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Psyllium husk, also known as 'isabgol' is native to India, and is derived from the seed of a plant known as plantago ovata. It is extremely rich in fiber, providing up to 71g of fiber per third of a cup. It is a water soluble supplement, but indigestible, which makes it useful to promote healthy bowels and other gastrointestinal functions. It has also shown benefits to those who have high cholesterol and diabetes, and helps with controlling obesity and achieving weight loss. On the other hand, it has been found to have certain side effects.

Benefits

As has been mentioned before, the benefits of psyllium husk come from its high fiber content. It contains both soluble and insoluble fibers that affect the body in different ways.

Promotes Healthy Bowels
Psyllium husk helps in keeping the bowels healthy with the following benefits:
  • If consumed regularly, it has a healthy laxative effect, which cannot be achieved by other laxatives that we consume. In fact, those laxatives cause the bowel to become dependent on them and induce the lazy bowel syndrome. It is therefore, a perfect solution for constipation.
  • Psyllium husk promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach that aid digestion and the absorption of important nutrients in the body.
  • While it is useful for those who are constipated, it also benefits those suffering from diarrhea. This is because it becomes bulky when consumed and then absorbs water.
  • It is also known to be a cure for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), though in some cases it has been found to worsen the condition.
Reduces Cholesterol Levels
Studies have proved that the regular intake of psyllium husk (a minimum of 8 weeks) reduces the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or 'bad' cholesterol in the body.

Enables Weight Loss
Psyllium husk powder, when consumed, becomes bulky as it absorbs water. If you wish to achieve weight loss, all you have to do is consume this powder 30 minutes before every meal. It will reduce your appetite and enable healthy weight loss.

Cure for Anal Fissures
Psyllium husk has properties that cure anal fissures caused due to constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. However, these benefits have been experienced only by a few people and have not been clinically proven.

Prevents Colon Cancer
The high fibers in psyllium husk make it an effective tool against the development of colon cancer. Not only that, the insoluble fibers make their way to the colon from the digestive system, and help in a natural colon cleanse.

Stabilizes Hormonal Imbalances
This benefit is particularly useful for women who suffer from hormonal imbalances due to menopause and other conditions. Consuming psyllium husk can help promote the production of estrogen in the body and stabilize any hormonal imbalances.

Side Effects

While many have benefited from the consumption of psyllium husk, it has been found to cause certain side effects among a few who have consumed it.
  • Those who are prone to plant allergies may suffer from an allergic reaction with the intake of psyllium husk.
  • Sometimes, the allergic reaction may lead to a mild rash. In severe cases, one may experience wheezing, vomiting, breathing difficulty, and hives.
  • Those who have suffered from serious bowel conditions before have experienced further trouble with the intake of psyllium husk. For instance, those who have had a bowel surgery or problems with the colon have shown these side effects.
  • Psyllium husk should always be consumed with water. Taking it in its dry form may cause it to expand in the mouth or throat, and lead to choking.
  • If one is already consuming laxatives, this supplement should not be taken along with them, as this will further induce the laxative effect. Also, it has been found to affect the performance of certain drugs that may be taken for different health conditions.
  • To prevent such a disturbance, psyllium husk should be consumed at least 2-3 hours before the intake of prescribed drugs.
  • Since it absorbs lots of water, ensure that you take plenty of other fluids along with the intake of psyllium husk. It will otherwise lead to dehydration.
  • Pregnant women and children should not consume psyllium husk.
Though it may be one of the best herbal remedies for different health conditions, the side effects are almost as many as its benefits. It is therefore always advisable to consult either your doctor or a herbal practitioner before you decide to take psyllium husk.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.