Psyllium Husk? When and Why

The other day my mother and I were talking about psyllium husk. Yes, that’s right.  My mother and I talk about psyllium. She told me a story that got me thinking, and I did a little research I wanted to share with you.

Once upon a time, my mother was taking a medication.  At the time, she was also adding psyllium to her morning drink. (I confess, I don’t know what she was adding it to—a protein shake, a glass of apple juice?  I didn’t ask.)  After a few weeks, she went to the doctor because it seemed the medication was not having the desired effect.  Questions were asked and the culprit, as you probably already suspect, was psyllium husk.

But why?

Psyllium husk works very quickly through your digestion.  As a result, any supplements and/or medications you took will pass too quickly through your body to be adequately absorbed.  So what should you do?  Well, it truly depends on several things.

You don’t take supplements.  Then you have nothing to worry about.  Use your psyllium whenever you choose.  Yay!

You take supplements in the morning.  You have three choices.  One is to take your supplements and wait up to 8 hours before having any psyllium.  Two, you can have your psyllium and wait two hours.  Three, you can take psyllium husk at night.

You take morning and evening supplements.  Take your psyllium and then wait 2 hours before taking any other supplements.  In fact, you should probably wait 2 hours to eat anything.

After all, food is fuel and you want to give your body time to digest and absorb the nutrients you are ingesting.  So timing when and how you take psyllium matters.

Here’s the science.  When you ingest something, it first settles down in the stomach where stomach acids begin breaking it down.  After 2-1/2 to 3 hours, you’ve absorbed 50% of what you’ve ingested.  After 4-5 hours, your stomach has emptied.  Now, psyllium moves faster and will zip through your body.  But, as you can see, if you eat something, you should probably wait 8 hours before eating anything if you want to give your body enough time to do its job.

So why bother taking psyllium husk at all?  It does have numerous benefits.  Here are just a few:

There are other claims made, anecdotal benefits that research hasn’t confirmed nor refuted.  There’s ongoing research for some, if not all, of the following supposed benefits:

  • Cancer
  • Colitis
  • Diverticulosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Kidney Stones
  • PMS

So if some people are making claims where there’s no scientific proof, should we dismiss it altogether?   I would say no.  At worst, there is the potential for the placebo effect to kick in.  If you believe something will benefit you in a specific way, your body can and even will respond accordingly.  There is also the chance that science will catch up with the claims being made that have not yet been proven.

Bottom Line:  If you want to add fiber to your diet, psyllium husk can help.  Add it slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, to your diet to avoid running to the bathroom.  Time when you will use psyllium to get the most benefits from it and everything else you ingest.

And if you don’t feel you need more fiber then don’t stress it.

Do you have any nutrition questions you would like answered?  I’m happy to sift through the often conflicting information and tell you what I think.  Then you can do what you will with what I explain. 

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