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Psyllium Fiber Is Versatile Remedy

Psyllium is inexpensive and amazingly versatile. Not only can it control both constipation and diarrhea, it can lower cholesterol & help manage blood sugar.
Psyllium Fiber Is Versatile Remedy
Heap of fresh Psyllium seeds (detailed close-up shot)

Psyllium fiber has become a household name, especially in the brand name formulations where it is found: Konsyl, Metamucil, Nature’s Way Psyllium, and dozens more.

From the 1930s to the 1960s a product called Serutan was widely advertised on radio and TV. The catch phrase was “Natures” spelled backwards equalled Serutan. The natural ingredient (psyllium) was a key selling point on shows like Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, The Lawrence Welk Show and The Original Amateur Hour. Serutan (aka psyllium) was considered a gentle laxative. “Regularity” was the selling point.

Psyllium for Diarrhea?

Q. Several years ago a vet suggested giving our dog Metamucil (psyllium fiber) to prevent chronic diarrhea. I too experienced chronic diarrhea due to food allergies. Because our dog had such good results, my wife suggested that Metamucil might help me. To my surprise, it was virtually a miracle.

When he learned of my experience, my son (associate dean of a pharmacy school) tested Metamucil to minimize his own chronic problem with diarrhea and found it beneficial.

A. Although most people think of Metamucil to counteract constipation, it can also be helpful against some types of diarrhea.  In some people, however, it may make matters worse (American Journal of Gastroenterology, May, 2013).

Psyllium to Lower Cholesterol:

Because psyllium is a soluble fiber, it also works surprisingly well to lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Don’t expect statin-type results, but psyllium is far less likely to cause serious side effects. A meta-analysis of clinical trials published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (July, 2009) concluded:

“Psyllium could produce dose- and time-dependent serum cholesterol-lowering effect in mild and moderate hypercholesterolemic patients and would be useful as an adjunct to dietary therapy for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.”

Psyllium and Blood Sugar Control:

Another unexpected benefit from psyllium is better blood sugar (glycemic) control, especially for people with type 2 diabetes. A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Dec. 2015) concluded:

“These data indicate that psyllium would be an effective addition to a lifestyle-intervention program. The degree of psyllium’s glycemic benefit was commensurate with the loss of glycemic control. Because the greatest effect was seen in patients who were being treated for T2DM, additional studies are needed to determine how best to incorporate psyllium into existing prevention and treatment algorithms with concomitant hypoglycemic medications.”

If you would like to learn more about psyllium and its pros and cons, check out this link in our herb library.

 You can also discover more about medications and nondrug approaches to gastrointestinal problems from our Guide to Digestive Disorders.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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