If you have diabetes and want to find natural ways to help manage it, you’re not alone.
Whether you take medication to manage your diabetes or use lifestyle changes alone, adding healthy, natural alternatives to your regimen doesn’t hurt.
Dietary fiber is known for its benefit for overall health. People who eat high-fiber diets tend to have a significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain conditions of the gastrointestinal system. Unfortunately, only about 5% of people eat enough fiber.
Psyllium husk is a type of dietary fiber. Read on to learn more about psyllium husk benefits and how it might be worth trying for yourself!
What Is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium is made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds and is a form of fiber. It’s also called ispaghula husk, but most people know it as psyllium husk.
Psyllium husk is most often used as a laxative to help treat and prevent constipation. Psyllium husk is a bulk-forming laxative, which means it adds bulk to your stools by absorbing liquid in your intestines. When stools are larger, your intestinal walls contract to help you have a bowel movement.
Psyllium husk can safely be taken regularly to promote regular bowel movements and promote digestive health. It might be used to treat constipation related to certain bowel diseases like irritable bowel disease or ulcerative colitis.
Dietary fiber like the kind in psyllium husk acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics help feed the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract called your microbiome. Your microbiome plays a role in your digestion, but it also plays a role in your metabolism, immune system, and more.
You can take psyllium husk in different ways, such as psyllium husk powder or capsules with psyllium husk. Psyllium husk powder has to be taken with plenty of water because it forms a gel that can cause choking.
Metamucil is one of the well-known fiber supplements that contain psyllium. Metamucil is usually orange-flavored to improve the taste, but you can also find flavorless Metamucil.
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How Can It Help With Diabetes Management?
There are several psyllium husk benefits for people with diabetes. Not only are psyllium husk benefits related to blood sugar control, but they encompass other aspects of diabetes care, too.
Psyllium husk is a good source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel with water and is known for its beneficial impacts on lowering cholesterol levels.
People with diabetes are more likely to have abnormal cholesterol levels, including high LDL cholesterol levels (“bad” cholesterol) and low HDL cholesterol levels (“good” cholesterol). This abnormal balance is just one of many risk factors for developing heart disease, which impacts almost one-third of people with diabetes worldwide.
A meta-analysis of 28 studies found that psyllium supplementation significantly reduced LDL cholesterol levels and other types of non-HDL cholesterol. Psyllium also reduced levels of Apo B protein, the main protein in LDL cholesterol.
Another meta-analysis of eight studies followed 384 subjects with mild to moderately high cholesterol levels. The people receiving psyllium husk (while also following a low-fat diet) had significant reductions in their total and LDL cholesterol compared to the placebo group. Psyllium husk didn’t have an impact on HDL cholesterol levels or triglycerides.
Blood glucose levels
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. Most carbohydrates like starches and sugar raise your blood sugar level. Fiber is different because your body doesn’t absorb it, so it doesn’t impact blood sugar.
Diets high in high-fiber foods can help promote healthy blood sugar levels by reducing the blood sugar response after eating. Fiber (especially soluble fiber like the kind found in psyllium husk) helps slow digestion.
When you digest food more slowly, it turns into blood glucose more slowly. This means that psyllium husk may promote more stable blood sugar levels compared to low-fiber diets.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explored the impact of psyllium on glucose and lipid responses in men with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
Overall blood sugar levels, as well as after-lunch blood sugar, were lower in the group receiving psyllium compared to the placebo group.
A meta-analysis of 35 randomized controlled trials concluded that psyllium supplementation caused significant reductions in both fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c levels.
Researchers noted that the improvement in blood sugar was highest in people with the highest baseline blood sugar levels. Psyllium didn’t lower blood sugar in people with normal baseline blood sugars and showed a “modest” improvement in people with borderline diabetes (prediabetes).
Another small study on 18 people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes administered psyllium fiber before breakfast and dinner. Blood sugar after breakfast and lunch was significantly reduced compared to the placebo.
You might have a more difficult time with weight loss when you have diabetes. Weight loss can help improve blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity.
Eating high-fiber foods like psyllium husk can promote satiety because it takes longer to digest. Boosting satiety can help reduce hunger cravings and aid in weight loss along with other sustainable lifestyle changes.
One study concluded that soluble fiber supplementation significantly reduced body weight, body mass index, and body fat compared to placebo.
Another study looked at psyllium fiber and its role in boosting satiety. Psyllium fiber in the form of Metamucil consistently reduced hunger and the desire to eat while increasing fullness in between meals.
Another study looked at high-fiber diets in general for weight loss. High-fiber intake (independent of macronutrient and caloric intake) resulted in more weight loss in overweight and obese people also following a reduced-calorie diet.
The recommended amount of dietary fiber is at least 25 grams per day for women and at least 38 grams per day for men. Most people fall short of this recommendation, though.
Just one teaspoon of psyllium husk powder provides four grams of dietary fiber, nearly 20% of the daily recommended amount for women and over 10% of the daily value for men.
If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure than people without diabetes. High blood pressure can cause hardening of the arteries and heart disease.
Studies show that adding fiber to your diet, especially psyllium husk, can help to lower your blood pressure. In one particular study, adding psyllium husk for six months significantly reduced both systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure numbers in overweight people with high blood pressure.
A meta-analysis of 11 randomized control trials concluded that psyllium fiber supplementation caused a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure. Researchers noted that the blood pressure-lowering effect of psyllium is greater in people with higher baseline blood pressure.
Other Health Benefits Of Psyllium Husk
It helps treat and prevent constipation
Constipation occurs when stool becomes hard and doesn’t pass through your digestive system as easily as it should. The longer you go without having a bowel movement, the more water your colon absorbs from your stool, worsening constipation.
Psyllium husk pulls water into your large intestine while forming a gel with the fluid in your digestive tract. This helps soften stool and makes it easier to pass.
Chronic constipation can lead to issues like hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Keeping your stools soft can help reduce the chance of developing these painful conditions and can allow them to heal.
It might help reduce diarrhea
Diarrhea occurs when stool passes through your digestive system too quickly. Your colon absorbs water and nutrients, but if stool passes through too quickly, your intestines don’t get a chance to absorb water, which results in loose and watery stools.
Some patients with irritable bowel syndrome experience both constipation and diarrhea. According to a study, psyllium husk can help reduce diarrhea by absorbing water in the digestive system.
Supports healthy microbiome
Dietary fiber acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics feed the healthy bacteria (probiotics) in your body called your microbiome. Probiotics are beneficial and help promote healthy digestion among many other aspects of your health.
Stress, a poor diet, antibiotic use, and many other factors can negatively impact your microbiome. Some signs of an unbalanced microbiome include:
- Upset stomach
- Unintentional weight changes
- Sleep disturbances or chronic fatigue
- Skin irritations
- Autoimmune disorders
- Food intolerances
Psyllium husk acts as a bulk-forming laxative. Psyllium fiber helps add bulk to stools by absorbing water which makes stool easier to move through your intestines.
Some laxatives are considered stimulant laxatives that cause the muscles in your intestines to contract and help you have a bowel movement. Stimulant laxatives aren’t meant to be used long-term because they can be habit-forming.
This means that using stimulant laxatives long-term can reduce your body’s natural ability to have a regular bowel movement and can increase constipation long-term. Psyllium husk is a non-habit-forming laxative that can be safely used daily to help prevent constipation.
There are several potential psyllium husk benefits for people with diabetes. Studies have shown that psyllium husk can help improve blood sugar levels, improve cholesterol, reduce heart disease risk factors, and more.
Overall, psyllium husk is safe, generally well-tolerated, and potentially beneficial for managing your diabetes and overall health.