Skip to content

Psyllium Husk: What You Need to Know

April 4, 2024

Fiber is front and center on the minds of health-conscious eaters these days, thanks to the focus on the importance of gut health. But only about 1 in 5 Americans gets the recommended 25 to 35 grams each day. Knowing this, many are looking for a fiber supplement to help meet their needs — enter psyllium husk.

Related: Sign up to receive delicious recipes, expert advice, and shopping tips in your inbox!

What is psyllium husk?

Psyllium is the husk or outer coating of the seed from an herb called Plantago ovata. Once the psyllium is harvested, it’s mechanically separated from the seed in a process called milling.

Psyllium is a soluble fiber, meaning that it dissolves in water, forming a gel-like bulk that remains intact through the gastrointestinal tract until it’s excreted (that is, pooped out). Other sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, and apples.

Health benefits of psyllium husk

There are numerous health benefits linked to taking psyllium husk.

  • Helps regulate blood sugar. Fiber helps slow down how quickly sugar is absorbed into the body. A published meta-analysis found that taking psyllium husk before a meal can help lower fasting blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • Helps manage cholesterol. The soluble fiber binds cholesterol in the intestines, so it’s then passed from the body.
  • Helps relieve GI problems. Soluble fiber helps bind loose stool, making it more gel-like and bulky as opposed to watery, relieving diarrhea. It also helps relieve constipation by bulking and binding stool, making it easier to pass. 
  • Helps alleviate hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids occur when you strain a lot to go to the bathroom. This can lead to the swelling and bursting of blood vessels in that area. Since psyllium husk makes it easier to pass stool, that decreases the extent of straining.

How to use it

Psyllium husk supplements are available in capsule or powder form. To minimize any gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating or tummy discomfort, start slow and work your way up to the recommended dose on the supplement. For example, if a psyllium husk powder recommends 1 tablespoon per day, start with 1 teaspoon and work your way up slowly. You can add the powder to food or drinks (such as smoothies) to help increase fiber intake.

Although psyllium husk is considered safe, some potential side effects include diarrhea, constipation, nausea, gas, bloating, and stomach pain or cramping. Always speak to your health care provider before starting any supplements.

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the quality of supplements, so always look for brands that have third-party testing from organizations like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International.

You’ll also find psyllium husk used as an ingredient in some packaged foods, such as breads and cereals.  

Read next: RD-Approved High-Fiber Snacks for a Healthy Gut

Good food
people together.
So do
good emails.

What our editors love right now

Good food brings people together.
So do good emails.

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden