For those who struggle with over-eating, this post covers how to take psyllium husk for weight loss. Psyllium is a plant within the Plantago genus, specifically plantago ovata. Psyllium husk is the seeds of the plantago ovata plant. Specifically, the outer layer of the seed, or “husk.” The husk is also called mucilage. Mucilage is a colorless, gel-like substance that is mostly fiber.
The fiber in psyllium is similar to what is found in many other fruits and vegetables. Psyllium, however, contains virtually no other macro-nutrients like sugar or fat. For this reason, psyllium is an ideal way to supplement dietary fiber without additional calories.
There aren’t any tricks in how to take psyllium husk for weight loss. Psyllium husk for weight loss works because it is a low-calorie way to improve digestion, control blood sugar levels, and improve satiety (feel full). The high-fiber content of psyllium husk is what makes it effective, but there are many other benefits of fiber in addition to weight loss. We will look at how psyllium husk works as well as how to take psyllium husk for weight loss.
For more about psyllium husk, see our post: what is psyllium husk?
Dietary Fiber: how psyllium works for weight loss
Dietary fiber refers to the fiber that we eat. It is a natural part of the fruits and vegetables we regularly consume. A simple way of thinking about dietary fiber is that it is the parts of the plants that give it shape and structure. When fruits and vegetables are juiced, the fiber – or roughage, is what gets left behind. The health benefits of this fiber is why we recommend eating whole foods as opposed to processed or juiced fruits and vegetables.
Dietary fiber is only found in plants. Beans, lentils, berries, avocado, whole grains, and nuts are all good sources of dietary fiber. Animal products, however, have no dietary fiber.
A diet high in meats, dairy, and processed grains – like the modern American diet, is low in dietary fiber. If you are eating the modern diet, supplementing with fiber is even more important. Psyllium husk is a great way to make-up for the dietary fiber you might be missing. And low fiber intake just might be why you are looking for how to take psyllium husk for weight loss.
There are many types of dietary fiber, categorized in one of two forms: soluble and insoluble. We previously covered the health benefits of soluble fiber but will briefly cover them again here.
For more details on the many benefits of fiber on digestion see our post: Intestinal Health 101.
Psyllium is high in soluble fibers. Soluble fibers are fibers that dissolve in water.
In your digestive system, when fiber dissolves in water it slows down digestion. The slower digestion means that the sugars contained in your food will take longer to reach your bloodstream. The lower blood-sugar levels – and fewer “spikes”, is what helps prevent long-term conditions like diabetes. Insulin spikes also inhibit fat loss and can increase hunger and cravings. This is part of why eating sugar often actually makes you feel more hungry.
Soluble fiber also binds with fatty-acids. Fatty-acids are an essential part of how cholesterol is processed in the body. When fiber binds with fatty-acids, it captures free cholesterol molecules, and carries them through the digestive system as waste. This can result in lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
The simple way that psyllium husk works for weight loss is how it can control how we feel hunger and fullness. Soluble fiber in psyllium absorbs water in our digestive tract. The fiber expands many times its original size. The increased volume in our stomach and intestines helps signal fullness.
Soluble Fiber and Your Gut
But the story of psyllium and weight loss is much more interesting. In addition to the detoxifying effects of psyllium, the soluble fiber in psyllium also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria that contribute to healthy intestinal flora. Our gut microbes play a major role in our overall health. Scientific studies are researching the many ways that our gut influences health – even obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol. Digestive flora is also a big part of our immune system.
When you take psyllium husk for weight loss the healthy bacteria feed on the soluble fiber in psyllium. As a byproduct of eating fiber the bacteria release a short-chain fatty acid called acetate. Acetate then enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain. The portion of our brain responsible for the metabolic processes, the hypothalamus, reacts to this chemical, signaling us to stop eating. So psyllium husk might literally “switch off” your desire to eat too much!
Foods high in soluble fiber include: beans, nuts, and blueberries.
Insoluble fiber is the true roughage. It does not dissolve in water. This type of fiber may be partially broken down in the digestive tract but does not entirely digest. The remaining fiber helps to create bulk and move waste along. Insoluble fiber is the key factor in our 7 natural constipation cures.
Foods high in insoluble fiber include: leafy greens, celery, and carrots.
How to Take Psyllium Husk for Weight Loss
Psyllium is taken in a variety of forms. It is widely available at health food and other natural stores as husk, powder, or in capsules. All of these forms of psyllium offer the same benefits. The primary differences in how to take psyllium husk for weight loss will be your preference.
Capsules are a great way to consume psyllium without having to mix it into your food or beverages. Capsules are also easy to take with you but they are also much more expensive than bulk psyllium husk. The bulk (often in small bags) forms of psyllium husk are great to keep around for adding into your favorite beverages or meals. The more refined psyllium powders are often sold under name-brands as laxatives or digestive aids. These dissolve better in water and usually have some added flavorings.
How Much Psyllium Husk Should I Take?
Generally, a “high fiber” diet is a diet that includes 25-30 grams of fiber per day. The long-term goal of supplementing with psyllium husk is a high-fiber diet. When starting out, take psyllium in small doses to avoid digestive discomfort. After your body has adjusted, you can gradually increase the doses.
Most psyllium packaging should include dosage information but a general rule is to take 1/2 tsp to 2 tsp per day, up to a total of 30 grams. More than 30 grams is considered an “acute” dose. Acute doses should only be taken under the care of your doctor or for according to product recommendations for a specific digestive issue.
The adult dosage of psyllium husk, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, is as follows:
“If you use a commercial product that contains psyllium, follow the package directions.
If you are not used to taking psyllium, it is best to begin with a low dose (such as 1/2 tsp. in an 8 oz. glass of water once a day), then gradually increase the dose as needed.
Your health care provider may recommend higher doses of psyllium to treat certain conditions. You can take psyllium first thing in the morning or before bedtime.”
University of California, San Francisco has summarized the common commercial products and the dosages in a guide to taking psyllium supplements.
When to Take Psyllium for Weight Loss
Psyllium is naturally low-calorie with no sugar so it will not spike your insulin. You can take psyllium any time of day. When asking yourself how to take psyllium husk for weight loss, think about what you struggle with the most. Is it feeling full? Cravings? Eating too much? Schedule your doses accordingly.
The benefits of dietary fiber are greatest when consumed as part of a meal. So it is best consume psyllium husk just prior to, or in addition to, your meals. But you can also consume psyllium husk between meals or just before bedtime to help stave off hunger. The timing will depend on your personal preferences – and hopefully results!
A single serving of one teaspoon, or about 2 grams of psyllium, represents 0.6 calories, which is a mere 28 calories per 100 grams, or 50 servings of psyllium (see our related post on Medium)!
Cooking with Psyllium Husk for Weight Loss
Psyllium will not impact the taste of other foods. Psyllium’s bulking and stabilizing properties make it a great egg-replacement in baking and cooking. Ground flax seeds mix well with psyllium for this purpose. You can also use it to thicken soups, gravy, and casseroles.
Psyllium husk can be added to your morning oatmeal, used in smoothies, and mixed with breadcrumbs to help hold together ground meats like hamburgers or meatloaf. Not only will it help hold it together, it will provide that valuable fiber that meat is lacking.
Increasing dietary fiber intake by adding small amounts (even a pinch or two) of psyllium husk to your favorite healthy beverage can help to create a “full” feeling. This full feeling is also beneficial when following Hildegard’s Guide to Fasting and Health. In a traditional Hildegard fast, you’ll find modest amounts of psyllium in Breakfast Habermus, a bran cereal mostly made of Spelt.
Precautions and Interactions
For some people, supplementing with psyllium husk can result in some minor digestive discomfort (bloating and gas). This is normal. Taking psyllium with meals, getting enough water, and reducing the amount taken should alleviate most of these symptoms.
If you are taking essential medications, consult your doctor prior to supplementing with psyllium. High doses of psyllium may also affect some types of antidepressants, heat medications, seizure medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and diabetes drugs.
Taking high doses (more than 30 grams per day) may impact the absorption of certain nutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B-12 may. Taking smaller doses of psyllium, taking it an hour or two before or after meals, eating nutritious well-balanced meals, and supplementing with a multivitamin should resolve any absorption issues.
Hydration is essential when supplementing with psyllium husk. Be sure to drink plenty of water.