Maintaining healthy bowel function is one of the cornerstones of vibrant health. As one of the major organs for toxin elimination, a healthy bowel is highly effective at keeping the body clean, with an unhealthy bowel being one of the underlying causes of many diseases.
Clinical research studies conducted over the past 60 years have discovered "neural arc reflexes" that originate in the bowel and "reflex", affecting specific tissues in the body. Now known as "reflex circuits", the nerves in the colon and the bowel are now recognised as a part of the enteric nervous system - or second brain.
Psyllium husks are known as a “bulk forming laxative”, meaning they swell up after consumption, making bowel movements much easier and promote regularity. It is important to ensure you drink plenty of fresh, clean water to combat dehydration as the husks soak up water from the body.2
Psyllium also absorbs water and waste material within the bowels, helping to clear out toxins that can cause problems if they are left to stagnate.
Psyllium husks are pure dietary fibre, made up of predominantly “soluble” fibre which dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance that glides easily through the digestive system, nourishing the mucous membranes and removing toxins.
This type of fibre is prebiotic, feeding the healthy bacteria in the gut and promoting a healthy microbiome. Ensuring your gut is healthy and that your probiotic bacteria flourish will powerfully contribute to overall health. A good balance of probiotics within the gut is of utmost importance to not only digestive health, but to the immune system and many other important bodily systems.
Consuming Psyllium husks has also been proven to be beneficial in cases of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A 2009 study published in the “British Medical Journal” used Psyllium husks to determine whether soluble or insoluble fibre was more beneficial to sufferers of IBS. They found a significant improvement of symptoms in the Psyllium group after a 3 month treatment period using 10g of husks daily. The researchers concluded, “Psyllium offers benefits in patients with irritable bowel syndrome in primary care.”1
In the case of gastric ulcers, Psyllium again has been found to be beneficial as its gel-like substance forms a protective layer in the gut, helping to protect the gastrointestinal lining. In a 2015 study, researchers noticed a marked improvement of the symptoms of stomach ulcers after a 14 day treatment period with Psyllium husks.
Many of the Psyllium benefits to cardiac health stem from its positive effect on the gut. Before the advent of controversial pharmaceuticals to treat high cholesterol, Cardiologists were using Psyllium husks to lower cholesterol.
In 1988 a double-blind, placebo control study was published that found after 8 weeks treatment with Psyllium husks, total serum levels of cholesterol were reduced by 14.8 percent. Additionally, low density lipoprotein (LDL) was reduced by 20.2 percent.
The many heart benefits of Psyllium can also be attributed to its high fibre content. A diet rich in fibre is well known for its contribution to heart health. A 2017 study published in the “Journal of Chiropractic Medicine” using Psyllium husks to study the effect of fibre on cardiovascular health, reported significant reductions in both total serum and low density lipoprotein (LDL).3
Folklore and history
Psyllium has a long history of use throughout the world as a laxative. More recently it's use has grown as the need for laxatives, caused by modern dietary trends, has increased. In the 90s health claims for Psyllium (as a dietary supplement and to reduce cholesterol) were approved by national health authorities.
Used for thousands of years in the ancient Indian medicine system of Ayurveda, Psyllium husks have been traditionally taken to remedy both constipation and diarrhoea. It is also used for haemorrhoids, to support heart health and as a cough remedy.
Enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the Western world, Psyllium is used to gently cleanse the colon, is popular as a part of weight loss plans, and is most commonly consumed to address bowel problems.
It is very important to drink enough liquid when taking Psyllium husks.
The average recommended dosage for psyllium is about one or two teaspoons once or twice per day. It is recommended to start with a lower dose and gradually increase it. One or two glasses of water or fruit juice should be taken with each dose. Larger doses can be taken for dealing with specific complaints like irritable bowel syndrome.
Whereas stimulant laxatives tend to create an immediate and sometimes violent response, the positive effects of psyllium husks on constipation are usually more gradual. It can take up to a few weeks for a change to be noticed. However, when the change is felt, it is a result of an actual toning of the bowels rather than simply an irritation and purge of them.
Psyllium active constituents: Mucilage (30-40%), Insoluble Fibre, Soluble Fibre, Astringent Compounds, Bitter Principles, Fatty Acids
Psyllium husks are very safe and are used by millions of people throughout the world as a natural alternative to chemical laxatives. They are the laxative of choice for children.
Because of the danger of fecal impaction or intestinal obstruction, bulk-forming laxatives should not be taken by individuals with intestinal ulcerations, stenosis, or disabling adhesions.
Persons suffering from cathartic colon due to abuse of stimulant laxatives such as rhubarb, aloes, cascara or senna etc. should be warned that taking psyllium could result in intestinal obstruction.