If you ever have difficulty going to the bathroom, you might be familiar with psyllium husk, because it is a type of soluble fiber often added in over-the-counter laxative products. Psyllium is a shrub-like plant, found all over the world, and it produces thousands of tiny seeds that supply the husks. Some cereals also include psyllium to increase fiber content.
Soluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber and is different from insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water and swells to form a gel-like mass. Because soluble fiber attracts water, it can soften stool and slow down digestion. Insoluble fiber adds more weight to stool and helps regulate bowel movements. Both types of fiber can help reduce your risk to some chronic diseases. Psyllium husk contains soluble fiber, which is why it is often used to relieve constipation.
Eating a diet high in soluble fiber, such as psyllium, can help to prevent or treat a number of diseases. The most common use of psyllium is to treat constipation. Although it may seem counterintuitive, psyllium can also help to treat diarrhea by absorbing excess water and firming stools. People with hemorrhoids may also take psyllium to soften stools and reduce pain associated with hemorrhoids. A diet high in fiber may also help to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Although psyllium is used in some over-the-counter laxatives, you can also take psyllium husk by itself. Mix ½ to 2 teaspoons of psyllium husk with 8-ounces of warm water thoroughly. Drink as soon as possible because psyllium becomes very thick when mixed with water. If you are new to taking psyllium, begin with mixing only ½ teaspoon in water. Gradually increase to 2 teaspoons a day if needed or whatever dose your physician recommends. Take psyllium first thing in the morning or right before bedtime.
Consult your physician before taking psyllium husk. Psyllium may interact or interfere with the absorption of certain medications. Take your psyllium husk at least one hour before or two hours after taking any medications. Drink a full glass of water with your psyllium husk to prevent choking. You should also drink at least 6 to 8 glasses a water each day along while taking psyllium husk to prevent constipation. Side effects of psyllium husk are generally mild and include an increase in gas and bloating.
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