regularity.
Since psyllium is prebiotic, it allows the growth of good bacteria in the gut that results in a stronger immune system.
Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
More soluble fibers mean lesser risks of heart diseases. This is because soluble fibers lower LDL cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure levels for obese patients. Psyllium husk can increase HDL cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides. It also strengthens the heart muscles and keeps lipid levels in check.
Helps in Diabetes
For type-2 diabetes patients, psyllium husk powder can help reduce sugar levels and insulin after meals. Researchers have shown that after multiple weeks of intake, the concentration of fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin improved a lot.
Key to Weight Loss
Psyllium husk helps to control appetite by increasing a feeling of fullness. So, if you’re looking to lose weight and reduce your BMI while not fighting hunger, psyllium husk powder is your solution.
Used in Gluten-free Recipes
When on a diet, giving up foods like pizza, cakes, and crepes can seem like torture. But psyllium can help recreate gluten-free and keto-friendly versions of those recipes. If used in baking, psyllium retains moisture in the bread and gives it a light texture.
It also makes the dough more elastic and makes it easier to roll out. Some recipes that use psyllium powder include- psyllium flatbread, coconut flour psyllium husk bread, keto pancakes, etc.
What about Side Effects?
Since the bacteria don’t ferment psyllium husk in our colon, it doesn’t cause excess gas or digestive problems. There are very few reports of an allergic reaction to psyllium husk powder. In most cases, the components in the seed were the leading cause instead of the husk.
However, if one takes massive amounts of psyllium husk powder without adequate liquids, it can lead to constipation. If the amount is more than 15 grams in a day, it can cause excessive gas, bloating, and discomfort. In the worst cases, it might lead to intestinal blockage, but that is very rare.
How to Take Psyllium Husk Powder and Dosage
Firstly, if you are on any medications, it is better to consult your doctor before taking psyllium husk powder. This is because psyllium reduces the absorption of medicine as it forms a bulk in the intestine. It’s advised to take psyllium before or after 2 hours you have taken your medicine.
You can also take it an hour before going to bed or before breakfast. Researchers have found that it helps in proper stool formation and stimulates the intestine properly.
The psyllium husk powder found in markets usually doesn’t have any added sugar to it. So it has no flavor. In this case, you can mix it with juice or water, depending on your preference. Some even add it to their smoothies.
Accordingly, it is best to incorporate psyllium husk powder into your diet slowly. You can take one to three times a day. Half teaspoon of the powder you can mix into a glass of water (8 ounces), and you can increase the amount gradually to up to two teaspoons.
The trick to taking psyllium is that it should be consumed immediately. If you keep it for some time, the mixture becomes semi-solid and bulky, which is hard to swallow. Since psyllium husk powder increases metabolism, you should drink plenty of liquids when you add it to your regular diet.
Substitutes for Psyllium Husk Powder
If it is difficult to get a hold of this ingredient in your area, there are some substitutes for it. Although replacements aren’t the same as the actual item, they do provide similar benefits. The following ingredients can be used as substitutes-
Ground Flax Seeds and Ground Chia Seeds
Ground seeds substitute for psyllium in a 1:1 ratio. That means one can use 1/3 cup psyllium or 1/3 cup ground chia or flax seeds while baking. Flaxseeds have anti-diarrheal properties besides being a laxative. So, it helps regulate all types of bowel movements. The downside is that the seeds have some extra calories.
The quantity of xanthan gum to replace psyllium is lesser than ground seeds. Just 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum can substitute 1 tablespoon of psyllium, but if you use the husk powder, the 1:1 ratio is also applicable. At the same time, if you are willing to bend on the inorganic side, there are many laxatives in the pharmacies that use psyllium husk powder as a prime ingredient. These include- Cilium, Fiberall, and Uni-Laxative, etc.
You can even order psyllium husk powder online nowadays. You can also use certain grains like legumes, bran, peas, and nuts as a healthy alternative to psyllium husk.
That’s almost everything you need to know about psyllium husk powder and substitutes for psyllium husk before adding it to your diet.