By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
What is Isabgol husk (Psyllium)?
Isabgol husk (Psyllium), an indigenous natural dietary fiber, official in IP, BP and USP consisting of the epidermal and collapsed adjacent layers removed from the seeds of Plantago ovata Forsk. (P. ispaghula Roxb.), is particularly rich in alimentary fibres and mucilage. The husk mucilage is a clear, colorless gelling agent, able to increase in volume upon absorbing water up to 40 times its own weight. It consists of 85% water-soluble fiber; partly fermentable and acts by hydration in the bowel. Made up of polysaccharides, it is popularly used as a bulk laxative. (1)
- Constipation: Psyllium is a bulk forming laxative. It works by increasing stool size and helping relieve constipation. It then helps with the absorption of water, which increases the size and moisture of stools. The end product is bigger and easier-to-pass stools.
- Diarrhea: Research shows that psyllium can relieve diarrhea. It does this by acting as a water absorbing agent. It can increase stool thickness and slow down its passage through the colon. Psyllium can, prevent both constipation and reduce diarrhea, effectively helping to normalize bowel movements.
- Blood sugar levels: Taking fiber supplements can help control the body’s glycemic response to a meal, such as reducing insulin and blood sugar levels. This is particularly the case with water soluble fibers such as psyllium and it works better for this mechanism than other fibers, such as bran. This is because the gel forming fibers in psyllium can slow down the digestion of food, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- Satiety and aid weight loss: Fibers that form viscous compounds, including psyllium, can help control appetite and aid weight loss. Psyllium may aid appetite control by slowing down stomach emptying and reducing appetite. Decreased appetite and calorie intake may support weight loss.
- Lower cholesterol levels: Psyllium binds to fat and bile acids, helping the body to excrete them. In the process of replacing these lost bile acids, the liver uses cholesterol to produce more. As a result, blood cholesterol levels decrease.
- Heart health: All types of fiber can be good for the heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) say that dietary fiber can improve cholesterol, and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
- Prebiotic effects: Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds that nourish intestinal bacteria and help them grow. Researchers believe that psyllium has prebiotic effects. Although psyllium is somewhat resistant to fermentation, intestinal bacteria can ferment a small portion of psyllium fibers. This fermentation can produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), including butyrate. Research has linked SCFAs with health benefits. (2)
Research indicates that husk is quite safe to use in functional and nutraceutical foods. The FDA has approved the use of food products containing psyllium husk due to its associated health claims. Supplementation of fiber, are appreciated by the consumers due to appealing taste and better storage stability. Seeds of psyllium have been used for hundreds of years in traditional Iranian medicinal prescriptions. Because of its pharmacological effects, foods fortified with Plantago ovata mucilage gum may have a superior consumer acceptance. It is commonly found in consumer products such as high fiber breakfast cereals. In addition to being part of fiber formulations, psyllium supplements can also be found in granule, powder, wafer, and capsule forms. And importantly, because psyllium contains an increased amount of soluble fiber gram for gram compared to sources such as oat bran, its use may help fulfill daily dietary fiber recommendations more easily. (3)
How to use Isabgol?
- Isabgol husk can be taken either with warm milk or water preferably before going to bed. It is advisable to avoid excessive consumption of Isabgol as it may lead to complications like abdominal pain, loose stools, diarrhoea etc (4)