Advertisement

I took psyllium husk, a cheap fiber supplement that eases indigestion and constipation. I was amazed by how quickly it helped.

I took psyllium husk, a cheap fiber supplement that eases indigestion and constipation. I was amazed by how quickly it helped.
  • Psyllium husk is a cheap fiber supplement that can boost gut health and aid digestive issues.

  • I took psyllium husk for three weeks and was shocked by how big an impact it had and how fast it worked.

  • The only downside was the unpleasant texture.

As a health reporter, I follow a food-first approach, meaning I try my best to get all the nutrients I need from a balanced diet without taking supplements.

For that reason, I had never considered taking the fiber supplement psyllium husk, despite having always had minor gut issues such as bloating and irregular bowel movements.

Psyllium husk is a powder made from the seeds of Plantago ovata, a shrub native to South Asia. The mostly soluble fiber has been used around the world for decades but has grown in popularity in the US recently, Business Insider's Kate Hull previously reported.

I decided to try psyllium husk, taking it every day for a few weeks, and was shocked by how quickly — and how drastically — it made a difference.

It took about a week for my body to get used to the psyllium husk, but once it did — to put it delicately — my trips to the bathroom became more regular and I was less bloated.

Psyllium husk can aid digestive issues

Registered dietitian at The Gut Health Clinic Dr. Emily Porter told me that she often recommends psyllium husk for people who have gut symptoms like constipation or diarrhea, or are struggling to consume enough fiber.

Getting enough fiber boosts gut health and can reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, and some cancers, as well as improving metabolic health, Porter said.

"Psyllium husk works by binding water, which increases the bulk of hard stools and makes them softer and easier to pass," Porter said. "It can also work in reverse, by helping to thicken loose stools."

She advises people to start small with one teaspoon a day for the first week and gradually build up to one to two tablespoons per day, while also drinking plenty of water to prevent constipation.

"It does take time for our gut to get used to having more fiber and some people may feel a bit bloated and gassy if you start too over-enthusiastically," Porter said.

The effect of psyllium husk was immediate — and impactful

Psyllium husk
The texture was less noticeable in a smoothie.Rachel Hosie/Business Insider

I bought a 7 ounce bag of psyllium husk for about $10. If you only have one tablespoon or so a day, that bag would last months, meaning it's quite affordable as supplements go.

On the first day of my experiment I took a teaspoon of psyllium husk stirred it into a glass of water. The flavor was mild and inoffensive but the texture was unpleasant — it's like slightly gelatinous sawdust in water, and it made me gag.

An hour or so later I felt quite bloated and burpy, and had a stomach-ache all afternoon, but it was manageable. I was shocked when I had to go to the bathroom for a second time that day. I couldn't remember the last time that had happened.

Having taken the psyllium husk alongside my already high-fiber lunch of lentil soup and a grilled cheese, I wondered if perhaps it was a bit of a fiber attack on my body.

The first week I had mild stomach aches

In the subsequent days I started adding sweetened fruit juice to the water and psyllium husk mixture, which was a bit more tolerable, but still left me feeling like there was something in my throat afterwards.

As the week went on, I experimented — adding psyllium husk to smoothies and overnight oats were the best approaches, I found.

All week after taking the psyllium husk, I was gassy, had mild stomach aches, and went to the bathroom more often (at one point it was almost like — how shall I put this? — the bathroom scene in "Bridesmaids").

On day five, I was shocked to wake up with a stomach ache and the need to rush to the toilet. I was amazed by how much of an impact just one teaspoon of psyllium husk could have.

On day six, I was visiting family and didn't take the psyllium husk. That combined with my diet for the day seriously lacking in fiber meant I was left feeling constipated and uncomfortable, and keen to get back on the psyllium husk train.

My digestive symptoms settled down in week two

In my second week of taking psyllium husk, everything settled down a bit. The stomach pain and gassiness decreased, and my bowel movements became more normal for me. It still felt good to be going regularly though.

By week three, it felt like my body had adjusted and I realized I should probably up the quantity of psyllium husk I was taking. But, I just didn't want to.

I was still finding it unpleasant to take every day. I would try to down the psyllium husk in a drink, but I didn't enjoy doing it at all. And so I stopped.

The texture of psyllium husk was too hard to overcome

It's been a couple of weeks since I stopped taking psyllium husk and my body has returned to its previous state.

I definitely think I was benefitting from taking psyllium husk, so I still plan on finding a way to incorporate it into my diet.

Perhaps I will take it whenever I'm already making something where it can be undetected, like my overnight oats. Porter recommends adding it to oatmeal, soups, and stews too.

"Some people even take this water-loving fiber when they are traveling as it can help to manage changes in bowel habit due to long journeys, a variation in toilet routine or travelers' diarrhea," Porter said.

Another option is psyllium husk capsules, which I imagine are easier to take if you struggle with the texture of the powder.

All in all, I'm glad to know psyllium husk will always be there for times when perhaps my diet is lacking fiber.

Read the original article on Business Insider